In India, approximately 70 per cent of the nation’s 1.3 billion people live in rural areas. Largely due to poverty and illiteracy, many of these citizens may be unaware of government entitlements that exist to help them and may not have access to the Internet that could provide more information about these programs.
In collaboration with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), the “SoochnaPreneur” program equips rural youth with advanced wireless technologies that enable them to become entrepreneurs and deliver the much-needed information about entitlements to citizens as a fee-based service. Ultimately, this program aims to demonstrate how advanced wireless technologies can be used for social and economic empowerment, which will help bridge poverty gaps through last-mile information access and delivery of services.
‘SoochnaPreneur’ aligns with the Government of India’s Digital India plan, whose goal is to empower citizens through ubiquitous access to the Internet and use of mobile phones and services. So far, 100 ‘SoochnaPreneurs’ have assisted about 7,000 rural beneficiaries with applying for benefits, such as those for mothers, for housing, road construction and emergency medical expense coverage. The MeraApp mobile application provides details of 628 benefits and entitlements provided by the Central Government of India and State Governments of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan; more continue to be added.
MeraApp is a mobile application that has been developed by DEF, which contains detail about many government schemes and entitlements, thereby providing timely and relevant information to rural citizens about available benefits. Rural youth from West Champaran district of Bihar, Guna in Madhya Pradesh, Alwar and Barmer in Rajasthan, Ranchi in Jharkhand and Bargarh in Odisha have been provided 3G and 4G/LTE-enabled tablets pre-loaded with the MeraApp along with data connectivity, data plans and training enabling them to deliver the information as a fee-based service to rural citizens. These rural youth are called SoochnaPreneurs. The name is derived from the words “Soochna” which means information in Hindi and entrepreneur.
SoochnaPreneurs have been connected to IT and digitally-enabled Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) in their block (sub-district) to provide various digital services like mobile phone talk-time recharges, bus and rail ticket reservations and facilities to photocopy or scan documents, among others.
These SoochnaPreneurs are also enrolling themselves in the Government of India’s Common Service Centre Program, which will enable them to deliver a larger number of digital services to rural citizens and improve their incomes.