More than 300km from Raipur, the road that leads to Silphili village is anything but smooth – the drive is positively bone-rattling. The residents of this Chhattisgarh village are mostly small-time farmers; growing rice – people you’d least expect to be ‘smart’. Yet, Silphili, tucked away in Chhattisgarh’s border district of Surguja, is today the state’s first village to have free Wi-fi connection for the entire village!
The village was inspired by the Digital India campaign of the NDA government as it was during a district meeting, Sanjay Singh Nethi, the Sarpanch (Village Council Head) of Silphili decided to put his village on the digital map. While Sanjay didn’t receive any monetary or technical help from the Chhattisgarh government for achieving this feat, he had ample of local support. “We got support from young people like Rajesh Saha. He said why don’t we start free wifi service in our village?” says the humble Sarpanch.
With 350 million users, India has the second largest Internet user base after China and continues to be the fastest growing market for the same according to this report. By 2020, this number is estimated rise to 730 million, with 75 percent of new Internet users in India will come from rural areas. Under the Digital India, the NDA government hopes to bring transparency, accountability and better governance in the administration, a feat that Sanjay himself wants to accomplish.
As the village didn’t receive any monetary help from the government, Sanjay and Rajesh had to be innovative to raise funds. “We started this work with the Sarpanch’s help in marketing and raising money from the households,” says Rajesh. Today, the Silphili village even has a website that is regularly updated with circulars, budgets, details of warm members, among other important information. Currently, 150 households out of 480 households have received their login and password, with other 150 households getting the same soon.
Today, the mostly unlettered villagers here discuss Wi-Fi as naturally as they talk about their farming techniques. “Since the wifi is installed, we spend less money on mobile data and also get lots of information,” says a technologically savvy farmer, Luv Kumar.
The youth of the village are upbeat and believe that the Wi-Fi project will definitely translate into an improved quality of life.
Community correspondent Prakash Gupta reports from Chhattisgarh for Video Volunteers.
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