National Virtual Academy for Rural Prosperity
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has over a period of 12 years adopted use of various information and communication technologies to provide information, knowledge and skills to rural community in 5 states in India to improve their lives and livelihoods through inclusive approach. The project adopted pro-poor, pro-nature and pro-women approach to ensure that the unreached community are reached / made to access real-time information and knowledge to overcome risks in agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries. Starting from, the project developed repository of contents in local languages in the computer system placed in the Village Knowledge Centres (VKCs) in the selected 70 villages in eight Districts in Tamil Nadu, four Districts in Maharashtra, one district each in Odisha and Kerala States. These VKCs are connected to the Village Resource Centres (VRCs) at the District level managed by MSSRF to provide information and knowledge support services by networking with various institutions. With the advent of ICTs, the project adopted satellite and internet based video-conference between rural community and the experts, audio-conference using common user group WLL telephones and in the last two years use of mobile phones for dissemination of need based and demand driven information to the rural community.
What we deliver
Information on Government schemes and entitlements, civic services, contents on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries and micro-entreprises, Potential Fishing Zone and Ocean State Forecasting information to fisher folk
Whom we deliver
Farmers, Fisher folk, women Self Help Group members, youth, children in rural areas
How is the project unique?
The project is unique because it is a community model where rural community ownership has been ensured right from the beginning. The VKC Management Committee in the village cares and manages the day-to-day functioning of the VKC. The three tier model of the interconnection between MSSRF National centre to the VRC at the District levels and further to the VKCs in the villages ensures horizontal sharing of information through a structured system starting from systematic assessment of the information needs of the community and appropriately organizing it with the support of various strategic partners in the District. The information on Potential Fishing Zone and Ocean State Forecast services through VKCs, Digital Display boards and mobile phones is a unique service to the fisher folk to not only get good catch but adopt sustainable fishing practices. The package approach does not end with the above information provided by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) organization but further strengthens by providing hands on training and awareness on sea safety measures by the Coast Guard Department, Hygienic handling of fishes and boats by the MPEDA-NetFISH organization and value added fish products by National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) of the Cetntral Government. The instant solutions to the problems through audio or video conferencing make the rural community to depend on the system confidently. The daily free audio advisories on crop / livestock and fisheries through mobile phones is a unique feature in the extension service to the rural community. Further, the helpline at VRCs has been helping them to get specific solutions to their problems that too immediately. The VRCs regularly organizes video-interactions between crop specific farmers of two regions to share their knowledge and experiences thereby benefit from such technological services. The Community News Paper published by MSSRF incorporating local traditional knowledge and practices and scientific applications to crop and livestock management The publishing of employment opportunities in the Community News Paper has helped youth to apply for jobs which otherwise would have been missed. This project is unique as it has acceptance from the Government Departments, Universities, Research Institutions, Philanthropic organizations, Civil Society Organisations and NGOs. All these institutions have used the VKCs and mobile phone based dissemination system to spread their information for the benefit of the rural community.
With the advancement of 3G connectivity and its availability to the rural community may help them to interact with the knowledge holders / experts face-to-face with the sample / subject visualization for making the expert to understand the symptoms / situations before advising on remedial measures. This visualization will make the user to understand most effectively and retain information / solution shared as, seeing the sample / subject and the face expressions apart from voice adds to the memory of the person. Introduction of GSM / GPRS based technology connected to a Public Address System in the villages to disseminate voice or MMS based audio advisories to the rural community on precautionary measures to reduce risks and control damages in the livelihood activities of the farmers. In the coming days it would be prudent to form specific livelihood Community as a group at the State level for disseminating livelihood specific information through mobile phones and expert advisory helpline services. Mobile based access to multi-media applications and web-portals stored in the centralised Knowledge Management System server, repository of text, audio and video contents / advisories to the rural community on livelihoods, health, education, employment opportunities and civic services. The future generation depends not much on subsidies or subsistence allowances but more on timely availability of information and knowledge at their door step for immediate adoption to improve their livelihoods by applying modern techniques and technologies to be competitive with the world market. The knowledge connectivity is possible by the use of various ICTs and its reach in the rural areas. With the increasing literacy rate in India and the priority of the Government to education and health sectors the information services in a package approach starting from knowledge dissemination to practical aspects through demonstrations by multi-media applications incorporating real-time situations would be helpful to the rural community to overcome problems and sustain the livelihoods. The migration of people from rural to urban areas could be reduced thereby the pressure on natural resources in the urban areas can be managed optimally. Sustainable developmental approach that demands optimal utilization and conservation for future needs is to be addressed for which educating the people with appropriate knowledge sharing and encouraging them to pass on best practices to the others by the use of ICT to reach every nook and corner of the country without any language barrier needs to be encouraged. The best opportunity is to make this knowledge connectivity to the vulnerable community located in vulnerable situation and location, particularly in the disaster prone areas. This connectivity would be appropriate for advance warning and evacuation to reduce human casualties the damages caused during disaster. The Concept of Every Village A Knowledge Centre would make the rural community to access to the information at a single point in the village at no cost and in time. This can also become delivery centre of various Government services to the community at the earliest there by reduces the time and money to be spent on e-governance.