Rural Distress, Farmer Suicides, Drought Measures

Using knowledge-era technology to bridge the urban-rural gap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 1- Closing the the gap between urban and rural in India using knowledge-eratechnology.

This article puts forward the idea of using knowledge-era technology to minimise the difference between rural and urban areas. In the first part, it elaborates the reasons and circumstances that led to the neglect of rural areas and development in urban areas. In the next part, the idea of using knowledge-era technologies to close the gaps between rural and urban areas is explored.

Why Urbanisation is spreading and how it led to the neglect of rural areas?

  • Better opportunities: The tendency to migrate to urban areas has been a natural consequence of better opportunities that got created there — in contrast to life in rural areas becoming increasingly unsustainable.
  • Centralisation: The industrial-era dynamics that led to centralisation in support of mass production or massive scale-up was clearly a major one.
  • This, in turn, also led to the concentration of higher education/capacity building processes to urban centres where there was job growth, quite to the detriment of the much larger rural area.
  • Problems in education and training: The education and training environment became myopic, essentially meeting the manning requirements to run systems created by others.
  • Our education with its inherent problems led to little confidence in creating one’s own systems to address needs independent of others.
  • Demographic dividend: India’s importance grew primarily because of her demographic dividend and the large market that her people constituted and not because of the systems and technologies.
  • Neglect of rural India: Rural India suffered severe neglect in the process, probably as a result of poor job opportunities there and education having lost its role as an enabler of local development.
  • However, the country is learning to create systems and technologies to address her needs. The exercise is, by and large, urban-centric.

UPSC asked about the quality of urban life in 2014, and the trends of labour migration in 2015. This article touched upon both of these themes.

Using the knowledge-era technology to close the urban-rural gap

  • We are now in the knowledge era.
  • And knowledge-era technologies, in contrast to industrial-era technologies, promote democratisation (social media, for example) and facilitate decentralisation (work from home).
  • It should thus be possible for an adequately educated and trained youth residing in a rural domain to support a significant part of the manufacturing and service needs of urban areas.
  • Just as an urban youth can support a significant part of the knowledge and application needs in rural areas.
  • With technologies like additive manufacture, internet of things, and artificial intelligence, well-trained people can address needs in both urban and rural areas from wherever they are.
  • Thus, the knowledge era should, in principle, become a significant income leveller between the urban and rural domains, with a large rise in the overall national income.
  • As we focus on capacity building of rural youth, the opportunities in rural areas should, in principle, become higher than those in urban areas since the rural segment can now benefit from all three sectors of the economy- agriculture, manufacturing and services.

The idea of “cillage”

  • In the knowledge era, with emphasis on capability and capacity building of rural youth in terms of holistic education, appropriate technology and enhanced livelihood, there is a possibility for a more balanced distribution of income as well as population.
  • This would, however, need knowledge bridges to be built between cities and villages, and the creation of an ecosystem which has been conceptualised as a “cillage” — a synergistic combination of city and village.
  • Bridging the knowledge gap between a city and a village would also bridge the income gap between the two.
  • This will also lead to a faster bridging of the gap between the average individual income in India and that in industrially advanced countries.
  • Democratisation promoted by knowledge technologies, if properly leveraged, can in principle reduce disparities, which, unfortunately, are on the rise today.

How to realise the idea of cillage?

  • Integrated and holistic approach: Developing a “cillage” ecosystem would need a rooted and integrated approach to holistic education and research, technology development and management, as well as technology-enabled rural livelihood enhancement.
  • It would take a while for the rural youth to become empowered enough to convert the challenges into opportunities in rural areas.
  • The emergence of a new-age society is an inevitability.
  • How soon the rural domain can embrace it and how concurrently, comprehensively that can happen, is the real challenge.
  • That will decide whether India will gain in the knowledge era or lag as it did in the industrial era.

Look at one more question from 2015-“Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural-urban integration”.  The ideas discussed here in this article help us to deal with such questions.

Can Covid-19 speed up the realisation of cillage?

  • The process could also be seen as the migration of a set of experiences and skills to villages.
  • We can look at this as a potential two-way bridge for a new relationship between cities and villages.
  • It will be the bridge in which not all need to return to cities, but can rather meet the needs of cities as well as villages by remaining in villages.
  • Several initiatives will be needed to realise such a possibility.
  • Facilitating a number of new skills, technologies and support systems that can further leverage current capabilities of these people for starting a new enterprise would be important.
  • Immediate arrangements to facilitate their livelihood, and leveraging their present capabilities could help retain at least some of these people in villages.
  • It could trigger a faster movement towards an inevitable long-term equilibrium.
  • Going forward, we should take knowledge activities to a higher level so that the products and services created by these people become more competitive.
  • Looking at disruptive technologies for exploiting local opportunities should follow.

Conclusion

Given that the new normal after Covid-19 would, in any case, be quite different, the right course would be to channelise the stimulus caused by this crisis towards accelerating the shift to a new normal. This will not only help a more dispersed population, but will also reduce disparities and lead to faster growth of the economy.

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