U.S. President Barack Obama's interaction with the inhabitants of Kanpura village in Ajmer district of Rajasthan through video-conferencing on Sunday gave him a glimpse of the information technology revolution in rural India that extends the benefits of modern technology and services to the grassroots to improve the quality of people's lives.
Union Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot led the rural group during the 10-minute interface at the nondescript village, 40 km from Ajmer, while Mr. Obama was accompanied by Sam Pitroda, Adviser to Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai.
Kanpura is one of the 10 villages in Ajmer district connected with the optical fibre cable (OFC) technology as part of a pilot project sponsored by the Union Ministry of Information Technology. The e-gram project has brought high-speed connectivity to the rural community facilitating access to a host of essential public services.
After a brief introduction by Mr. Pitroda, Mr. Obama spoke to the villagers about the benefits of broadband penetration realised through access to health and education-related data, online medical consultation, redress of public grievances and local e-governance.
Large LCD screens and web cameras were installed at the village panchayat office for live telecast of the first-ever virtual meeting between the residents of the desert village and the U.S. President. Though much of Mr. Obama's observations could not be heard because of poor audio quality, he seemed visibly pleased by the warm welcome extended with a loud “Namaste” by the village children.
Panchayat secretary Shiv Shankar told Mr. Obama that he could refer the complaints relating to drinking water and faulty hand-pumps to the higher authorities over the Internet and they were rectified without delay unlike in the past which took weeks.
Primary Health Centre nurse Sunita Rathore explained how she could access the digitised medical records of villagers, especially children and pregnant women, to plan their vaccination and delivery schedules.
Similarly, management student Vipul Jhanwar informed Mr. Obama that he was pursuing further studies via the Internet by downloading the course material and appearing online for various examinations instead of travelling long distance to Ajmer. A woman villager Mamta said her son was treated through telemedicine facility offered by the project.
Mahendra Kumar, a farmer, was all praise for the OFC connectivity through which he had obtained his land records and applied for the kisan credit card. Sarpanch Jagdish Bairwa expressed happiness over Kanpura emerging on the world map through the interface with the U.S. head of the State.
Mr. Pilot, who represents Ajmer in the Lok Sabha, said the complete digitisation of records for Kanpura with a population of 4,500 was under way. Mr. Obama expressed happiness over the progress made by the small village with the help of information technology. He said efforts were also under way in the U.S. to make the government “accountable and efficient.”
MLAs of the regionwere present at the interaction.
Keywords: Obama's India visit