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Experiential Learning (EL) 3

Rural Development and Governance

A report on

VIKASPEDIA

(an initiative of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing)

Submitted by,

Anirudh Pulugurtha,

Gayatri Prakash,

Himanshu Korde,

Praveen Chadar,

Ramaikalo Ph,

Sonal Daftuar,

Sree Pruthvi,

Vinai Kumar.
There is a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. We can tap the potential only with co-
creation of the value. It is bottom up unlike the traditional notion of top down approach.

-C.K.Prahalad, Management Guru.

Introduction and Need

According to 2011 census, India is a country where around 68.84% of the population
reside in rural areas i.e., roughly equal to 83.3 crore people out of the total 1.21 billion. It
means every two out of three Indians live in rural areas. By the definition, these are the areas
where a minimum of 75% male population, in working age, is dependent on agriculture and
allied activities. The poverty statistics too clearly show that the rural people are on the lower
end of the income range when compared to the other sectors like secondary and tertiary.
Moreover, around 92% of the total workforce in India, irrespective of the sectors they are
involved in, are in the informal sector which is termed as grey market. Bringing the informal
sector into the tax net is one of the prime challenges of the successive governments as only
3.85 Crore Indians pay taxes. Access to quality education, health, and clean energy sources is
on a lower note too, because of the lack of adequate infrastructure. Half of the problems that
are being faced by the citizens of India can be solved if the current government schemes are
implemented and reach the people at the grassroots without spillage. E-Governance, where
majority of the services of the government are automated and can be accessed online, aims to
reduce the impact of the problem stated above. The mobile technology penetration in India is
very rapid in the past decade. It did break the jinx that reaching rural masses is the greatest
hindrance for the corporate companies. The availability of the products according to their
needs, often at a lower price has made it possible. Despite the presence of a wide ranging
telecommunications network, the information gap still persists as the data packs being
offered are not yet attractive to the rural consumer. Hence the data consumption of an average
rural Indian is still on a lower end. With the advent of social media, the usage of mobile
phones especially the smart phones has increased drastically, pan India. Currently, we are
next to USA in the utilization of internet services in the world with 450 million but only 17%
of rural people utilize the same.

The access to information is very much critical to the process of development.


Information has become central to the economic activities ranging from agriculture, resource
extraction, trade, logistics, marketing, healthcare delivery etc... It can have varied functions
like personal, social and economic, accomplished through same devices. Thus, the ability of
an individual to access as well as share information empowers him or her in many ways and
contributes to the development process as mentioned below:

It improves the efficiency by giving maximum benefit at a minimum possible cost.


It improves effectiveness in terms of quality of services.
It has a better reach capacity across different spatial zones.
It ensures equity by making the resources available for equitable distribution without
bias.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is not the sole contributor to the
development process but it acts as a catalyst to the same increasing the possibility of
achieving the above.

Concept, Scope, Goal and Objectives

Vikaspedia is one such initiative, by Centre for the Development of Advanced


Computing (CDAC) working under the aegis of Department of Electronics and Information
Technology (DeITY), Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India, which
could catalyze the dispersion of information to the citizens of India through a single nodal
point. Vikaspedia is an online portal which hosts the information in the form of text, videos,
and others means of popular consumption. As the nation has constitutionally recognized 22
languages, the portal too offers the services in all the vernaculars as the initiatives objective
is to reach the unreached communities in India. It aims to catalyze knowledge sharing for
nation development. It gives a single window access to information, products and services to
solve the needs of the people in livelihoods related domains, especially the poor by providing
links to the government, civil society and private institutions. It currently covers 6 domains
viz., Agriculture, Health, Education, Energy, Social Welfare and E-Governance.

The concept is based on crowd sourcing where the users contribute the content under
various domains and the portal administrators either accept or reject the same depending
upon the quality and relevance of the subject. Unlike similar websites like Wikipedia, the
initiative confines itself to select few domains and has a strict content review system in place.
This can be one of unique selling propositions of the initiative.
Products and services offered by Vikaspedia

Apart from the online information provision, Vikaspedia also has other functions like
offline learning resources, development of mobile applications (eg. one of the mobile
applications related to maternal health has been adopted by Rajasthan/ Gujarat government)
along with other multimedia applications and publications. The website also has a discussion
forum under each domain and the users can post the queries related to their livelihoods. The
other users along with the portal administrators try to answer the questions, if found relevant.
It also has a similar feature called ask an expert, where subject matter experts and users are
connected. The portal hosts a unique feature which resembles an e-commerce platform, e-
Vyapar, where buyers and sellers can meet and perform transactions. But the utility of such a
feature is not understood well by the researchers and a majority think it deviates from the
stated objective to act as a knowledge disseminating platform. Similarly with the mobile
applications unit of Vikaspedia, the same confusion emerges.

Vikaspedia in the marketing mix

If we try to analyze Vikaspedia according to the marketing mix model, the following
observations can be made:

Product: Information, Applications, e-Commerce platform.

Price: The information provision is free of cost and no fee is charged for the same. Whereas,
android and iOS mobile applications, being developed under the umbrella of Vikaspedia, can
be bought by interested parties. (eg. Rajasthan/ Gujarat government bought maternal health
application developed by Vikaspedia for Rs.18 lakhs).

Place: Virtual/ Online. Hence the infrastructure costs are minimised to a large extent.

Promotion: There is no budget allotted for advertising the portal. There is no digital
marketing presence as well for the same except the SNAs posting few Vikaspedia links on
their respective Facebook/ Twitter pages, occasionally.
Revenue model of the portal:

Though the management had set a target to earn Rs.2.5 Crore at the end of 5 years,
since its inception, as revenue, a credible model to reach the target is lacking. The only
revenue source is selling the mobile applications to the interested state governments and other
parties. But the target along with paying a monthly fee to the service providers like State
Nodal Agencies (discussed in the stake holders section below) involve significant costs to
CDAC, without cash flow. If we conduct a cost benefit analysis of the portal, some more
intricate details might emerge. They can be used to frame a strategy to reach the objective.

Key stakeholders and their roles/ responsibilities

1. CDAC/ Vikaspedia Team:

It is the responsibility of this stakeholder to develop the technical platform according


to the state specific vernacular content. The nodal agency management, monitoring and
evaluation, target/ strategy setting across the hierarchy etc... would be done by the CDAC as
per the requirements of their internal five year plan.

2. State Nodal Agency (SNA):

SNAs are the key stakeholders in the process where they directly report the progress to
the CDAC. They are responsible for the following

Building a local volunteer base for need based, demand driven, responsive
content which is contemporary in nature.
The content provision can be either in local language or English.
SNAs should include both individuals as well as organizations, as volunteers.
They should build the capacities of the volunteers and partner agencies to
participate in the Vikaspedia initiative.
To create brand awareness regarding the portal among the masses.

Selection of the SNAs (according to Mr.Jagdish Babu, CDAC) happen with an open
invitation to every eligible entity (Trust/ Society/ Section 25 Company) called as Request For
Proposal (RFP). It is followed by a technical bid where the ability of the entity in terms of
their existence in the field of livelihoods for a minimum of three years along with having an
annual turnover of over 1 Crore INR through developmental projects. Upon passing this, the
organizations enter the Financial Bid phase where the least quoted entity (up to a maximum
of Rs. 1 Lakh) would be awarded the contract. The CDAC is liable to pay the respective
SNA, the quoted price every month. As the revenue is not generated currently, the cost factor
is on a higher end.
The gist of annual deliverables of SNAs includes the following:
Create 10,000 pages of content in the local language of the state
Each domain has to have a minimum of 1000 pages
Involve at-least 500 volunteers to achieve the above
Release monthly newsletter (one per month) on Vikaspedia
Cover at least 30-40% of the districts in the state through a minimum of 5000 first
level service providers

Identification of the needy at the grassroots


The SNAs identify the needy with the help of the volunteer base they have formed
with other individuals or institutions like Common Service Centres (CSC) formed in rural
areas, under Digital India programme. They are basically formed to act as rural tele-centres to
create a digital and financial inclusive society. These change agents enable community
participation as well as collective action at the grassroots level. They are run by Village Level
Entrepreneurs (VLEs) who are in-turn contacted by SNAs for effective and efficient delivery
of Vikaspedia services. The VLEs capacities are built under Digital India programme.
Hence, the SNAs utilize the already existing base to take the portal to rural hinterlands at the
same time ducking the possibility of incurring costs on infrastructure deployment and
capacity building. At the same time they are mandated to train First Level Service Providers
(FLSP) who can be school teachers, ASHA and Aanganwadi workers etc... The FLSPs are
used for better penetration of the concept of Vikaspedia in rural areas. The responsibility to
train, motivate and enter into a contract with the FLSPs vests with the SNAs.

3. Volunteers
The in-detailed guidelines for the nature and selection of each type of volunteers are
mentioned in the Guidelines for Volunteers of CDAC. The types of volunteers available in
the Vikaspedia initiative include the following:
a. Content Contributors (CC): A volunteer by virtue of his/her education or
experience has expertise in any of domains covered by Vikaspedia and is willing to
share his/her knowledge to Vikaspedia portal is a content contributor. Any individual
who has passion/ knowledge (literate/ illiterate) could become a content contributor.
Ex: Academicians, Teachers, Social development professionals, Practitioners,
Journalists, Interns, Students, Govt. Officials, Farmers / Individuals possessing
traditional knowledge can contribute best practices, success stories,
NGOs/CBOs/Research institutions/Hospitals, etc...
b. Content Reviewer (CR): A volunteer by virtue of his/her education or experience has
expertise in any of domains covered by Vikaspedia and has flair for information
collection, review, editing and authentication is a content reviewer. S/He is willing to
validate the quality and accuracy of content without bias. Also review the
uploaded/presented content and present it as per standard protocols.
Ex: Academicians /Teachers, Social development professionals/practitioners, Govt.
Officials, etc...
c. Web Portal Promoter (WP): Any Citizen in India or abroad can become a volunteer
for web portal promotion is a web portal promoter.
Ex: Individual / Organization/ platform, should have networks at various levels of
society (relevant to Vikaspedia), Youth clubs, Students unions, CBOs SHGs,
Federations, social networks, etc...
d. Content Disseminators (CD) / Scouts: CD is a person who is part of local
community / has direct interaction with the common man /users at the grassroots level
and is in the business of fulfilling community information or in service, individuals/
organizations who appreciate / understand the value of the content and is willing to
disseminate it are CDs.
Ex: Tele centre operations (CSC, Internet, Village Knowledge Centers ), NCC and
NSS volunteers, NYK Youth clubs and Mahila sanghas, Bharat Nirman Volunteers
(BNVs), SHGs and Its federations and other CBOs parent committees, vana
samarakshan committees etc...
e. Content Digitization volunteer: An individual / organization who volunteers to
digitize (type) available (hardcopy/other formats) regional language content for
uploading to Vikaspedia web portal is a content digitization volunteer. He/she can
digitize, proof read and upload the content to Vikaspedia web portal under appropriate
topics. For all Volunteers C-DAC / SNA, as part of the Vikaspedia outreach, shall
provide basic and advanced level trainings on use of Vikaspedia portal to all
volunteers, if required.
Through the above roles, we can ascertain that the potential to include citizens in various
walks of life can be motivated to contribute to the cause. The achievement of the same by a
majority of the SNAs can be questionable because of the lack of monitoring system.

4. Users
As Vikaspedia is based on Collaborative Content Creation (3C) Model, there is a need to
involve all types of netizens. The anonymous users and registered users have been identified
as the two out of four users. The latter has some privileges like customised dashboard, ability
to save/ edit pages and contact the site administrator. The remaining two being content
contributors and content reviewers, who are part of volunteers group as well. There is a
system in place where work of volunteers and their contribution is publicly recognized.

Organizational Structure
There exists a direct contact to CDAC/ Vikaspedia with only SNAs and users. The
Common Service Centres (CSC), Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE), and Volunteers are
linked to CDAC through SNA acting as a nodal point.

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Outreach Activities
Vikaspedia is required to reach around 100 lakh rural households at the end of five
years with SNAs acting as nodal points, either directly or through trained service providers.
The outreach to grassroots happen through various events proposed by the organization viz.,
State level and district level workshops.
Community level awareness campaigns.
Representation of Vikaspedia in various state level conferences.
Monthly newsletters.
Advertise Vikaspedia in mass and social media.
Organizing special programme on special days.

Capacity Building
It forms an important part of the whole process because of the huge volunteer base it
wants to attract and retain. The plan to achieve the same is envisioned through a cascading
strategy where the nodal agencies at state level are imparted with technical training to
operate the portal. The SNAs in turn impart the knowledge management to FLSPs and
Volunteers for dynamic and quality content provision.

Financial Proposition
CDAC would reimburse the costs incurred by SNAs for the outreach and capacity
building events conducted on a monthly basis. This is in addition to the respective quoted
monthly fees to be paid by CDAC. The reimbursable amount is arrived together after
submitting a proposal well before the event to the Vikaspedia central administration at
Hyderabad. After the event, further documents like newspaper clippings, event report,
participant details etc... need to be submitted for further scrutiny before sanctioning the
finances as debit.

Monitoring and Evaluation


The CDAC doesnt monitor the performance of VLEs/ CSCs directly but completely
base their statistics on the information provided by the State Nodal Agencies. Even the
monthly progress report is submitted by each SNA i.e., SNAs evaluate themselves, there is no
monitoring mechanism to test the reliability and validity of the data submitted except in terms
of the number of pages created which can be scrutinized at the server level. Also, the
monitoring system in place captures the data clocked from a particular geographical area,
which could evaluate the performance of the S.N.A in that region, which confirms the
number of visits of the website from the region.

Criticism

The content present in the vernacular languages across the domains is found to be
verbatim translation of the same information in English. Instead the content should
have been derived context specific to the states.
Lapse of cohesion between the online services provided for revenue generation (eg.
MOTHER application, e-Vyapar etc..) and the goals/ objectives of Vikaspedia.
Regarding engaging as a volunteer there is not much of information available which
might hamper a volunteers understanding of the working of the portal.
The demographic information of the users/ volunteers contributing to the content
generation and evaluation is missing. As it would enable us to evaluate whether the
content being generated is a reflection of the information needs of the target audience.
It would also help us in understanding the contribution of target users in driving the
content generation. Here in Vikaspedia, the customer at the grassroots level is linked
to the portal through SNAs. However, theres no evidence that their needs are being
reflected in the form of interactions/ queries in the portal, unlike in popular platforms
like Quora. This is necessary for the use and expansion of Vikaspedia as a knowledge
platform among the user community.
The statistics are completely dependent upon the reports provided by SNAs.
One of the outreach events is advertising at SNA level in social and mass media. The
cost of advertising when compared with the monthly payment cap at Rs.1 lakh to the
SNA cripples the objective to reach the masses as it might leave very less amount to
the SNA as an incentive to continue the enthusiasm.
Hence, a centralized promotion budget is necessary for the portal to penetrate into the
specified 100 lakh rural households at the end of the five years since inception.
There is a resource platform for Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) where they share
their experiences and discusses their respective areas of interest. But involving the
VLEs in e-Vyapar for more economic transactions would ensure sustainable support
from their side to the cause.

Recommendations

The Google Analytics tool has shown there is a bounce rate of nearly 70%, which
means that 70% of those who get routed to Vikaspedia site through search engines are
bouncing back or logging off the site. Moreover, the average time spent on the site is a
meagre 2 minutes by the exiting users. Hence, customer engagement has to start right
from the landing page. One of the option is to provide 3 point guidelines as a pop-up
to whomsoever visits the page, explaining why and how the portal is helpful to them.
The pop up might not appear to the visitor for the second time with same IP address or
a separate message can be put in the pop-up which differs from the first.
Adding more videos along with text, which can stream at low bandwidth, might
attract more people. The existing links on YouTube on similar topics can be embedded
with the permission of the content creator can add more value to the portal.
At present, the volunteers have no specific guidelines about what work to perform.
They completely depend upon the SNAs for the ad hoc work they do. Instead, they
can be micro managed with each volunteer getting a specific work at a specific time
which can contribute to the overall objective leading to the target set. Hence, the
division of labour among the volunteer base can be planned. As the work itself is
voluntary in nature, same work can be given to multiple volunteers, as their strength
in numbers is huge, to avoid any delays.
The visibility of the portal in the search engines through key words is not up to the
mark. Moreover, the target i.e., to reach around 100 lakh poor households through its
services is immense. Hence a separate advertising budget and digital marketing is a
must. The latter part can be given to engineering college students as part of internship
in return for certificates from CDAC.
Most of the users get added if there is a real time data transfer. As the user might not
wait for people to respond on the portal, they might skip to some other sites where the
response rate is instant from other users. Hence, a dedicated free SMS channel/
Interactive Voice Response over air, to clarify genuine doubts can be thought upon.
Most of the information portals sell the user data to market analytics firms for
revenue. Hence, such kind of options can be explored for the sustainability of the
project.

Future Course and Growth Strategy

With the market growth in terms of the number of users and product growth in terms
of features in the portal, the two aspects can be divided into new/ existing users and new/
existing features respectively. According to the matrix presented below, if the combinations is
new users and existing features we have to follow market development strategies. If both
the users and features fall under existing category, we can use market penetration strategies.
For the new users and new features, we can diversify the existing portfolio. Though the
strategy employed according to the matrix in case of Vikaspedia is true, being a new portal
with new user base, the diversification within the objectives and mission would result in
optimal outcomes. If unrelated features are added, then the result would be otherwise. For
existing user base and new products/ features, one can follow product development strategy.
The product development need not be new product development but improvement of the
existing features to make it more amenable across all target population.

Figure 1: Organizational growth strategies using internet

Takeaways for the group

The group had spent two days in the CDAC office in Hyderabad where all the
members have tried to understand the organization and the need for a project like Vikaspedia.
Further, we have tried to ascertain the project on various levels viz.,
Partner Agencies: The only direct relationship of CDAC is with the respective SNAs
and registered users of the portal. Here each user has the potential to act as an agency
on an individual capacity. But the user feedback mechanism is not robust and hence,
couldnt be captured. CDAC also collaborates with the Central Government for
project grants and state governments for representation of the local schemes on the
portal.
Feedback Loops: The only feedback they directly get from the field is through SNAs
as mentioned above. The content generated and feedback of the disseminated data is
not directed from target user base.
Financial Sustainability: Though the set targets have been achieved according to the
management of CDAC, the lack of a robust revenue model and a vision to frame one
in sync with the mission/ objectives of the portal might question the financial
sustainability of the entire project. Currently, the portals only source of monetary
returns is sales revenue obtained through mobile applications.

Apart from above, we have tried to apply the concepts learnt in the classroom with
respect to Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) and Capacity Building. While the above
report largely is a reflection that the team could assimilate in a limited time. The consensus of
the team has been that the following inputs from the organization( C-DAC), would further
enrich the evaluation of the project Vikaspedia and could calibrate the position of the
progress for better and intended outcomes.

Below are the inputs, which couldnt be gathered/ missing/ were not shared by the host
organization as inputs for the evaluation. Given these inputs, any further evaluation and
suggestions on the project could be made.

1. Number of visits that the portal receives in a day and demographics of users,
contributors, reviewers and volunteers (age, sex) were needed to understand about the
ongoing outreach and the data over a period would have briefed about the trajectory of the
goals set and progress made.

2. Number of hits/ visits for each topic (in each language and from all regions).

3. Number of downloads of the apps, from the region based on demographics.


4. Frequency of queries specific to schemes and themes; there has been no symmetry on
the content generated for various themes, for instance the data on the themes that were
receiving maximum page visits in contrast to the contribution and content available on other
themes would have strengthened the teams understanding of missing or existing digital
penetration of the project.

5. Number of flagship programs, websites and pages referring Vikaspedia; the search
engines such as Google ranks a page on this basis and accordingly the search results based on
the keywords typed are presented to the users and thus the challenge has been to understand
the digital penetration of Vikaspedia on this basis alone. The data regarding the citations
made would have helped the evaluation.

6. On the user experience and on the quality of websites services; any user surveys and
feedback if shared to the team might have been beneficial for further evaluation. Hence we
are attaching a customer feedback questionnaire which can be hosted on the portal to capture
the required information.

7. The blueprints, if any on the brand strategies, timely audits of the project and the
organization if shared, could also, strengthen the analysis of the projects growth.

ANNEXURE I

Customer Survey Form:


The responses for the first 10 questions are captured on a three point Likert Scale (1
Agree, 2 Not Sure, 3 Disagree).

1. The navigation within the website (Vikaspedia) is smooth and I am able to extract the
required information.
2. I feel Vikaspedia needs some improvement in terms of website design and make it
more appealing.
3. The six domains presented in Vikaspedia (Agriculture/ Energy/ Education/ Health/
Social Welfare and E-Governance) are sufficient for an average Indian like me to get
comprehensive information.
4. When compared to other information portals (like Quora and Wikipedia), I am able to
get better quality information here in Vikaspedia.
5. The presentation of information in vernacular languages is a unique experience.
6. I am satisfied with the information and services of Vikaspedia.
7. I frequently resort to Vikaspedia whenever I require information with respect to the
domains listed in the portal (Agriculture/ Energy/ Education/ Health/ Social Welfare
and E-Governance).
8. I get immediate reply to the questions which I pose on the portal.
9. I have personally experienced change in terms of my knowledge, skills and attitude
after starting accessing information and services provided by Vikaspedia (for cross
checking the validity of question no. 6).
10. The content provided in the portal is up to date and relevant.

11. How did you come to know about Vikaspedia Portal?


Through Search Engine

Through word of mouth

Print and electronic media (local newspaper, TV etc..)

Through awareness programme / workshop / Training / personal interaction


through email/phone with SNA/C-DAC staff
Through Social media (Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Youtube etc)

Through Common service center / Telecentres

Vikaspedia publications (Newsletter, Calendars, Brochures, Pamphlets etc..)

Other. If other, please specify_________________


12. Which domains do you use frequently?
a. Agriculture
b. Energy
c. Education
d. Health
e. Social Welfare
f. E-Governance
13. How much time do you spend on the portal to get the required information?
a. < 5 minutes
b. 5-10 minutes
c. > 10 minutes
14. Which device do you use while accessing the portal?
a. Desktop
b. Mobile Devices (Android/ iOS/ Others)

Survey Form for SNAs:

The response is captured on a three point Likert Scale (1 Agree, 2 Not Sure, 3
Disagree).

1. I am satisfied with the association with CDAC.


2. My terms and conditions are incorporated in the agreement with the organization.
3. There are monitoring and evaluation systems in place to assess the performance of all
the stakeholders in the process.
4. We are satisfied with the user feedback.
5. We are getting the required support (material/ information) on time from CDAC.
6. The support from VLEs (Village Level Entrepreneurs) and CSCs is up to the mark.
7. How did the target audience rate their user experience of Vikaspedia?
_________________________________________________________