The Indian economy is advancing more in terms of technology. Digital transformation is happening in almost all sectors of the country. The main advantage of this transformation is that it adds the convenience of the customer, improves operational efficiencies, and advance transparency. On the other side, it is seen as a ‘job-killing monster’ with predictions on how it will create mass unemployment across the globe.
Srinivas R Pingali, Faculty, IIM Udaipur with a team of researchers spoke to over fifty nondigital companies and their customers in both semi-urban and rural areas as part of a research project trying to understand the impact of digital. They mainly tried to explore two questions. One is whether digitalization had a different impact on employment, once people move out of urban settings. Secondly, will digitalization help in slowing the pace of urbanization and allow for job creation in semi-urban and rural settings.
Srinivas says answers to these questions are still emerging as in certain areas digitalization is only at the initial phase of adoption. However, he mentioned some of the visible trends in areas of manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, education, and handicraft sectors, where digitalization has not only enabled the availability of better services beyond large cities but also helped in creating local employment.
In the case of the commercial farming sector, technologies like a drone for better mapping of fields, IoT based fertigation, the AI-based forecast for weather and pest attacks, etc.. are adopted for expansion.
In the Healthcare sector, 60% of the hospitals are concentrated in a few urban areas. Companies and NGOs are coming up with technologies like virtual consultation and video-based triage between city-based doctors, local healthcare workers, and patients to offer better healthcare services. This is also leading to a new genre of local healthcare workers. Workers are being trained to bridge the gaps between city doctors and rural patients with auxiliary services like sample collection and despatches, digitization of health records, and admissions related logistics.
Digital technologies are also being used to improve the quality of education in rural areas. There is a focus on using digital technologies to provide teachers and students in rural areas better quality of primary education. Certain Non-Governmental Organisations are using online marketing and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) related skills to provide vocational training to rural youth.
Most companies implement digital technologies with the intention of business expansion and operational efficiencies. However, the study found that, in semi-urban and rural settings, these business transformations have had the unintended consequences of increased employment, social empowerment, and access to products and services that were previously not available.