Bridging the Divide: Digital Infrastructure Paving the Way for Rural Entrepreneurship-led Job Creation

Work4Progress entrepreneur from Pipara, Mirzapur in his information kiosk that provides access to finance, information and schemes along with digital literacy courses

Lest we forget, it is worth reminding ourselves, particularly those committed to sustainable national development that India needs to generate 10 million jobs every year. With over 70% of the population residing in villages and small towns, the ever-evolving landscape of the rural economy presents unique challenges in fostering job creation.

Development Alternatives (DA) has been a pioneer in promoting entrepreneurship in rural India. It has demonstrated entrepreneurship as a major game-changer in job creation, economic growth, and community development. In the last five years, our efforts have been spearheaded by the adoption of social innovation processes, tools and methods aimed at making entrepreneurship more accessible to people, particularly women and youth who have been otherwise excluded from opportunities for economic and social empowerment. As a result, 7000+ enterprises have been set up leading to 15,000+ jobs in 12 blocks of Uttar Pradesh.

Today, in these small pockets, over 100 enterprises are being set up every week. Moving forward, DA and our partners aim to scale these outcomes exponentially in a manner that 1 million jobs are created in Uttar Pradesh by 300,000 grassroots entrepreneurs in less than 3 years. To do so, the enabling solutions we have developed through years of engagement with communities will need to reach the hands of many more organisations and individuals.

As we stand on the precipice of a digital revolution, it’s crucial to explore how digital infrastructure will help in strengthening processes aimed at building robust entrepreneurial ecosystems. With our partner Gram Vaani, we piloted udyaME Vaani and were able to engage and influence more than 40,000 individuals for 6-months on entrepreneurship. Digitisation of Kaun Banega Business Leader (KBBL), a prototype of DA, resulted in capturing hundreds of new creative business ideas by aspiring entrepreneurs within a short period of 1-2 months. Critical resources that were not readily accessible to entrepreneurs such as finance, information, and government schemes are now available at the doorstep, in their same village through the Kiosks network. Learning new channels for marketing and sourcing products through Buddy Box, a tool for online literacy of DA, enables entrepreneurs to connect to customers across the country. By digitising its tools and processes, DA has demonstrated pathways to strengthen its community connection, empower more entrepreneurs, facilitate timely delivery of support, and ensure that no community is left behind in the journey towards a more inclusive and prosperous future.

In this blog, we bring forth the transformative power of ‘Digital Infrastructure’ as a driver of entrepreneurship-led job creation. We look forward to strengthening existing partnerships and working with new collaborators to design applications of digital technologies with rural communities that will break down barriers and open new avenues for grassroots entrepreneurs to become leaders in the creation of sustainable livelihoods.

The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.

This blog first appeared as an editorial in Development Alternatives Newsletter December, 2023

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