Joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme, top lender ICICI Bank has launched its own ‘digital village’ project while adopting an entire village in Gujarat to provide services ranging from cashless banking to digitised school teaching.
Speaking on the new initiative, ICICI Bank’s MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar said the bank’s activities in this digital village are not limited to providing cashless banking through digital platforms, but was focussed on use of technology in all aspects of every resident there.
This village, named Akodara, in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat incidentally happens to be the same place where Modi started Gujarat’s first animal hostel in 2011 when he was the Chief Minister of the state. The animal hostel, a concept conceived by Modi was envisaged as a place where the cattle of the village are kept and maintained together and have all necessary infrastructure facilities to take care of them.
"Through this Digital Village initiative, we are trying to set an example on how technology can change the lives of people," said Kochhar, who began her career with erstwhile ICICI in 1984 as a management trainee and has been instrumental in shaping the retail banking sector in India.
"One of the key points is providing cash-less banking services to every villager. But it is not only about making sure that the commercial life of a person goes ahead without cash, but we want to ensure that technology is there in every sphere of life.
"On banking we have digitised all our offerings — from opening an account to sale of goods to purchase of products including milk from the vendor or kirana stores. At the same time, we have digitised the school records, the Gujarat syllabus and even teaching methods and tools.
This way, we are ensuring that the teaching can be much more effective and can be done without physical books or any other physical items in a school," she said. Kochhar further said that ICICI is ensuring that all villagers have access to all the required data and information in a digital format.
"The villagers are very excited about the entire project and it is not only the residents of this particular village, but even those from adjoining areas are coming to us and sharing their excitement. The villagers are getting SMSs in Gujarati for their transactions and other digital services," she added.