Digital literacy scheme hasn't met half of the target

Digital literacy for rural population hasn't met half of the target

Representative image.

'Digital India' may be one of Narendra Modi government's pet projects but one of its important schemes to impart digital literacy among the rural population has not even met half of the set target and is facing a fund crunch, if one goes by a Parliamentary panel report.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeiTY) has also not conducted a review of its own about the various schemes under the 'Digital India' programme even four years after its rolling out and is relying on a third-party evaluation, which the panel found "surprising".

Expressing "serious displeasure" at the inability to meet even half of the target set under one of the key Digital India schemes 'Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan' (PMDISHA), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said the scheme has faced a major setback due to "scarcity of resources year-after-year and the targets deferred".

Approved in February 2017, the panel said the aim of PMDISHA was to make one person each in six crore rural households digital literate by March 2019. However, as on 31 December 2019, only 3.19 crore people have enrolled and out of which training has been imparted to only 2.56 crore. Of this, only 1.88 crore has been certified under the scheme.

"At the time of approval, the PMDISHA scheme was expected to cover six crore households in a span of two years. However, after completion of almost three years, the scheme has managed to impart training to about 42.66% of the set target," the panel said.

The panel noted that the Ministry had sought Rs 1,175 crore for the scheme but it "drastically reduced" to Rs 400 crore in the Budget, which is a "cause of concern".

"The Committee is at a loss to understand as to how a scheme which had the approval of the Cabinet has failed to get a requisite allocation," it said adding the "important scheme" under the 'Digital India' programme "should not suffer" for want of funds.

The Digital India programme was rolled by the Modi government to prepare India for a knowledge-based transformation.

In its report tabled in Parliament on the budgetary allocations for the Ministry, the panel headed by senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said it had also asked about the "maximum and minimum progress" of various schemes under Digital India.

The Ministry told the panel that "no such evaluation has been undertaken either by NITI Ayog or Economic Planning Division of MeiTY while a third party evaluation is "presently being undertaken in consultation with NITI Ayog. Also, the Estimates Committee of the Parliament has also chosen to review the Digital India programme.

The panel recommended that the MeiTY should conduct a timely and comprehensive evaluation of ongoing schemes so as to enable it to undertake any course correction if a scheme deviates from its intended objectives.

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