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STL eyes to deploy 2.5 lakh Digital Kiosks

The company is expecting a viability gap funding (VGF) from the Narendra Modi government, to make it penetrate into 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks in tandem with the ongoing BharatNet initiative.

Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL) that has recently diversified into telecom network services, is banking high on its innovation-led digital kiosks dubbed as ‘Garv’ to offer multiple government-to-citizen (G2C) through village-level entrepreneurs (VLE).

“We are getting positive feedback from villages including sarpanchs (village heads) who were very excited to use digital kiosks,” said STL chief executive— Connectivity Solutions Ankit Agarwal and added that it would serve as a platform to offer multiple services and local entrepreneurs could also earn.

Pune-based homegrown Sterlite Technologies has currently deployed Garv kiosks at three locations including Akola in Maharashtra and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, as a part of the pilot program.

Village-level entrepreneurs can manage kiosks and receive income in the form of incentives for offering government services such as providing digital land records, Aadhaar enrollment, and many essential certificates, according to the top executive.

The initiative can bring a big impact to the Digital India initiative while local entrepreneurs, he said, can earn money with the sustainable model that may also add multiple dimensions to the existing Common Service Centers (CSC)— a mission-mode program.

Designed and developed by Sterlite, each digital kiosk would cost in a Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh range. The company is expecting a viability gap funding (VGF) from the Narendra Modi government, to make it penetrate into 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks in tandem with the ongoing BharatNet initiative.

Centre’s prestigious BharatNet program aims to connect more than 600,000 villages in the country with high-speed fibre network for the digital delivery of several citizen-centric services aimed at cutting manual intervention to discourage corruption.

“Government is very excited and 2-3 states have already come forward to deploy Garv,” Agarwal added.

The company is also in talks with the Indian Railways so that the fibre network with idle bandwidth across railway stations can be put to use by positioning such digital kiosks.

STL, a predominant end-to-end optic-fibre maker, with the new user-friendly digitally-empowered hardware platform, is now focusing on delivering an end-user experience with fibre at the backbone.

“It (Garv) can enable a two-way discussion, and this could be an ideal platform for learning as we have seen many enthusiastic children in villages,” Agarwal said.

The kiosk with an embedded capability to convert speech into text can also be employed for digitally illiterate and senior citizens, according to the executive who said that a strong interest was seen in the agriculture segment including irrigation as the company has developed Internet of Things (IoT) based sensors to examine soil conditions.

Besides, near-accurate crop-related decision making to empower farmers, the Indian company aims to look into relevant use cases in the education, healthcare, skill development, and government services sectors, to further sharpen its focus.

STL has already roped in as many as 20 startups to provide in-kiosk innovative applications and is in talks with multiple service providers and has recently partnered with Byju for educational content and WelcomeCure, a telemedicine platform.