The ICICI Group on Tuesday said it has made 100 villages digitally-enabled in 2017 and plans to transform 500 more by the year-end. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while inaugurating the 100 ICICI digital villages here said: "The ICICI initiative should be followed by other banks in rural areas." Financial inclusion programme was the first major step undertaken by the government and now the country was moving towards a scenario where every household should have a bank account, Jaitley said.
"People are extremely flexible in adopting to technology. Movement towards digitisation has created newer technologies," the Finance Minister said. The advantages of economic reforms are now reaching the villages, he added. ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar said, "We have transformed 100 villages across the country in 100 days. We have created a less cash ecosystem in these villages. We intend to expand the number of such villages by another 500 by December 2017.
"The programme encompasses digitisation of transactions and other commercial activities, besides providing vocational training, credit facility and market linkage to help villagers earn a sustainable livelihood. "I am confident that this project will significantly contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Digital India' and 'Make in India'...," Kochhar said.
The 100 villages which have been transformed into 'ICICI Digital Villages' are located across 17 states in India. These include 16 in Gujarat, 14 each in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, 12 each in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and 11 in Rajasthan among others. "The villagers here can use digital channels for banking and payments transactions. They can also open bank accounts using Aadhar-based e-KYC (electronic Know Your Customer), make cashless payments at retail stores using Point-of-Sale (POS) machines and use an SMS based mobile solution," she said.
"Villagers can deposit and withdraw cash at their doorstep. The digitisation at the village dairy cooperative units enables the societies to pay the members digitally and directly into their bank accounts," she added. While 11,300 villagers have been trained in vocational courses in the 100 digital villages, ICICI Group plans to train 50,000 more individuals in the remaining 500 villages.
The disciplines include comprehensive agriculture, dairy and vermicomposting, agriculture equipment service and repair, dress designing and sandstone cutting, mobile phone servicing and electrical home appliances. The bank is also extending credit facilities to credit-worthy trained villagers in a bid to boost self-employment opportunities in the villages.