When customers across the country were awaiting their turn in serpentine queues to lay hands on their own money, people of Seekarajapuram, a remote village near Thiruvalam in Wallajah Taluk in the district, were queuing up for a different reason. This hamlet is all set become the first digital village in the district, and the driving force behind the achievement is the zeal of the people to embrace technology. They, for sure, are moving with the times.
In the aftermath of the financial decision of the Centre, the residents began lining up in front of the special office of the SBI to open accounts and enjoy the benefits of all bells and whistles attached to it (read online banking). Change is in the air and the enthusiasm to welcome it is palpable. And when you talk about inclusion, a majority of the new customers was women. Most of the women in this verdant village are educated housewives, ready to become tech-savvy with two-fold aim. First, to get a feel of modern banking ways. Secondly, and most importantly, to keep track of their better halves’ expenses.
Women queing up before an ATM in Seekarajapuram
Jayanthi (47), a housewife, says, “My two college-going children already have migrated to the digital world. They use laptops and smartphones equipped with high-speed internet. It is my duty to keep a watch on them. Digital banking would help me to learn the basics of internet and mobile banking, which in turn would aid my monitoring activities.” Its not the housewives alone who are buoyant. 45-year-old Venkatesan (45), a grocer, hopes that digital banking would help in contain credit-hungry customers.
He has applied for a Point Of Sale machine, and hopes to make his customers swipe away their age-old debts. “With the new technology, I will get more control over my purchase and sales,” he adds.
However, there are doubting Thomases as well. The highest concern is about the security of transactions and sanctity of accounts. Beyond the realm of this reasonable doubt lies the euphoria of becoming the first digital village in the district. As most of the residents sport smartphones, officials hope that the transition would be hassle-free.
While it is easy to hail the Centre’s decision for the achievement, the groundwork for the transition was laid a couple of years ago, when enrolment for Aadhaar Cards became mandatory for a section of the villagers benefiting under the NREGS and wanting to retain gas subsidy. The village panchayat turned proactive to organise special camps for the Aadhaar, resulting in all the 1,200-odd households getting Aadhaar cover.
Training sessions were being conducted for the villagers in the past two months on digital banking and how to use the mobile phones with the applications such as Buddy, e-wallets etc, recounted regional manager Sarathy and the chief manager (rural) Babu of SBI. This would include highlighting the usage of debit cards, mobile banking, micro ATM centres etc.
The 20 small traders and merchants in this village have been trained to use the Merchant Buddy app and Point of Sale machines by helping the locals make use of debit cards. “These measures are expected to reduce cash transactions, while the villagers would be upgrading themselves to avail of the online transactions,” they pointed out. The digital village initiative here is part of the activities of the bank to enhance the digital skills, especially for the empowerment of rural women, which is also part of the Digital India, they added.
Collector S A Raman will inaugurate the digital village on December 28. An ATM will also be opened in the village on the occasion. Besides the bank initiative, the village is coming up with government e-service centre.