Digital technology the only way to fight poverty

United Nations, Oct 13: Digital technology can play a key role in fighting poverty, which can have disastrous consequences like fomenting armed conflicts and refugee crises, Indian lawmaker Santosh Ahlawat said here on Thursday.

A member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Ahlawat, who is part of the Indian delegation to the current session of the General Assembly, said that despite recent successes in lifting millions across the world from poverty, "large scale chronic poverty continues to be the greatest challenge for humanity".

"There are much wider consequences of poverty today through armed conflicts, and large scale movements of people," she added.

"One-sixth of the global population is Indian," she told the committee dealing with economic and financial matter. "The global significance of the successes in India in lifting people out of poverty is well recognised."

The MP from Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, focused on the deployment of digital technology and mobile phones for banking, provision of benefits, education, health and agriculture in India's anti-poverty drive.

Ahlawat cited the programme popularly known as "J-A-M" as the key strategy for extending financial and banking services to the masses.

The J-A-M stands for linkage of "Jan Dhan" or financial inclusion, "Aadhar" identity cards and "Mobile" phones, and it starts with using digital technology to issue biometric-based unique identity cards, Aadhar, to more than one billion Indians, she said.

"More than 300 million bank accounts have been opened for the poor and marginalised," she said. "Linked with access to smartphones these initiatives are bringing about a transformation."

In agriculture, she said that through the e-NAM, the National Agriculture Market Dashboard, technology is linking markets for agricultural produce, and remote sensing technology provides information about crop inventory, water availability, and early warning about natural disasters.

Digital technology is also improving the access to and quality of education, and the availability of basic healthcare services such as universal immunisation, Ahlwat added.

She also referred to other programmes initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi like Mudra for loans to small entrepreneurs, Swachch Bharat for hygiene, Make in India to increase employment, and Skills India for improving vocational capabilities,

Ahlawat also acknowledged the role of the pre-Modi governments in fighting poverty.

Since Independence, she said, "early gains included self sufficiency in food production, vastly improved access to education, affordable healthcare, a diversified economy and social reform including positive discrimination."


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