Digital India
Representational ImageICICI Bank

Inspired by the success of its pilot program that created India's first digital village in Akodara in Gujarat's Sabarkantha district, ICICI Bank on Monday pledged to transform 100 villages into digital villages' in the next 100 days.

To be implemented under a three-pronged strategy, the creation of a digital village includes digitisation of transactions and commercial activities, vocational training, and credit facility to help villagers earn a sustainable livelihood.

"We strongly feel that technology can play an important role in putting development on a fast lane. By leveraging technology, we converted Akodara in Gujarat from a village to India's first digital village last year. Its success motivates us to scale up the initiative a big way—we will now convert 100 villages across the country into digital villages," ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar was quoted as saying by Hindu Business Line.

"We will create a cashless ecosystem at these villages, provide vocational training to 10,000 villagers in first 100 days and offer them credit linkages so that the villagers can start their own business ventures," she added.

By virtue of being transformed into a virtually cashless economy in less than 18 months, Akodara, located some 90km from Ahmedabad was seemingly unaffected by the Narendra Modi government's plan of demonetisation that saw millions of people queuing up at banks across the country in light of the cash crunch. Most transactions in Akodara between Rs 10 and Rs 5,000 are done via SMS in a system where the buyer and seller are both connected through their accounts in the same bank.

The same technological initiatives -- opening of bank accounts using Aadhar-based e-KYC and making cashless payments to retail stores through a SMS/USSD-based mobile solution -- will be implemented in ICICI'S 100 digital villages project.

Additionally, the CSR arm of the ICICI Group – ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth (ICICI Foundation) in association with the bank aims to provide vocational training to nearly 10,000 underprivileged villagers to encourage them to earn a sustainable livelihood. The program is designed to focus on women.

The bank will also extend credit facilities to the trained villagers in a bid to boost self-employment opportunities.