Smartpur is a rural entrepreneurship-based model designed to create ideal smart villages in India. Initiated by New Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation and supported by Nokia, Smartpur is a one-year pilot project based on a hub-and-spoke model.

When we create a smart city, we try to enhance the efficiency of the city, thereby attracting more attention, and more people into the city and encouraging rural-to-urban migration. But that is not a healthy sign of development, as it does not leave room and opportunity for the country as a whole to grow. Instead of focusing our development and tools to enhance smartness in Tier I cities, efforts need to be made at creating smart and sustainable villages. If such an approach is adopted, efficiency will start moving from the bottom to the top, rather than a top-down approach. This will also curb migration to cities and reduce the burden on infrastructure in the cities. Let us not forget that reducing the burden on limited resources is true smartness.

Smartpur is a model concept that has been conceptualised in a manner that challenges and redefines the existing idea of smart villages, which is based more on the availability of digital infrastructure but not as much on the integration of the infrastructure into the daily lives. We believe that the mere availability of digital tools and Internet connectivity alone does not make a village smart; instead, it is the integration and optimum utilisation of these resources for social, ecological and economic impact that truly makes a smart village, and digitally strengthens six pillars of development.

The concept of Smartpur emerges from the underlying idea of integrating technology in the existing practices, processes and enabling the people of the community to make their lives better and contribute to the overall well-being of the village. The digital component is only seen as a means to an end and not an end in itself. It is a medium to acquire knowledge as a consumer and disseminate information as a producer, thus serving as tool for empowerment, innovation and communication for the larger community. This forms backbone of the Smartpur’s guiding principles.

With these guiding principles, Smartpur has adopted a rural entrepreneurial-based approach under which the project seeks to create a social enterprise model driven by rural youth and supported by community members, government bodies, private institutions and other relevant stakeholders. These stakeholders will be trained and equipped with digital tools and knowledge resources required to build a strong pool of digital citizens spearheading and transforming the village ecosystem.

With this motivation, DEF and Nokia have initiated Smartpur in Tain in Haryana and Asoor in Tamil Nadu for the pilot project. Both, Tain and Asoor, have been identified as hub villages and linked to nine spoke villages each.

While rural entrepreneurs at the hub centers provide primary services under the six key areas of development—health, education, livelihood, governance, finance and entertainment—rural entrepreneurs at the spoke centers will further redistribute these services in their respective villages. Together, the hub and the spoke entrepreneurs aim to create digitally-equipped and information-rich communities, thereby setting an example of model smart villages in India. The hub-and-spoke model has been explained in detail here.