With more than half a billion (560 million) internet subscribers, India is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for digital consumers. Indians download more apps—12.3 billion in 2018—than any country except China and spend more time on social media—an average of 17 hours a week—than social media users in China and the United States. The share of Indian adults with at least one digital financial account has more than doubled since 2011, to 80% percent, thanks in large part to the government of India’s Jan-Dhan Yojana. Almost 870 million bank accounts were linked to Aadhaar by February 2018. Likewise, the Goods and Services Tax Network, established in 2013, brings all transactions of about 10.3 million indirect tax-paying businesses onto one digital platform.

Digital payments have emerged as an important tool for advancing financial inclusion because it lowers the cost of providing financial services to poor people and increases the safety and convenience of using savings, payments, and insurance products. Lower-income states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are expanding internet infrastructure and increasing the penetration of internet services to new customers faster than wealthier states. Ordinary Indians in many parts of the country—including small towns and rural areas—can now read the news online, order food delivery via a phone app, video chat with a friend (Indians log 50 million video-calling minutes a day on WhatsApp), shop at a virtual retailer, send money to a family member using their phone, or watch a movie streamed to a handheld device.

Despite these advances, India has plenty of room to grow. While many people have digital bank accounts, 90 percent of all retail transactions in India, by volume, are still made with cash. E-commerce revenue is growing by more than 25 to 30 percent per year, yet only 5 percent of trade in India is done online, compared with 15 percent in China in 2015.

The Household Support Services will help India bridge the digital inclusion gap. While the country’s development trajectory is strong, challenges remain. 21.92% of India’s total population lives below the National Poverty Line. Between 2011-15, more than 90 million people escaped extreme poverty and improved their living standards thanks to robust economic growth. While India is still home to 176 million poor people, it is seeking to achieve better growth, as well as to promote inclusion and sustainability by reshaping policy approaches to human development, social protection, financial inclusion, rural transformation, and infrastructure development.

Policies like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Housing for All by 2022, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan have given families access to affordable homes and improved sanitation units. In addition to this, initiatives like Digital India are transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. To empower the families who form the base of the pyramid and those who belong to the economically weaker section of the society, we need the model of Housing and Household Support Services (HSS) complementing the policies and initiatives of the Government of India.

What is HSS?
The Housing Support Services and Household Support Services also known as HSS have been institutionalised by Habitat for Humanity to empower the families living in poor housing conditions with knowledge, capacity and delivery. The HSS can ensure that benefits of affordable housing, financial inclusion, rural development, social protection reach the lowest rungs of the population.

Purpose of HSS:

  • Access to Information – Providing in depth information on all government schemes and insurance to the end user, to ensure last mile connectivity.
  • Access to Technology – Assistance concerning house design, access to prefabrication or other alternative technology, rainwater harvesting, setting up tools bank and materials bank (to ensure that the correct materials are made available locally, and used to build durable houses), access to digital infrastructure
  • Technical Support and Implementation – Provide construction technical assistance, training on financial literacy and so on.

HSS - The Success Story
Habitat for Humanity India is successfully implementing HSS in three varied models across the country.

Kerala: As part of 2018 post-floods, Rebuilding Kerala efforts, Habitat India launched a pilot HSS initiative in North Paravur Municipality. HSS is designed here as a Hub and Spoke model with a Core Team of 2 persons functioning out of the Municipal Office (Hub) and also supporting a nearby Panchayat (Spoke).

Multi-state Housing Project: Habitat India implemented a housing project in 2017-18 supporting 887 families from 8 districts and 133 villages in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha to complete their unfinished houses. These houses could not be completed for anywhere between 1 to 15 years, due to over-engineering, family distress, economic condition and similar reasons. Habitat’s HSS model provided ‘Gap Funding with Housing Support Services’ to strengthen Beneficiary Led Construction and capacity building services to families and masons.

Assam: The HSS initiative in Assam is being piloted in Lakhimpur district in coordination with the District Administration to ensure acceptable quality and timely completion of houses.

HSS - The Game Changer:
Household Support Services have the potential to enable India achieve rapid, sustainable development. HSS will play a crucial role in building affordable homes, managing scarce water resources, improving rural livelihoods, ensuring that India achieves sustainable economic growth and inclusion, and enabling financial literacy among the bottom of the pyramid. Operating in each of the 732 districts of India, Mobile HSS can go to the doorsteps of each household. India’s success will be central to the world’s collective ambition of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity, as well as for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The world will be only able to eliminate poverty if India succeeds in lifting its citizens above the poverty line.

How Can You Help?
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort. The housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 70 countries. In India since 1983, Habitat for Humanity has supported more than 33 million people to build or improve a place they can call home. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, you can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves.

Whether you are a corporate organization or an individual, you can partner with Habitat for Humanity India under the CSR policy of your company, provide us with access to technology, fixed assets such as office spaces, vehicles which can be turned into mobile HSS or you can also choose to volunteer with us. Building a better India is only possible if the private and public sector comes together and works in synergy towards community development. Join us in this movement.

Contact: Rajan Samuel (Managing Director – Habitat for Humanity India) | [email protected]

To learn more, donate or volunteer, visit www.habitatindia.org

--- --- ---

Data and Text References: The World Bank, UN Sustainable Development Goals,

A report by McKinsey Global Institute 'Digital India: Technology to transform a connected nation', March 2019