Hole in the wall started of as an interesting experiment by a computer scientist, Dr. Sugata Mitra (head of research and development at the National Institute for Information Technology Limited (NIIT)), in which he installed a high tech computer on his office wall facing a slum and left it for the children to explore it. Astonishingly children learnt surfing in a single day!
In 1999 the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank subsidiary, invested $1.6 million in a project entitled ‘Hole in the Wall’, in which computer kiosks were placed in urban slums so that street children with almost no education could gain access to computer technology. They found that the children would teach each other how to use these computers. The project encourages underprivileged children in India to learn from a web-based curriculum through Internet kiosks. The kiosks were installed in over 60 locations over three years (2000-2003). The aim was to improve education for poor children, with equal access for girls and boys..
NIIT went on to conduct further studies to determine if illiterate slum children could use the Internet without instruction. The ICT-education firm set up continuous video tape monitoring of the computer that they had set up. The video showed that young boys and girls from the settlement became highly proficient at using various features of the computer regardless of lack of proficiency in English, and without any instruction. Soon it became “an extension of their playground, where they can play together, teach each other new things, and more importantly, just be themselves”
Already ubiquitous in New Delhi and Mysore, the Hole-in-the-wall systems were then spread throughout the country including the underserved areas of Rajhastan and Jaipur and the difficult terrains of Kashmir. The Hole in the wall education limited (HIWEL) has now expanded and reached upto the northern states of Mizoram and Nagaland. Such is the popularity of the project that it has crossed the borders and become a part of the commonwealth connects program in Uganda and now (according to recent news) making its way for being piloted in UK.
HIWEL has been conferred the coveted ‘Digital Opportunity Award’ for its path breaking work in spreading computer literacy and improving the quality of education at the grass root levels, by the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA).
Dr. Sugata in his talk at LIFT 2007 explains the impacts and results of his hole in the wall experiments, while a candid review of hole in the wall is presented in an article in readers’ digest. Another video report by The Guardian shows the children exploring the computers and having fun in learning.