Tag Archive: India

The potential of ICTs in development

This is a self explanatory video by Intel about the use of ICTs in addressing local problems in rural areas. Worth a thousand words:

India Village – Intel from Bill Zarchy on Vimeo.


As covered by our previous postings of the Hole in Wall project which started of as a curious experiment and continued as a chain of experiments across rural india has finally crossed its boundaries and reached schools in UK and italy and is all poised to challenge all kinds of barriers like language, culture, age to education. Dr. Sugata Mitra Speaks at TED.

India’s prototype $35 tablet for students

India, known for the “world’s cheapest” innovations, unveiled a prototype of a $35 tablet computer aimed at students.

The project is part of an ambitious education technology initiative by the Indian government, which also aims to bring broadband connectivity to India’s 25,000 colleges and 504 universities and make study materials available online.

The government even plans on subsidizing the cost of the tablet for its student which would bring the purchase price down even lower. According to Kapil Sibal, the country’s Minister for Human Resource Development, this is their answer to MIT’s $100 computer.

The Linux-based computer at first glance resembles an Apple iPad and features basic functions you’d expect to see in a tablet–a Web browser, multimedia player, PDF reader, Wi-Fi, and video conferencing ability. It has 2GB of RAM (but no hard disk, instead using a memory card) and USB ports and could be available to kids from primary school up to the university level as early as next year.

(Sources: telecentre.org, cnet news, bbc news)

The computer has been named “Nano” and has been developed through joint efforts of IISc Bombay and IIT Chennai. Although the computer itself has been developed through the interfacing of various off-shelf components yet it has been engineered to be rugged and all-weathered, suited for use by children, and can be termed as a very promising innovation. The use of opensource software and cheap hardware, memory cards instead of hard-disk, makes the promise of $10 (aimed target) somewhat plausible.
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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.

IT@school project – Kerala, India

With a population of over 31 million, the Indian state of Kerala — home to the IT@school initiative — has more people than many countries! IT@school, which provides ICT-enabled education to 1.6 million students per year in the state, is considered by some to be the largest educational program of its kind utilizing primarily free and open source software, thereby presenting a whole new model

According to the official website IT@School endeavors to enhance the intellectual productivity of teacher and the curricular comprehension of students. The work of the project saw 4 million students and 0.2 million teachers empowered in ICT through a network of dedicated 200 Master Trainers and 5600 IT Co-coordinators. IT@School is the nodal agency for implementing EDUSAT (first Indian satellite exclusively serving the education sector) network and runs an exclusive channel for education called ‘ViCTERS’ (Virtual Classroom Technology on EDUSAT for Rural Schools).

The project has now associated with BSNL to provide Internet broad band connectivity to all high schools in Kerala. The success of the Project can be visualized by the conduct IT practical examination in free software for about 4 million students, first of this kind in the world with so much vast resourceful deployment of free software. The efforts of Project saw deployment of adequate IT infrastructure to all schools including computers and other accessories. Single largest simultaneous deployment of FOSS based ICT education in the world.

The project also focuses on capacity building by providing hardware and software training to teachers along with special programs to teach them the use of ICTs in education. Infrastructure up gradation is also an essential part of the project along with several E-governance initiatives. So far the project has supplied 40,000 computers to schools along with laptops, printers, scanners and generators. A recent news report also suggests that the project will provide free digital libraries to schools in Kerala soon.

The IT@School Project, of Kerala’s General Education Department has joined hands with chip giant Intel, to deploy a dual language version of the Skoool Learning and Teaching Technologies website. The platform is expected to benefit teachers and students (and parents!) in the state by providing attractive educational packages in school level Mathematics and Science, as a free Internet resource.

A snapshot of the impact of project is seen in this video and an article here. IT@School Project, through its various initiatives, has enabled the educational system to make a paradigm shift to ICT enabled education from the conventional IT education. Michael Trucano the senior ICT and Education Policy specialist at World Bank has included this project in his list of ICT initiatives in his blogpost titled ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch — and Learn From.

Village Connection Project (NSN)

Nokia Siemens Networks Village Connection is a connectivity solution enabling operators to capture the rural market potential by offering affordable voice and sms service to villages for a relatively low investment, serving a dual purpose: providing access and connectivity to remote areas while helping NSN to fulfill its target of reaching 5 billion mobile subscribers’ target. The project targets population with very meager income (less than $2 per day) and provides them affordable access by making it economically viable for the telcos (by significant reduction in CAPEX). The major advantage lies in the cut down in the prices of infrastructure and equipment.

“The coverage uses modular, compact GSM Access Points, comprising radio frequency, power and a standard PC with Access Point software.”

Such is the potential of this project that it introduces a new business model for telcos. Other vendors like Huawei is also considering the Village Connection solution. The local access point is generally installed with an omni-directional antenna with customer premises equipment (CPE) which can be hosted with a local entrepreneur, moreover, very little network planning is required. Diesel powered generators and solar panels ensure power access during electric supply outages. The solution ensures that local calls are switched locally and the billing services can also be pushed to local entrepreneurs handling the equipment.

The Village Connection solution supporting voice and SMS can be easily expanded into range of value added services. Internet Kiosks provide internet access to the locals through the village connection. The inherent IP connectivity of GSM access point ensures internet connectivity. The solution has been successfully implemented in many countries, starting from India and extending out to Tanzania (by Vodafone). The brochure of Village Connection can be accessed here.

Education for children of nomadic tribes

Educating nomadic children is challenging for many reasons, among which is the need to cater to their mobility. This calls for portable strategies and flexible courses that will retain the interest and attention of the children. The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay adapted the Anchored Instruction Approach in three experimental camp schools in Maharashtra in western India to teach nomadic children, between five and 17 years old, the 3Rs through discovery, interaction and participation. IIT site says:

The nomadic tribes in India show very little concern for educating their children and, because of their wandering nature, it has become near impossible to have a continuum in their education, even if it is made available.

Capitalizing on the local setting and environment to provide the context and content of their lessons, the “live” anchored instruction sessions were video-taped in each camp. With the help of laptops and audio-visual programmes, the children were able to view the tapes of all three camps to provide them with broader perspectives of life beyond their own confines.

They learnt to count and associate numbers, colors and names with pictures, charts and other items shown in the videos. A series of online tests were conducted in situ following the viewing. Offline work to view the recording was also available to facilitate self-learning. An interactive video was developed from one of the camp videos to enhance the learning process. Furthermore, a series of virtual nomadic environments was designed to enable the children to correlate information with the real world.

The children were able to use the laptops and adjust to the ICT-based solutions easily. At home with the touchpad and navigation, some of the children were able to guide their peers through the lessons independently. Some even managed to transfer their knowledge to their relatives who visited the camp schools.

The outcome of the project showed the students’ retention to be almost 100%, highlighting the success of the innovation. The project was successfully implemented in Maharashtra and extended on to incorporate the community learning of life skills. A similar program for incorporating ICTs in regular rural schools is also associated with the same IIT Lab. Other projects of Lab include Bhav Puchiye, an application for enquiring rates of commodities, an Agroexplorer and aAqua giving advisory services on agriculture to local farmers.

Innovation for combating literacy, INDIA

One of the outstanding potential of ICTs is their ability to bridge the divides in a much rapid and emphatic manner as compared to several traditional techniques e.g. for literacy reduction the traditional teaching methods are pretty time consuming and resource intensive whereas ICTs exploit the multimedia and similar aids for reducing the human learning cycle. As a case study few innovative steps taken by NGOs, multinationals and social entrepreneurs of India are presented.

Khabar Lahariya is a weekly Bundeli language newspaper, written, edited, illustrated, produced and marketed entirely by women in the rural Chritrakoot and Banda districts of Uttar Pradesh… The paper has a print run of around 4000 copies, and a readership of over 25,000. It is sold for Rs. 2 a copy in over 400 villages in both districts.’ The newspaper is playing commendable role in domain of female literacy. ‘Waves in hinterland‘ by farah naqvi covers the story of this newspaper in detail. The initiative won UNESCO’s literacy award in 2009

Nonprofit, Planet Read, has adopted an innovative approach to combating illiteracy: Using ‘same language subtitles’ on film songs as a way to teach viewers how to read (capitalizing the Indian public’s craze for Bollywood). Conceived in 1996 at IIM Ahmadabad, SLS program reaches about 200 million plus viewers across 8 different song programs in 8 different languages. The program has a great potential for replication in similar societies and thereby has been commended at Clinton Global Initiative.

Recent publication by UNESCO “Education for All – Global monitoring report 2011” (accessible here p71 ) states that

PlanetRead, provides same-language subtitling for film songs broadcast on television, potentially reaching  hundreds of millions. A randomized evaluation covering 13,000 people from 2002 to 2007 showed a considerable impact. Among children enrolled in school, 56% of those who had watched the subtitled show at least thirty minutes a week for five years had become fluent readers, as opposed to 24% of those who had not watched it. Among illiterate adults, 12% of those watching the show became fluent readers, as opposed to 3% of those not watching it (Kothari, 2008).

Apart from local NGOs other organizations like UNESCO have also come up with simplistic projects which are contributing towards the literacy in rural areas such as Tamil Nadu. Whereas projects like Akshaya, implemented in Kerala, has extended the concept of literacy to 100% e-literacy.

ICT Interventions in Education, India

Adapted from: http://india.gov.in/spotlight/spotlight_archive.php?id=40

According to the spotlight review on the india.gov website the ‘India, a successful ICT powered nation, has always laid a lot of accent on the use of ICT, not only for good governance but also in diverse sectors of the economy such as health, agriculture and education etc.’

The use of ICTs in education has certainly been improved over the years with several initiatives worth mentioning. According to the review the ‘most vital contribution of ICTs in the field of education is easy access to learning resources’, enabling the students to have easy access to resources. The examination results (held by several Boards/ Institutions/ Commissions) are now available online and also through email, SMS and IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System). Online admissions counseling is available for admissions to professional degree courses as well information regarding scholarship opportunities and educational loans are disseminated to the meritorious students across backgrounds and financial status. Information related to admissions to foreign universities is readily available to the students.

Several Distance Education programs are being run which make it easy for students in remote areas to continue their education. The textbooks of the national curriculum (NCERT), from grade 1 to 12, have been uploaded online for convenience of students and teachers. Sample papers for many entrance exams and other competitions are also available online. Such a facility is also being provided by Indira Gandhi National Open University.

One of the most vital ICT initiatives is the development of Brihaspati, a virtual classroom; an endeavor is by The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Brihaspati is a web-based e-learning program, which enables instructors to enhance on campus learning by sharing course materials, having class discussions, and making assessments on the web. It can also be used to deploy e-learning content for off campus self as well as mentored learning. This tool is open source software and can be used by any university.

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