We have all read stories of children walking, even swimming across rivers to reach their nearest schools. There have been instances where bridges have been washed away and children have not been able to attend schools for months. Hence, there is an increasing need to eliminate such geographical barriers to make education both fun and interesting. To address such issues, the Government has initiated the \'Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana\' to connect remote parts of India and help set-up schools in villages. While this is still a work in progress, the country also needs to address the access to teachers for educating children in these inaccessible areas. We believe this is a more crucial and unaddressed need, one that requires the collective will of a combination of technology and relevant content. There are three fundamental challenges that schools in rural India need to focus upon. These include consistent teaching modules by employing through government appointed teachers, NGO volunteers from the corporate world visit villages to support teachers and updating content in villages through access to contemporary information. There are two vital solutions that can support and drive changes which are essential in various areas. They can be achieved through a technology framework for delivering the content and updating the curriculum to suit the current technological trends for the future workforce.
In this regard, the \'Digital India\' initiative by Prime Minister Narendra Modi covers many of the features which will support education. A few of the salient features are mentioned below:
ï¿½ The Government of India has undertaken an initiative namely Bharat Net, a high speed digital highway to connect all 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats of the country.
ï¿½ The National Scholarships Portal is said to be a one stop solution for an end-to-end scholarship process right from submission of student applications, verification, sanction and disbursal to end beneficiary for all the scholarships provided by the Government of India.
ï¿½ To replace 30-year old exchanges, BSNL has introduced the Next Generation Network (NGN), which is an IP based technology to manage all types of services like voice, data, multimedia/ video and other types of packet switched communication services.
ï¿½ BSNL has undertaken large scale deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country.
These are bold steps that have emerged from a purely educational point of view. I say educational, because the first step in bridging the urban rural divide is to invest in infrastructure. If we have the framework to reach even the remotest parts of India, delivery of quality content is much easier. For example, the high speed digital highway to connect all 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats in the country could result in easy access to information for parents and children alike. Wi-Fi hotspots will bring in greater connectivity, assuring that children consistently have access to their portable devices.
Making Mobiles as Productive Education Tools
Smartphone adoption is ubiquitous. Due to the low cost of a quality smartphone, even people from the most rural areas have access to it. A mobile device is a channel to create a positive momentum in transforming national education. When we launched an educational transformation campaign in Malaysia, mobile devices became the key to engaging users and identifying leaders for a successful transformation journey. Users were sent reminders and material with an easy option to respond anywhere, anytime through their mobile device. A nationwide social media campaign was also launched with endorsement from influential figures. This brought in a wide number of participants to voice of their concerns and apprehensions of the status quo. Successful transformation begins with a positive sentiment and strong change champions. We have used Sentiment Analysis to track online channels for user concerns and provided insight for tailoring a community-wide transformation journey. Once Sentiment Analysis determined, users felt positive and were willing to accept the tested solution. Thereby, the transformation campaign could be safely launched. Change has to be gradual and has to harbour the larger community.
Through the revolutionary use of mobile phones for the purpose of large-scale education transformation Xchanging was able to:
ï¿½ Invite the audience to use smart phones to participate in live polling, an online forum and Facebook pages.
ï¿½ Make available SMS web application for the audience to download.
ï¿½ Performed Sentiment Analysis for a real-time gauge of audience sentiment and identified hot topics and key contributors.
ï¿½ Picked up individual user preferences through the use of Predictive Analytics.
ï¿½ Sent engagement alerts to the audience including welcome message, peer usage statistics and alerts on trends based on the discovered preferences.
The Malaysian experience was a classic example of bringing together different schools of thought in order to reinforce positive changes. The simple objective of the exercise was to provide quality education to every child in the country. The underlying science was a far more complex process. But, it is critical in transforming the educational experience of a country. This was realised by participative process and we had to allow everyone to be heard, and design a system that suited the greater good. India is no different when it comes to the need for better quality education. We need a holistic approach in formulating the means of helping the government in this basic need. I think it is time to adopt a new paradigm of education for the 21st century. With the help of technology, we can not only bridge the urban-rural knowledge gap, but importantly, build a developed nation.
Possessing an extensive experience through working for eminent companies such as DHL India, Reliance and Virgin Mobile, he has served as Manager of Accenture in Technology Sales and Delivery. He has also received numerous honours and awards for projects on diverse topics such as Cloud Adoption in education and Automatic Fare Collection in Malaysia.