Girish is an entrepreneur who has a vision coupled with an unwavering want to create. He brings 15 years of experience across Education, FMCG and Financial Service sectors and is driven by a visceral “hard-wired” need to strategize, to innovate, to execute and to disprove the words – “It can’t be done”. His greatest passion lies in unlocking the potential that each individual has, and in enabling them to achieve their best. He strongly believes that in this golden era of opportunities in India, the biggest factor of success for our country will be our ability to transform our people into high performing contributors to the economy. This led to the birth of EduBridge and is still central to the vision and mission of EduBridge.
How close are we to fulfilling the dream of Upskilling India for the future? How do we prepare millions of small and medium businesses for this digital transformation, in a short time? These are some of the questions that many are trying to understand. Also, what does the future of Indian Youth and the economy seem like now?
The COVID-19 pandemic made its dramatic entry and forced technological adaptation in everyone’s life. Companies and institutions are rapidly shifting to digitally enabled solutions, education, and medical consultations going online and digital transactions being promoted are just a few examples of how technology has become omnipresent. Considering the current situation, COVID-19 has uncovered the dark side of the Digital Divide, thus opening a Pandora’s Box of challenges for the larger Indian population.
Education is just one aspect that has emphasized the digital divide between urban and rural India during the lockdown. This trend is also visible in banking, e-commerce, telemedicine, etc. which are now only available through the internet. This digital divide continues to persist despite witnessing a projected increase in Internet users from 373 million in 2016 to 829 million or 59 percent of the Indian population in 2021 as per Cisco VNI. Let’s not forget that this growth only indicates the rise in basic telecommunication facilities.
Despite the excitement seen in the facts, figures, and future growth predictions, there is a visible gap of who has access to the internet, digital technologies (smartphones, laptop, tablet & desktop) and who does not. This gap or divide, marks the availability of internet services in different regions and the ability of individuals to use these services. Till date, many regions in India face power cuts and thus, access to electricity becomes the primary source of powering devices as well as connecting to the internet for digital education. This is yet a dream for some areas across India. We also need to understand that an individual’s location, income, education, language, and age are also some of the key aspects that outline access and motivation.
As per the Learning Spiral, a recent online survey found that above 50% of Indian students including both urban and rural areas don’t have access to enough internet data for the long online lectures or for further peer-connected study sessions or collaboration opportunities. There are a host of challenges faced by the students – lack of IT support, unable to afford data, internet speed/connectivity issues, etc. While city dwellers enjoy the perks of the internet, we cannot overlook the problems that are faced by those dwelling in the more remote and inaccessible parts of the country.
Indian Government and the private sectors have significantly pushed towards digitization in the last couple of years and this pandemic has just accelerated the process. But there is still a huge divide due to lack of access to technology and this is considered a very important aspect.
Bridge the Digital Divide
Over the years Indian Government has implemented many Digital Transformation policies to uplift different areas and work towards obtaining competence in information and technology. Some of the policies are Technology Act, 2000, Optical Fibre Network (NOF-N), Digital Mobile Library, Unnati, E-pathshala, DIKSHA, Digital India Mission and many more. The success of these policies can only be achieved or known when they are implemented correctly.
How do we reduce this divide? How do we provide equal digital resources? Some of the key factors are as follows: –
Different methods will be needed to address these different dimensions, e.g., Urban and rural areas access to technology/internet can be improved by establishing local community technology centers, internet-enabled religious places, schools, and libraries. Providing reasonable budget mobile phones, etc. Even exploring the introduction of 5G will help in reducing bandwidth challenges. Lower data cost with reasonable speed is very crucial. Procuring of other digital technologies (desktop, laptop) at a reasonable cost. The Indian Government has to focus on Rural Electrification policies and implementation in a big way on priority before anything else can be planned though.
- Digital Literacy
The Digital Empowerment Foundation report states that in 2018, 90% of India’s population was digitally illiterate. Digital literacy must be introduced at the primary and other school levels in all schools and also at college levels for advanced content.
India is diverse in terms of language, it is unfair for many to cope up with specific languages. That is why the Indian government and institutions need to eradicate barriers and work on localizing the content so the knowledge is consumed multilingually.
This pandemic also witnessed the biggest migration of people across the country, over 40 million migrants have been impacted and so are their children. These children are mostly dropped out due to insufficient income, lack of confidence, lack of understanding, etc. There is a need for a dedicated action to support such children, integration of destination education system, parents counseling, targeted home visits, school management should enable integration of migrant children, the system of regular monitoring, etc. should be in place.
Importance of good teaching standards cannot be understated. To meet the demands and latest trends, teachers should be updated with latest technology and utility in virtual classrooms. The teaching community needs to adapt to the latest technologies to provide their students with the latest skill demand in the age of technological transformation and innovation.