Can India become true digital nation?

Several developing countries around the world have announced the goal of becoming digital nations within a fixed time frame.

Latest addition in the list is India when the Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has called to make the nation a digital one in his Independence Day speech from Red Fort.

Keeping the digital surge in global economy in mind, these are more than welcome proclamations where national human resources can really be prepared for a long term sustainable development. But the big question is how far these countries would open their purse to create the proper infrastructure for education in digital formats.

Unless it is done, the call for digital nation would remain a call resonated by the politicians for winning ballots only.

In order to shorten the digital divide, education is the first thing where emphasis ought to be made.

The classroom should be such where young minds could freely intermingle with global server of knowledge through cyber world.

I am not only speaking of the state-of-art laboratories or sophisticated work stations but also the run down classrooms in the remote villages where students have seen the  pictures of computers only on television and in their text books. These classrooms with leaking roofs could sometimes barely protect the kids from over pouring rain.

In the monsoon kids open up their umbrellas to keep themselves, their books and copies dry. These classrooms could barely afford a standalone blackboard and students have to bring mats from their home for sitting on the floor.

Without upgrading the conditions of these citadels of primary and secondary education, digital divide cannot be hoped to be erased, leave alone chasing the utopian dream of becoming a digital nation.Salman khan of Sal Academy of the USA (no relation with Salman Khan the movie star) initiated e-learning process through video clippings.

He developed the unique method of teaching the school subjects through the short video which was put to You Tube later.

Till date more than thousands of such videos are there in the cyber space and millions have been benefitted from these.

The endeavour has been lauded globally and many a developing nation has commenced this e-classroom concept. But for doing this too, screen along with internet connection are badly needed.

In order to mitigate the problem of availability of computer in rural part of developing world, some experts have started showcasing large screen mobile (screen size of 5 inches or more) as an alternative platform.

The platforms of open source operation system like Lynux, virtual server of Cloud could greatly enhance the process but still screen is required.

The Uruguay model of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme is worth mentioning here.   Under Plan Ceibal (education connect in Spanish), every child in primary school received a laptop in this tiny Latin American nation. But still price of OLPC laptop is somewhat constraint over with a tag of $150 in other developing nations.

Akaash Laptop, produced by an Indian initiative with a price of $44 could be part of the solution but this endeavour too is yet to be tested in full commercial scale.

Another way out is large scale government initiative. Breaking from mould of widely prevalent practice of budgetary allocation of two per cent to three per cent of GDP on education, China is now poised to upgrade it to four per cent. Are aspiring digital nations taking note of it?

The author is a senior journalist specialised in technology. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.


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