"Role of digital technology and e-learning in societal development"(On the occasion of workshop at Champawat Schools May 7-9, 2016)
It is well known that the Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan (सर्व शिक्षा अभियान) are helping to irradiate the illiteracy. However, if we talk about 75% of the students completing Masters degree, they realise that he/ she is now not employable in any field. This is a bitter truth of the country at the present.
To understand the 'digital technology' in simple terms, we consider the situation of 1990s (about 25 years back). There were not many telephones. The letters (post cards, inlands, envelops) were the only way of information exchange for the 99% of the populations. In contrast, today, 99% of population have access to the telephone in some way or the other. This is -one of the advantage of digital technology to society.
Kafal (काफल) or fish: Increasing per capita income, reducing wastage
If we go to the forest and find a better quantity and quality of Kafal, we can call the shopkeeper in the market to fix the rate accordingly. Same is true for the potato rates at Haldwani, or the fish rates in the market -while catching the fish at far river/ or at deep sea. The rates can be fixed to help the related work force. This way, the wastage of the product is reduced- which in turn, transforms the society for better.
Disadvantages of rumours
Such information exchange can also be used to spread rumors and create a tense situation in the society- this is a bad part of the communication society. The rules of the government and police, therefore, are required to be strengthen and implemented equally to keep the pace of the society.
E-learning, a by-product of digital technology
One of the side-lights of the digital technology is e-learning. That is where the digital divide creeps in the societies like that of the Indian subcontinent. We will talk about this 'digital divide' a bit later. Let us talk about the advantages.
1. Courses on TV: Some of us might remember, there used to be course material on TV -early in the mornings.
2. Similarly, institutes of prime importance like IITs and IISc have come up with National knowledge Network (KNK) http://nptel.ac.in/ by which they have made several thousands of courses freely available online.
Teacher-shortage may not be an issue any more
The advantage of this availability is that the shortage of experienced teachers can be addressed in the schools/ colleges. However, there will not be any reliable and economical access to the internet service (digital divide) as compared to big cities/ western countries.
Problems associated : The great digital-divide
Simply by keeping a PC or a tablet in a school can not transform the education. The electrification of rural areas, supply of electricity, lack of good, economical internet services are the real problems faced by the students. This is in contrast to the cities and affluent societies which creates this division between the poor and the rich (even with the digital technology). This is known as the 'digital-divide'.
Need of the hour: To fill the gap of digital-divide
Hence the e-learning can help transform the society in a bumper way-as the same quality of the courses, learning material is available at the click of the mouse. But for the students in the remote places of India (specially poor), this is a distant dream. Hence, unless the problem of digital divide is solved, we can not expect a big transformation except the Facebook type of recreation now and then through a few IPADs, Android phones or Tabs by some people. This is similar as the tape recorders were shown to people by a few about 40 years back to play their recorded voice!
May 4, 2016