Praggya Guptaa | February 9, 2015
Digital literacy is necessary to keep millions of Indians well informed and connected. Debjani Ghosh, vice president, sales and marketing group and managing director for South Asia at Intel Corporation explains how the company is helping the nation in its journey towards digital literacy in an email interview with Praggya Guptaa.
How is Intel supporting India’s digital literacy initiatives?
Intel aims to create an ecosystem of digital literacy awareness, education and training that will help India take a lead in the global digital economy and shape a technologically empowered society. Keeping this in mind, we recently launched the Intel Digital Skills for India programme to further strengthen the company’s already existing digital literacy initiatives and support the government’s Digital India vision. Through this programme, Intel India aims to enrich the lives of five million people by the end of 2015.
Intel India has also launched Digital Skills Training application comprising modules on digital literacy, financial inclusion, healthcare and cleanliness in five Indian languages. The application is available for free on the Android Play Store.
A similar offline training module, the Intel Learn Easy Steps, is available in seven Indian languages. Intel India will also work with Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) to build capacity by imparting digital literacy training to key resource people in the first 1,000 panchayats under the national optic fibre network (NOFN) rollout in India.
Digital India is a transformative vision that must be realised for India to achieve its growth ambitions. For its successful realisation, you need to think about innovation and end-to-end solutions right from providing a secure and managed digital infrastructure to accessible, affordable computing devices and solutions and finally skill development and capacity building. This is where Intel excels and will continue in helping realise the Digital India vision.
Intel has been a pioneer in the field of digital literacy and skill development for several decades, and over the last 20 years we have trained over 18 lakh teachers through Intel Teach programme. Our Intel Learn programme has enlightened over 1.8 lakh children from under-served communities. There are over 180 students from the country who have participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and around 18 Indian kids, who have won prizes, have minor planets named after them. The Intel Higher Education programme has helped over 2.35 lakh students and 4,500 faculty across 450 institutes in the country.
How do you see the government’s National Digital Literacy Mission in terms of enhancing the usability of internet?
In 2012, Intel launched the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) along with NASSCOM to bring the industry on a common platform to work towards accelerating digital literacy in the country. Three blocks across Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan received broadband under the NOFN pilot. Intel adopted these three villages and established digital literacy training camps. Over a period of nine months and 54,000 hours we achieved 100 percent digital literacy in these villages (as measured by one e-literate person per household). After the huge success of this programme, the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) adopted the project and is now scaling it.
Intel employees have also volunteered to train over 35,000 citizens during the Digital Literacy weeks conducted by NDLM. Additionally, Intel has trained 3.8 lakh citizens in digital literacy through its Intel Learn Easy Steps programme.
How are you addressing the need for content localisation?
For a country like India natural intuitive ways of interaction are important as they can overcome a big challenge of not understanding English. To address the language barrier that exists in our country, Intel’s Digital Skills Training application has content in five languages. The offline training module is available in seven Indian languages. We have also worked closely with Uniphore Software Systems to create an innovative speech recognition prototype in Tamil language that can be used to control a personal computer in line with Intel’s vision of simplifying user interfaces and making computing more intuitive.
Can you share your perspective on the rural, semi urban market – largely left out of the digital economy?
Around 120 million people in India have access to the internet today ‑— a striking example of the internet’s growth potential. India is adopting the internet at a much more rapid pace than advanced economies, and even many developing economies, yet 90 percent of its population is currently not connected. Interestingly, the next wave of computing and internet users in India is primarily going to be non-urban. For India, the biggest challenge is to deliver innovation that is customised to deliver solutions for this changing demographics and lifestyle. The current focus on devices and hardware will need to reduce and we will have to think about solutions and usage models for this demographic. The focus will have to shift from price and features to experience and solution that allow citizens easy access to government services. The Digital India vision of the government should address these challenges, and if done right, it may help the country in increasing its GDP by 20-30 percent by 2025.
How do you see the technology solutions like offline internet, Wi-Fi technology, Helium cloud, among others, for last mile connectivity?
Today, India is at a point where realising the Digital India vision is not just a ‘good to do’ concept for the country. It is a ‘must do’ thing, if we want to be successful and competitive in the global economy. Moreover, realisation of this big dream is not the duty of the government alone, we as citizens of India have to be an equal partner in this journey. The government has done an incredible work when it comes to setting the stage for a digitally empowered nation. I think, the government must expedite the rollout of the NOFN to 2,50,000 panchayats at a breakneck speed. Meanwhile, the industry can focus on empowering citizens by training them in digital literacy and creating an ecosystem of apps and services that citizens can use for their personal growth. The last mile access is largely going to be wireless. Hence, it is important for the government to involve the telco ecosystem right from the beginning to figure out what are the right policies and frameworks that need to be put in place to make last mile connectivity a viable, scalable and sustainable business model.
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