Re: ICT as a solution for rural education
>From: Manasi Kumari Dash <manasidash4@...>
>Sent: Tue, 2 March, 2010 11:51:45
>Subject: Re: [india-gii] ICT as a solution for rural education
>Rural India is very big with varying infrastructural arrangements, road connectivity, food security
problems, migrating populations (also displaced). So the solutions cannot be generalized. ICT is good
at places like block centers, panchayat headquarters which have electricity and road connectivity.
These are sought after places for teachers as well.
>Schools with no electricity, no roads, no sincere village panchayat head are difficult places. There are
lot of other problems in such schools:-
>children may be babysitting/taking care of home, may be working in fields with parents, may be going to
collect forest products, may be the state language is posing a problem, the the school timings is not ok for
them, the people from one village may not be allowing children of displaced (relocated) population
because of various factors ..... and so on. Teacher/Anganwadi worker, here also become a motivating
agent and so, face-to-face interaction becomes a necessity.
[...no sincere village panchayat head] [...face-to-face interaction becomes a necessity]
Atanu paraphrases much the same point in his 2004 blogpost. While from the economic point of view, it hardly
matters whether you pour Rs 450 or Rs 900 down the drain, as long as the return is nil, the opposite argument
is equally likely: if there is sincere commitment and involvement, then Rs 900 for a computer-enhanced
environment fetches a far better return on investment than the chalk and blackboard.
The problem is that in many places, the cost of bringing commitment and involvement may be much higher than
either 'pure education' choice: Rs 450 or Rs 900. Nor can the cost be easily segregated: spend Rs 1,500, get
commitment and involvement, now see how much is available to put in either a chalkboard or a computer.
Rather, the Rs 1,500 will become a cost overrun on a project designed for either the ICT or the education
track (where the assumption is that both expenditure and return are viewed as silos).
The Jhai Networks approach seems to point the way (first comes involvement, then leadership, then system
design, finally implementation, deployment etc etc). The trouble is that such models don't fit the
narrow understanding (or fantasies) of dealmaking venture capitalists, either working in investment
centers (the traditional roosts) or funding agencies (the new, new, thing).
What makes work in this sector so frustrating is the blinkered view of the administration: this would not be
such a problem if we were a frontier country, but the reality is we have a gigantic framework of rules and
regulations in place, that apparently is made for a particular economic model, but in reality is pliable
enough to accommodate many distortions.
>On Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 10:11 AM, Atanu Dey <atanudey@...> wrote:
>>On Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 8:57 AM, sajan venniyoor
>>A question I was often asked in my Prasar Bharati years was, why can't AIR and DD be more like the BBC? To
which the answer was, give us a country like the UK and we'll give you a public broadcaster like the Beeb.
>>>In most parts of rural India, I guess a half-way decent blackboard and chalk would be good ICT. Prasar
Bharati and many state governments have seeded innumerable schools and village centres with radio and TV
sets. Where the TV sets didn't end up in the homes of gram-pradhans, they mostly didn't work. No power, no
>>>Outside of Blade Runner and other fictional dystopias, is it possible to have advanced technology in a
dysfunctional society? If the 'last mile' in rural UP has to be navigated by bullock-cart and bicycle
while dodging rapacious BSAs and rapist gram-pradhans, what are the chances of installing computers and
TV sets in local schools, and getting them to remain, and getting them to work?
>>Very well put. I love the "outside of Blade Runner ..." statement.
>>I have explored the idea of using hi-tech solutions in rural India on my blog. Here's an excerpt from a post
from Dec 2004:
>>>>>The last time I wrote about the craziness of the ICT for development brigade. ICT tools are of course
relevant for development in certain cases. But mindlessly applying ICT in each and every place is worse
than doing nothing. If you spend scarce resources buying PCs for rural areas, you neglect other more
relevant areas where those resources would have helped.
>>>Adult education, for instance, is a crying need in rural India. You can, of course, use a variety of means
of achieve that, ranging from blackboard and chalk, to radio and TV, to PCs with literacy software.
Examining the economics of the situation could well reveal that blackboard and chalk is the most
appropriate means. For a total capital expenditure of Rs 500 and an operating expenditure of Rs 1000 per
month, you could make 20 adults literate in 6 months. Per capita cost would then be about Rs 325 (about $7.)
Let’s do the numbers if you were to use a PC. Cost of hardware and software Rs. 20,000; power supply for the
PC: Rs. 20,000; trained manpower and maintenance per month: Rs 3,000. Total cost: Rs 58,000. Per capita
cost: Rs 2,900 (about $65.)
>>>Of course, one could always use the PC for a number of uses, not just adult education. Instead of just
educating 20 people, one could use it more intensively by say using it 12 hours a day and thus train 5 batches
for a total of 100 people. Still, the PC method would cost Rs 70,000 and the blackboard method will cost Rs
25,000. By using the low-tech method, you save Rs 45,000. Here is an idea. Give Rs 450 as an incentive to the
people: become literate for free and when you complete the course, you take home Rs 450. Total cost to the
state: Rs 70,000, the same as the high-tech solution. Same expenditure but guaranteed different outcomes.
>>>In the low-tech scheme, you give money to the rural adults. This is an incentive to them and better still,
they in turn, spend the money locally which stimulates the local village economy. They buy food perhaps
which helps out the farmers. Compare that to the high-tech scheme. The money goes to the manufacturers of
hardware and software, which basically means Intel, Microsoft, HP and so on.
>>>I hasten to add that rural India has a wide range of problems. Saying that not all of them are amenable to a
high-tech solution also means that there are some problems that are the properly addressed by high-tech
solutions. Point to point communcations of all sorts — voice, text, video — are best done using
high-tech methods. Compared to carrier pigeons and even POTS (plain old telephone system), wireless
WiFi and VOIP (voice over IP) will be cheaper.
>>Blog onIndia's Development
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