Bridging the Digital Divide

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Santosh Birari
Managing Director, Odisha Knowledge
Corporation Limited

“For improving the IT literacy in Odisha, OKCL has launched various educational, e-Governance and community development programmes across the state,” says Santosh Birari. In conversation with Mohd Ujaley

Odisha Knowledge Corporation Limited was formed with the idea of bringing people in the state closer to Information Technology. How successful have you been?
We have been able to fulfil our mandate. The Government of Odisha has been very supportive. OKCL was formed with the vision of bringing total transparency in delivery of services to the people. Implementation of e-Governance schemes and their effective utilisation by people is the main goal of the government. This goal can only be achieved if the officers, responsible for implementing the projects, and the common man, are adequately trained in the proper use of Information Technology. Our aim is to improve IT literacy in the state. We have launched various educational, e-Governance and community development programmes across the state. We have initiated Odisha State Certificate in Information Technology course, which is mandatory for all the government employees.

What kind of response are you having from government employees to this initiative?
The response has been very encouraging. All the officers are very interested. If we are able to achieve our goal, it is only because we are getting support from government and there is enthusiasm among officers for using information technology. We have opened 220 centres across the state and I have personally visited all of them. There is lot to be done in rural areas and we are heavily focusing on it. Down the line, it will improve the IT literacy rate in the state.

Odisha Knowledge Corporation Limited (OKCL)
• The vision of the organisation is to develop systems which are responsive to the individual and social developmental needs of the people.
• OKCL aim is to bridge the digital divide in the state.
• OKCL is an entrepreneurial endeavour to offer actionable knowledge and essential services to masses for socio-economic transformation.
• It runs various educational programmes across the state to raise the IT literacy rate.
• OKCL run mandatory course for the employees of the Odisha government called Odisha State Certificate in Information Technology course, the aim of the programme is to enable government employee to use information technology for day to day use.

Please tell us about how the Odisha State Certificate in Information Technology course is structured? What are the ways by which it is proving beneficial to the people?

This is a very innovative and practical course; it is designed to educate government employees about the ways by which information technology can be used for executing the most mundane tasks, like paying electricity bill via internet, etc. The course is based on 132 hours of practical work and there is no exam. Learner is evaluated on the basis of his behaviour during the learning process and accordingly marks are awarded. The course consists of 200 assignments, in majority of which, a virtual environment is created for the learner. The learner has to complete certain tasks in this virtual environment. The most important thing is that the content is available in regional languages – Oriya, Hindi, English, Tamil, Gujarati, etc. This has been done in view of the fact that most people find it easier to learn if the course ware is delivered in their own mother tongue. The course is helpful for both government employees and people in enhancing their ability to use Information Technology. As a result the problem of digital divide in the state is no longer that large. More and more people are now becoming digitally literate and that is good for e-Governance.

Odisha has second largest tribal population in the country. What are your plans for making them digitally literate?
Implementation of IT is very cost effective way of improving the lives of the people. We are keenly focussed on covering every section of society. Our IT initiatives are also focussing on the tribal population. As far as IT literacy among tribal people is concerned, I think they are already using mobile phones and hence they are in touch with technology. If we are able to provide content related to IT on mobile, perhaps we will be able to raise their level of IT literacy.

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