ICT Is A Small Investment – Intellectual Capital Needs Actual Investing : N K Sinha, Joint Secretary, Bureau of Distance Learning and Scholorships, Government of India

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How do you see deploying new technologies for ensuring quality distance education?
ICT is an empowering tool and everyone should use it. In the current scenario most of the institutes have their own website, some are bringing up their e-Content on the website as well. We are looking forward to bringing in more participation of people on the ICT path of knowledge exchange.

What are the Government initiatives and how do they contribute to the e-Readiness of the system?
The government strategy and approach for ICT in education are based on the four components: first, generate e-Content, second, provide affordable connectivity, third is access to the resources, and digital literacy, which is a key enabling factor in success of any ICT initiative. Each of the above will have sub-classification, for example, e-Content will have components of pedagogy, designing, standardisation, validation, peer groups certification, testing, etc.

The cost of connectivity is a very important issue to be addressed. If it becomes too costly, no one will be motivated to log on to the
available resources. Then there are concerns of standardisations, certification and testing of available content to create quality benchmarks.

All these issues are important and need to be tackled.

How do you strategise to address all these issues and challenges?
We have to go through state governments, organisations, NGOs, and schools. Self help groups can increase digital literacy. The e-Learning modules can be developed and easily followed by any learner with basic navigation skills. This concept needs to be spread across the country and one of the strategies is to bring in more awareness on digital literacy.

What are the key highlights and vision of the Higher Education Policy, distance education, in particular?
ICT will not only enable distance education, it will also enable the overall education structure of school and higher education including the distance education, and so we refer our initiative as ‘ICT for Education’ in India. The way you acquire knowledge is immaterial, whether by conventional or distance means. In our future strategy, we have been talking about the convergence between the two.

Online education is coming in a big way into the country. Don’t you think we need proper guidelines for this mode of learning?
There cannot be a regulator on Internet. There are many sites and let the people decide what they want to use for e-Learning. We as a government institution are putting our content free of cost for every learner through Sakshat. The content provided by the government agency has to be benchmarked and has to be quality assured. Hence a peer group as a committee will decide the quality of the content, through vigorous standards.

Standardisation of content is our challenge. It has to be in the Wiki kind of approach. Leave it on the web in a tentative format, and let all the experts do the value addition till it is stabilised. The community of intellectuals should own up the responsibility.

What is your vision for ‘Sakshat’?
The Sakshat portal will host all the content that will get generated and disseminated. This would be the one place to connect any village in any school or college, to an expert in a field and add to Sakshat content. They can send us their knowledge or innovations and we will validate and standardise the content and disseminate to all. Localised knowledge can hence be funneled to a central database and the teachers can also benefit from the information exchange and from other initiatives.

We don’t need IT-savvy teachers; what we are looking towards is sharing and building knowledge from the remotest of areas. Teachers should be empowered to share their innovations, research and experiences on a knowledge platform.

What are the 11th Plan development objectives, in relation to technology-mediated education, and the budget outlay to meet the plan requirements?
INR 5,000 crore has been outlaid for 11th plan for ICT-enabled education. This is a small investment; the actual investment is the intellectual capital getting invested. The entire country should get together, join the bandwagon and contribute intellectually, only then things will improve.  

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