Taking IT skills to the masses
New Delhi: The quest to make India a digital superpower requires that its citizens understand the basics of information technology (IT). So, to equip citizens with knowledge of IT basics, the government and its various agencies such as the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) came up with the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in August 2014. The idea was to train 10 lakh citizens of the country.
A similar, but in some ways bigger, initiative, called DISHA (Digital Saksharta Abhiyan) was announced in November 2014 with the objective of imparting IT skills to at least one person from every family until 52.5 lakh people are educated by December 2018.
While NDLM has achieved its target of training and certifying 10 lakh candidates, DISHA is well on its way, having certified 20 lakh students so far.
DISHA, having become one of the key projects in the build-up to Digital India, has been nominated for the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s mBillionth Award 2016 under the learning and education category.
It is basically a learning management system and is being implemented by CSC e-Governance Services India Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013.
DISHA works by inviting individuals to register on the ndlm.in website or the DISHA app, which was created to reach a wider demographic. The app was developed in-house by CSC using open source tools.
“We used internal resources and tied up with various agencies and stakeholders for the development on a need basis,” said Dinesh Kumar Tyagi, CEO, CSC.
The app supports English, Hindi and Bengali and is available for free on all Android devices.
Users can watch video-based classes, download and read e-books in offline mode and also self-assess their performance on the app by taking tests. The tests have been classified into three categories based on the level of difficulty. Students can register using their Aadhaar number.
Since both the website and later the app were developed using open source technology, there was no cost incurred in the development of software. But as the number of users grew, CSC had to buy more hosting space for the website and hire more people. Currently, the DISHA team consists of 30 project consultants in the central team and one consultant in every state and Union territory.
To provide training, it has tied up with over 1,900 training partners and over 80,000 training centres. The job of these partners and centres is to provide training. While the content used by them is provided by the programme management unit of CSC, certification is provided by well-known institutions such as National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, National Institute of Open Schooling and ICT Academy of Tamil Nadu.
To ensure the initiative functioned smoothly, DISHA received a grant of Rs.440 crore from the Union government.
The results have been very promising. As of June, 20 lakh candidates have been trained and issued certificates.
The biggest challenge DISHA faced was reaching candidates in areas with poor connectivity. Then there was the matter of scale as they had to cover all states and Union territories in the country. For this, they had to find the right training partners and centres. The easy availability of smartphones has helped the initiative reach out to a wider user base.
DeitY is looking forward to channel the campaign into the Digital India initiative. One of the seven pillars of the Digital India initiative is e-Kranti which promises electronic delivery of services. DISHA will get a big boost once it is clubbed with e-Kranti.
“Digital literacy is a key component of the Union government’s vision of building an empowered society as envisaged under the Digital India initiative. Spin-off effects of digital literacy, especially in the context of rural India, would address a number of socioeconomic issues,” said Sanjay Kumar Vyas, additional director, DeitY and the officer handling the DISHA scheme for the government.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.