Working Towards Digital Literacy for All Children in India by 2047
By Prof. S. Rameshwar Rao
17-Aug-2023 2:42 pm IST, New Delhi
Project 2047 at a Glance
In India, providing quality education for all children remains an immense challenge. As of 2014, there were over 334 million school-age children, but most of their families cannot afford adequate private education. This education inequality is one of India's greatest problems.
To reach all these children, COMPUTER SHIKSHA (CS) has launched "Project 2047" with the ambitious goal of providing computer awareness education to 100% of children ages 5-16 in India by the year 2047, the centennial of India's independence. The target is an estimated 250 million children lacking digital literacy.
The main avenue for Project 2047 is the "CS MagicBox." This device, provided freely to schools, can play CS's video-based computer literacy curriculum. 182 pilot schools have received the CS MagicBox as of July 2023, serving over 54,000 students in 16 states.
The MagicBox contains the full computer course videos and allows assessment of students after each module. It also has tools for providing certifications for students who qualify. A helpline assists schools using the MagicBox and curriculum.
Results & Summary
Results from the pilot have exceeded expectations. The classes are active in all participating schools, with children excited to learn from the tailored videos. Over 75% of schools have arranged 2-3 computers to supplement the curriculum with hands-on practice. Impressively, exam results match schools with full computer labs.
Smartphone Process Developed by CS
To facilitate practice without computers, CS developed a smartphone utility that splits the screen. Students can watch curriculum videos on one half while practicing skills on the other. This innovation enables learning with only a magic box and basic smartphone, a breakthrough for reaching rural villages and urban slums lacking computer access.
Project Costs for first 3 years
The total cost for the first three years of Project 2047 is estimated at ₹12.13 crore, to reach 25 million children. The per child cost works out to ₹95. Extending the project to achieve full nationwide coverage of 250 million children by 2047 is budgeted at ₹2,372 crore.
These costs are minimal compared to the importance and impact of equipping the next generation with vital digital literacy. As India continues advancing technologically, children lacking basic computing skills will be left ever further behind without this project.
Project 2047's origin traces back to CS interacting with school leaders from underprivileged communities. Though lacking computers, they desperately wanted their students to learn computing concepts. This surprising feedback from educators on the ground spurred CS to consider alternative delivery models.
Current Status at CS
The school leaders stressed that video-based learning would still be valuable despite the lack of hands-on practice. Retention from videos is higher than books. And it can motivate the ecosystem to eventually provide computers. They noted even most engineering students must first learn theory before practicing skills.
Rationale for this thought
A key challenge Project 2047 must grapple with is that at current rates, it would take CS over 1,370 years to reach every child in India! This underscores the need to expand Magic Box adoption exponentially faster.
There are also calls to carefully study outcomes and iteratively refine the curriculum and delivery model based on data. Some suggest supplements like having roving literacy vans with laptops provide additional access. Others propose partnerships with low-cost tablet makers or telcos providing cheap data plans for students.
Magic Box Adoption Rate
Teacher training to facilitate the curriculum is another area for growth. But the base model of video curriculum on the magic box has already demonstrated potential for dramatic impact.
Progress After 6 Months
In just six months, the Magic Box pilot has reached over 7% of Project 2047's phase one goal of 25 million children. With continued rapid scaling, achieving the full target of 250 million children gaining basic digital literacy via the magic box model appears within grasp.
Fulfilling the Vision
This would fulfill the vision of including all of India's next generation in the information age. Students excited by the CS magic box content will gain knowledge and skills to improve livelihoods and partake in technology-driven economic growth.
Project 2047 exemplifies how grassroots wisdom and community collaboration are invaluable when designing solutions for societal challenges. It is a model for pragmatic innovation to spread digital empowerment.
The CS magic box highlights that universal access to education need not always require the latest gadgets or infrastructure. Simpler technology paired with localized context and commitment can go a long way.
If Project 2047 achieves its aims, it will showcase how visionary social initiatives can help traditionally marginalized communities equitably join the digital revolution. The project represents a stepping stone on India's long road toward ensuring inclusive economic and social progress.
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