Reaching out to grassroots key to building a digitally literate society in India

Sonal Khetarpal   New Delhi     Last Updated: June 19, 2017  | 19:44 IST
Reaching out to grassroots key to building a digitally literate society in India

The three pillars of a digitally literate society are awareness, where people have full knowledge of the opportunities available in the society; availability of infrastructure, which will support all in their endeavour, and inclusiveness, where everyone gets equal opportunity, says C.T. Sadanandan, Vice President, Corporate Services and Corporate Social Responsibility, Tata Communications, at the panel discussion on making India a digitally literate society.

The panel discussion was part of the one-day conference organised by the enterprise software company SAP SE, which is launching a digital literacy and software skills development programme called Code Unnati along with ITC and Larsen & Toubro Public Charitable Trust.

Gayatri Mishra Oleti, Senior Deputy General Manager and Head of Operations of L&T Public Charitable Trust, says one of the biggest challenges is to reach the underserved communities in India.

According to Oleti, one way to address it is partner the local body for the project and achieve scale. However, digital literacy is not enough, and English language training is also important as most of the content on technology and software is in English. "What is important is creating a market that will go to the grassroots," she adds.

It is also important to understand the aspirations of rural people. Clement Chauvnet, Chief of Skills and Business Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India, says as per the survey it conducted, it was found that 80 per cent of the women do not have access to information on the employment opportunities available to them. Accordingly, the organisation is trying to bridge the information gap by using an ambassador model in Maharashtra where it selects a local to spread messages about jobs and skills development opportunities available for women.  

However, the missing piece in creating digital literacy programmes, according to Kabi Sherman, India Head of Pyxera Global, is that corporate houses do not get into employee engagement. Corporates houses have expertise in areas such as accounting, strategy and data analysis, which the NGOs need but do not have the bandwidth or the funds to hire the talent.

There is a huge need for these corporate skills to be added to these programmes, which will happen if companies start involving their employees in these programmes as well. It will enable employees to utilise their skills across under-resourced areas and help them understand the realities of a different world, making them better leaders for tomorrow.

Earlier this year, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) outlined the dismal picture of the Indian schooling system for children in the age group of 3-16 where it said one in two Indian students could not read books meant for those three grades below them. For instance, only 44.1 per cent of Class VIII students in rural India managed to do a division (in maths) in 2014.

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