by Dileep Ranjekar, CEO - Azim Premji Foundation
December 24, 2001
Emergence of a New Society
About 8 years ago, I was amused to see a string of Wipro computers surrounded by many people, in a departmental store at Churchgate in Mumbai. When I asked the counter person what was happening, he informed me that they had started providing the facility of computer based "horoscope". All that you have to give is the birth time, date and place after which the computer was able to dish out the horoscope, which was fairly accurate.
About a year ago, when we floated inquiries, looking for 10th or 12th standard pass local youths in about 20 villages where we wanted to set up community learning centers in equal number of villages, we were flooded with applications. And surprisingly, a large proportion of these applicants were trained in some manner or other in Information Technology.
Very clearly a new society is emerging that is lapping up Information Technology and its applications to make their life simpler, faster and more exciting. Even more interesting is the fact that a whole new generation is emerging that is questioning things they find out of place and are coming up with new interpretations in life. One very interesting story I heard in the rural areas is as under:
During a visit to one of the rural schools, the visitor asked the children in appropriate class, "Between the electricity and sound, what travels faster?" One of the students answered "sound". The teacher asked the reason as to why the student felt that way. The student was quick to answer, "When I switch on my TV, the sound comes first and then comes the picture". The answer was wrong but what was interesting was the logic of the student that was based on his daily experience.
With the advent of TV and other mass media, the information explosion is leading to knowledge revolution. A new Knowledge based Social System is evolving. This will re-define what is illiteracy and change the concept of developing society. One of the most interesting features of the knowledge-based society is the "Fluidity of Knowledge" or "Information". It becomes critical to capture knowledge or information at the given point of time. And this is where IT could play a critical role in storing, disseminating and multiplying the knowledge.
Myths about Technology
Myth 1: Technology itself improves social life
It is important to understand that only when the technology achieves something for the society can it improve social life. Further, for a society to be called progressive, technology cannot be in the hands of a few chosen ones. It must reach the majority of the members in the society and they need to be in a position to use it imaginatively for the well being of the masses.
The Criticality of Information Technology for India
Education and Technology Co-relation
Among the noted case studies of usage of IT in education is that in Singapore where they achieved wonders with the help of IT in the schools.
Some of the features of what they implemented were:
Some of the implications of IT in Education are
Acceptance that the world is a global village has to start from the elementary school. The issue of hardware costs will soon get addressed with low cost hardware that would be affordable even by the government schools and village communities. The need of the hour is for creative education contents that make learning enjoyable for the children through contextual learning and develop a habit of creative learning.