Digital literacy is critical in the 21st century. Becoming ‘tech-savvy’ took off in the early 2000s, but when Prime Minister Modi announced the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in 2014, digitisation and digital literacy became a rapidly expanding focus.
Since NDLM was initiated, the government has launched mobile applications for identity, governance, rural empowerment, direct benefit transfer, agriculture, health services, digital lockers, digital policy initiatives, digital start-ups, etc.
The mission’s promotion of public and private partnerships prompted stakeholders in the technology sector to come forward to help provide digital literacy to a wider audience. Information technology companies are now playing an instrumental role in teaching computer skills to the rural population.
The digital literacy program at Sehgal Foundation provides adolescents in rural villages with basic computer skills, information about some key applications, how to use the internet for accessing information about government schemes and services, to access other online information, understand village governance, and gain life skills training in areas such as decision-making, communication skills, understanding their feelings, negotiation skills, etc.
Digital literacy sessions, coupled with life skills training, help the rural youth in villages to gain exposure to concepts beyond textbooks and theory. With the right mixture of group activities, theory, practice, videos and other interactive discussions, their learning and thinking abilities are triggered. These interventions are demonstrating that digital literacy is an empowering tool to combat low literacy rates. The exposure that young people have with computer devices and Internet applications help them build their vocabulary and their knowledge.
“We are very excited as this is something new for us,” said Vandana, a female student at the digital literacy centre. What holds value is that the centre operates within the village and that the people don’t have a problem commuting.
Irfan, another student from a digital literacy centre, said, “We were all very enthusiastic about the classes.” He added that, although there are full-fledged computer labs in their schools, there is no computer teacher.
Students coming to the centres are not charged any fee, and separate sessions are held for girls and boys. The average digital literacy class size is 30 students who undergo a five-month course. So far the program has reached more than 500 students in 10 villages.
Female students have been impacted the most. They outnumber the boys when it comes to attending classes regularly, are punctual, show a keen interest in learning and perform better. They enjoy attending classes, especially during their summer break.
Digital literacy is an empowering tool for adolescents and youth. It has the potential to raise the literacy levels in rural areas and give young people the functional knowledge to be aware and responsible citizens.
Sehgal Foundation, along with an assortment of funding partners, is helping rural adolescents and young people become digitally literate in Nuh, Haryana.