Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future of India lies in its villages”.
He quoted this decades ago, probably being hopeful that the country will tap the rural potential. According to the 2011 Census, the majority of the population of India resided in the rural region. Data had also revealed that the rate of unemployment in the rural regions saw a steady rise with each coming year. It is a perceptible inference from the above statements that we as a country need to seek a closer look into the scenario.
Computer education is the backbone of any given prospering economy, ours is no exception. The government did devise schemes aligning with the cyber age ideologies such as the distribution of laptops and tabs to the students. However, National Statistical Office in its July 2020 survey released numbers that spoke volumes about the digital divide that exists between the urban and rural areas. Only 4% of the rural households had been reported to have access to computers.
In this day and age when almost every sector is shifting towards digitalisation, it is paralysing to one’s skill set to be deprived of cyber knowledge. The occupants of these regions migrate farther from home to look for green pastures but are bound to find themselves incompetent under certain circumstances.
Poor education is one of the important facets that constitute poor employability. India as a country always held great regard for our age-old teaching methodologies. We have now evolved from the open-aired classrooms and are trying to nestle ourselves into the digital age. The District Information System for Education report of 2018 had released that only 53% of rural schools and colleges had access to electricity and the numbers went further down with respect to the availability of computers and internet connection. Science labs form the foundation of a child’s illustrious career in the field of technology.
With the absence of amenities to foster these labs, we take away the curiosity of children who would have wandered further into the field. Whilst the country boasts about prestigious institutes that offer world-class education, research and innovation in the field of science and technology, the sad state of the rural institutes deprive many bright minds of the opportunity to partake in this arena.
COVID-19 proved to be a rather horrendous event for the entire world, India too faced its share of hurt. We had to improvise on our methods to sustain in these testing times, thus the concept of hosting every possible thing over the internet was booming. This was instrumental in making visible the disparity that exists between rural and urban areas of the country.
With the education sector clinging to video conferencing for its own survival, it challenged the survival of students in schools. As of September 2019, the TRAI reported stated that only 27.57% of rural India had internet, both math and logic are enough to question the present and future of the students who inhabit these areas. India is progressing significantly in the telecom sector, although it is concerning how the beneficiaries of the progress are limited to certain areas only.
The presence of multiple players in the video conferencing category goes on to suggest the immense importance that they have gathered off recent. From international interviews to important conferences, everything has been housed via a virtual presence. Training programmes, learning new skills and the success of the ed-tech sector are indicators of the new era of education.
The reverberation of ed-tech will see new heights hereon as it is declared to be the most funded business in India in 2020 and according to Omidyar, Redseer report 2020 is expected to touch a size of $3.5 Bn by 2022. Gone are the days when primitive schooling and graduation were enough to sustain, in the age of competition it has become pivotal for the youth to keep up-skilling.
Privilege protects one from prejudices and probably that is why we see urban residents exploiting these chances to the fullest, and by all means, they should. This also widens the merit gap between them and rural residents, for no fault of their own. Whilst technology is helping the world come together seamlessly, which would have been unimaginable years back; it is also creating a world of difference.
India as a country has enormous potential to produce an able and skilled workforce in many prominent fields. According to NITI Aayog, 70% of India’s workforce resides in rural areas and it is rural India that will also tomorrow form the majority of the country’s workforce.
In such a case it is only fair to mitigate the inconsistency in procuring the technological benefits. Even today when some of the Indian villages are farfetched from receiving electricity connection and undisrupted water supplies, climbing onto the digital bandwagon seems like a distant dream. A dream that is distant but attainable, with efforts and integrity.
From the provision of electricity and internet connections to the schools to the good execution of cyber age schemes, we can steadily inch towards increasing rural employability. Esteemed institutes can take the rural school and college labs under their wings and foster them to perfection. Ed-tech firms might as well house centres for rural students pooled in together and given the chance to access various programmes as a part of their CSR. Industrial giants from various sectors such as banking, IT, automobile and others can curate training programmes specifically aimed at nurturing rural talent.
A lot of similar measures may have been initiated time and again but it does no harm to introspect and improvise. It’s the responsibility of the government alongside stakeholders from various fields to anticipate the value of the human resource in the country and act towards its welfare. Together as a nation, we have embraced milestones that ranged from the oceans to the skies, and we shall keep moving forward, after all, the sky isn’t the limit!