Misinterpreted IT dreams In The North-East

‘˜At every juncture in the history, we have recognized, the way to move forward in our lives and as a nation, is to put education first’ ‘“ Barack Obama, President of USA. This saying holds true for every society in the civilized world and the improvement of education is a must in the development of the backward and topographically isolated Northeast region of India.

There is a growing necessity to create means to provide quality education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the conflict ridden and economically unsound North-East India at the earliest.

As such the Ministry of Human Resources and Development of the GOI has taken up several initiatives in these regards under the National Mission on Education through ICT Scheme (NME-ICT Scheme). In the meantime, the Ministry of Communication and IT of the GOI has also launched the National Digital Library Project, a subsidiary scheme to reach out to the backward and isolated people of the North-East. But most people in the North-East are unaware of such facilities and are neither reaping the benefits of these ambitious schemes of the central government due to lack of awareness.

In order to optimize these schemes a 2 day seminar on ‘˜Importance of ICT in education in the NE Region’ was held on August 7 and August 8, 2010 at the Nupilal Memorial Complex in Imphal. Co-sponsored by DIT wing of the Ministry of Communication and IT along DONER Ministry of India, the 2 day seminar provided a much needed forum for discussion of the deteriorating quality of education, especially in Manipur.

Nilababu Oinam, Principal of IGNOU-OIP College and the convener of the organizing committee says ‘˜Most institutes and universities have started conducting virtual classroom to facilitate the spread of quality education in the remotest parts of the globe. Under this backdrop, we are organizing this 2 day seminar to bring together administrators, experts in ICT, and educationists on a common platform to highlight the issues and its possible solutions.’ As a matter of fact, Information and Communication Technology has permeated in every sphere of life, it is a tool for change and has done great wonders to uplift the economy of India.

The North-East being topographically a bottleneck region, communication is one of the major concerns of the region. This practically holds good in the education arena of the region due to frequent strikes, lock outs, blockades and the unending armed conflict besides the hostile terrain of the region. However the satirical fact is the trumpet of spreading quality education through ICT to bring peace and prosperity in this bottleneck and conflict ridden part of India has been blowing on for a long time. Various innovative schemes and other initiatives have been experimented but peace and prosperity in the region remain elusive as ever.

Manipur has a high literacy rate of 70.5% which is way above the national figure of 63%; under the SWAN project of Ministry of IT and Communication, 399 Information cells were meant to have been established and till December 2009 there are 150 Common Service Centers (one centre for every six villages). Unfortunately, all these highly innovative IT and other related education catering centers are still dormant and have failed to provide comprehensive integrated IT skills to people. People are so conceited to realize one basic fact that is responsible for the deterioration of our society including education i.e. the rampant corruption. As a result such innovative schemes and initiatives will remain confined only to theories that will only actualize in filling up the pockets of some elite bureaucrats and politicians with money and more money.

‘˜There are many loopholes in the impartment of education such as the inequality and negligence of teaching in schools and colleges located in the valleys with that located in the hilly areas. Similarly, all these ICT schemes are unheard to most of the students in the hill parts of Manipur and I’m one of them’ claim Catherine, a 3rd Year BA student when asked of the importance of ICT. Infact, the picture is not so different in the urban areas of the state where most of the students that TNT spoke to were also unaware of domain name registration, website development, web hosting services, web promotion, CD presentation, while more than 90% of the students between Class X to XII are aware of Facebook or Orkut. Soubam Sophia (35) a researcher in Information Science says although the importance of ICT in bringing about phenomenal positive changes in Manipur, the state government and other concerned authorities are not serious about IT. For instance, out of the 68 government departments only eight departments have launched their official websites out of which only three to four are regularly updated.

With the right efforts oriented in the right direction such truly evolutional opportunities can be utilized. Sadly, as there is a lack of focus from the government and educational institutes and the absence of qualified experts in this line of concern, such opportunities are wasted. Pramod (name changed) a science student who came to the seminar sarcastically claimed ‘˜I have not gain anything useful to help me get out of my unemployed status. I’m truly amazed by the lack of knowledge and exposure in relevant fields such as training, design, development, administration, promotions, learning and presentation of most of the resource persons in order to give sustainability and endurance to students in today’s consistently evolving competitive world.’

*The article is written by R.K.Suresh.

*The article was earlier published August 2010.

(Courtesy: The North East Today)

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