Talking Point: Why institutions must step up to bridge digital divide – Times of India

Social responsibility in education is needed

The whole world is cruising through unprecedented times due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. India’s education space is currently dependent on to ensure that the teaching-learning process is not hindered. Nevertheless, this transition from physical to online classroom is not smooth and, in most cases, not entirely embraced due to poor digital infrastructure. The ones that are suffering the most with this digital dis-connectivity are the underprivileged students, who, unfortunately, are a sizeable lot. The time is now ripe to introduce ESR – Education Social Responsibility, in tandem with CSR. Educational institutions should come forward and take up the responsibility of uplifting underprivileged students by lending a helping hand in donating smartphones and free internet data packs to create an inclusive learning environment, thereby narrowing the present in the education sector.

– Surekha Nayak, faculty, School of Business and Management, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore

Digital divide, literacy is a challenge

In such uncertain times, the educational setup has moved online overnight. However, several students belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) are unable to access online classes due to the absence of the devices and digital literacy. Very few corporate sector companies, private institutions, foundations and NGO’s have come forward and initiated programmes to provide computers and set up computer laboratories or, for that matter, assist computer education for economically weaker students. The government announced the spending of Rs 60,000 crore over the next five years to provide digital devices to almost 40% of the students enrolled in colleges and universities. Notably, some companies have partnered with non-governmental organisations and invested US$8.5 million to impart IT skills. Now is the time for corporate sector and institutions to introduce digital literacy courses as part of their corporate social responsibility, so that unprivileged students can enjoy the fruits of online education.

– Aparajita Biswas, former director, Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai

Subsidies on digital devices is a must

Recently, a university-based in Kolkata has taken a decision to provide smartphones and high speed data packs to the poor students facing hardships in attending online classes. The alumni and faculty members are raising funds to help the university in this noble cause. This is an appreciable decision and it should be considered as a benchmark for the other institutions. In this COVID-19 period, the government should initiate such subsidies for students coming from economically backward sections.

– Amit Singh,assistant professor, ARSD College, Delhi University

Need for regular power supply, internet speed

Digital divide has come to fore after navigation of offline classes to online platforms after COVID-19 outbreak. Uncertainty continues to loom over the seamless physical classes in any institutions. Thus, continuing with the digital classes is only option left with us. However, a sizable number of populations are still deprived of digital infrastructure to be part of new normal. Giving smartphones and data pack to them is an appreciable move. It might bridge the gap, but, just offering devices will not address the problem. Besides, power supply and internet speed issue also need to be addressed for the better learning outcome.

– Santosh Kumar Singh, principal, Netarhat Vidyalaya, Jharkhand

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