This post is part of a series spotlighting Asia-Pacific nonprofit organisations that have incorporated a thorough understanding of technology and education into their learning programmes for youth. These organisations attended Microsoft’s Tech4Good Summit on 12-13 February 2014 in Singapore.
Employing nearly 10 million people every year, India’s information technology (IT) industry is one of its largest sectors. Bangalore, known as the “IT capital” of the country, alone is home to over 500 IT companies. Two thousand kilometres away, in the rural village of Bihar, technology is hardly in the equation; half of the population is poor, and almost the same number is illiterate. Out of the 889 million people that make up India’s rural population, the Internet penetration rate remains alarmingly low at 6.7 percent.
Nonprofit organisation Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) (India) finds itself increasingly using technology in its educational programmes. The organisation is part of the international Aga Khan Development Network that has agencies working in 30 countries, mostly in poor areas of South Asia and Central Asia, Eastern and Western Africa and the Middle East.
In India, where it is active in over 1700 villages in the three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, AKRSP addresses development issues, especially those connected to rural inequalities, through a myriad of initiatives such as microcredit schemes, community organisation projects and sustainable resource management. In its educational programmes, it is incorporating a greater use of technology to help underprivileged and marginalised youth access opportunities in India’s booming IT sector.
AKRSP Manager of Skills Development and IT, Shiji Abraham, said, “There are so many workers who are based in India working for national and international firms. We want our beneficiaries to be part of the intellectual and technical resource that these firms are relying on, by providing computer training to more people. We also want to make use of technology as an organisation to operate more efficiently while achieving high impact.”
In states that have a better level of infrastructure, such as Gujarat, multimedia content is used in AKRSP’s educational programmes to enhance classroom lessons or as self-learning modules. Digital literacy is a vital component in the vocational education programmes where marginalised and underprivileged youth are taught how to use the Internet to access information on employment and education opportunities and for skills upgrading.
Infrastructural shortcomings in underdeveloped tribal regions like Bihar are overcome with other forms of information technology. For instance, community radio programmes in local languages are used to educate rural communities on issues, and AKRSP uses Short Messaging Services (SMS) to provide rural farmers with real-time price information, enabling them to get a fair price for their produce.
AKRSP relies on its IT infrastructure to connect staff members working across the three states, and is exploring more ways where technology can support programme delivery, documentation, monitoring and evaluation.
With price information and market rates available on the phone, farmers in rural India are able to get a fair price for their produce