Education holds the key to realising India’s future dreams. India must target 100% literacy in the next few years. A critical ally in enabling this can be the Internet. The coming year should see both consumer and corporate education flower on the Internet in a big way, thanks to enhancements in streaming technologies and the availability of sufficient bandwidth.
On the consumer side, India needs to produce more English and software trained professionals. An educated and disciplined workforce can serve the needs of a global marketplace hungry for lower-cost back office work. Over time, we can develop specific domain expertise and skillsets, which will it make harder for us to be replaced by others simply on cost. Take software for example. Just in the first half of this year, Infosys and Satyam recruited 4,000 people. It is now clear that India’s production of 125,000 engineers a year is simply not enough. The Internet must be used for providing continuing training, and re-training in a world of fast-moving technology developments. The Internet Community Centres across India can be a excellent distribution system for various technical and language courses.
Continuing Adult Education is, according to Peter Drucker (Forbes, May 15, 2000), the killer application on the Internet. Writes Drucker:
In simplest terms, people who are already highly educated and high achievers increasingly sense that they are not keeping up. We live in an economy where knowledge, not buildings and machinery, is the chief resource, and where knowledge workers make up the biggest part of the work force. The interactivity of online education, its facility for blending graphics and pictures with the spoken word, give it an advantage over the typical classroom. With the interactivity of the Internet, we get the equivalent of a one-to-one teacher-student ratio. The means are finally at hand to improve productivity in education.
The Web allows for constant upgradation of skills and knowledge. Many times, it is difficult for employees and managers to take days or weeks off for new courses. This is where the Internet comes in: they can take the courses on an ongoing basis whenever time is available with minimal disruption to their existing schedules. This e-learning would also allow for customised teaching, based on the existing knowledge of the individual and the pace of learning. Corporate Training is another big area – as technologies change rapidly, this needs to be communicated to the people in the organisation.
The opportunities for India are many – from train people in India, to creating content for the global companies seeking to train their staff. But before that happens, we need to create an infrastructure to make education possible for all – from the doorstep (home) to the desktop (office).