eINDIA 2009, India's largest Information Communication and Technology (ICT) event, was held from 25th – 27th August at the Hyderabad International Convention Center, Hyderabad. It provided a unique platform for knowledge sharing in different domains of ICT for development and facilitated multi-stakeholder partnerships and networking among governments, industry, academia and civil society organisations of different countries. The objective was to bring together ICT experts, practitioners, business leaders and stakeholders of the region onto one platform, through keynote addresses, paper presentations, thematic workshops and exhibitions.
THE INAUGRATION : BEGINNING OF THE THREE DAY SAGA
eINDIA 2009 began on 25th August, with a gala inauguration ceremony with Smt D Purandeswari, Minister of State for Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Government of India, as the chief guest. Other guests of honour included Shri Subhash C Khuntia, Joint Secretary, Ministry of HRD, Government of India; Shri S R Rao, Additional Secretary, Department of IT, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India; Reshan Dewapura, COO, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Sri Lanka; Charles Clarke, Member of Parliament and Former Education Minister and Home Secretary; Prof V N Rajasekhar Pillai, Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), India
The welcome address was given by the President, Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), Dr M P Narayanan. In his speech, he welcomed the honourable minister and other eminent dignitaries to the fifth edition of the annual ICT conference and exhibition. Dr Narayanan's speech was followed by the lighting of the lamp.
Smt D Purandeswari congratulated CSDMS and its associates on a job well done in organising the International ICT Summit which was a sign of India's growing role in the world ICT and development networks. In her speech, Smt Purandeswari announced the launching of a National Information Highway Authority (NIHA) with the main aim of increasing various e-activities of the government. As the apex body for such initiatives, NIHA would clear and monitor all future projects and budgets and would become an ideal vehicle to promote such initiatives effectively in a time-bound manner.
S R Rao, in his speech, elaborated on the potential of India's growing economy and the valuable role that IT will play in further fueling the process. According to him, India has the highest level of political commitment and will to harness IT in different sectors for empowering the citizens. India, he stated, is a land of immense opportunities and schisms. Technology can be used to neutralise all the schisms through different mechanisms including Public Private Partnerships.
Reshan Dewapura elaborated about ICTA and eASIA2009. ICTA of Sri Lanka is the single apex body involved in ICT policy and direction for the nation. About eASIA2009, he informed, “ICTA and Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), India, have joined hands to organise the 4th annual eASIA 2009 Conference and Exhibition in Colombo, Sri Lanka to celebrate the year 2009 as the year of ICT and English as declared by HE Mahinda Rajapaksa, President, Sri Lanka and to promote growth of ICT4D, through consultative dialogue, strategic planning, knowledge networking and business partnering.”
Charles Clarke talked about effective strategies for bridging the digital divide. He said, “We need to join hands to bring technology to all…laptops can be made affordable and we need to ensure that we can bring one laptop each to every child. Several challenges remain to be addressed even as we acknowledge that it is through ICTs that distance mode of education can be effectively implemented and the Gross Enrollment Ration can be improved to 15% as has been penned by the Planning Commission.” He expressed hope that the three day eINDIA conference and deliberation will help churn out ideas on the ways and means of bringing ICTs closer to the education sector.
In his speech, Subhash C Khuntia provided details of the government's efforts in bringing IT closer to the masses. “The government intends to spread the reach of IT to remote villages. Each village with a population of 1000 or more will have a banking facility enabled though IT. Good public private initiatives will be promoted by the government.” However all these efforts need the combined efforts of the private sector, state government, academics, experts, business community, civil societies and the citizens. IT is one field where public private partnerships have a great role to play.
Prof V N Rajasekhar Pillai, underscored the importance of IT in several sectors including skills training and improving the quality of education. In the context of mass poverty in most developing countries, the critical role of training in furnishing badly needed skills to improve productivity, incomes and equitable access to employment opportunities seems particularly obvious and straightforward. Integration of ICTs can help address the issue. He announced that it is on the agenda of IGNOU to set up 5 Institutes for the Advancement and Training of teachers in 5 different regions.
Dr Ravi Gupta, Executive Director, Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) and Convener of eINDIA2009 thanked the Honourable Minister and the eminent dignitaries for their gracious participation and expressed hope that the three day conference would prove to be enriching and enlightening experience for all participants.
digitalLEARNING keynote session I
The time is now for new ways of educational technology to impart education. We have a plethora of tools, technology, standards and a richness of enablers. We have people spurred by necessity, common purpose, enthusiasm and collaboration. The need is now for a grand vision to manage all these changes; change in the e-education progress level, change in the technology developments, and change in the surrounding environment where technology needs to be integrated.
Digital Competencies in the National Education Programmes & Policies
Chair: Shri S C Khuntia, Joint Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of India (GoI).
Panelists: Ashish Garg, Regional Coordinator – Asia, Global e Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI); L Balasubramanian, President, NIIT; Meena Ganesh, CEO, Edurite Technologies; Col K J Kang, Director, Designmate.
Objective of the session was to deliberate on key questions including:
// What is a National Vision on ICTs in Education? What do the nations want the policy to prescribe for efficient and effective implementation of ICTs in education?
// How are patterns of teaching and learning changing in the face of technological advances?
// How is a consensus with all stakeholders ensured, in terms of e-Competencies in the educational programmes and policies?
Discussions and Recommendations
The Chair, Shri S C Khuntia emphasised that there is a strong need to address the issues of digital competencies in the light of policy initiatives. Shri Khuntia urged everyone to ponder over the possibilities of further enhancing the quality of education, with the use of digital competencies, which will result in paradigm shift in the teaching and learning process.
Ashish Garg highlighted the changing role of technology in education and that there is a great acceptance for change. However, she opined that while the learning processes have changed, the teaching process has not. There is a gap between what children can learn and how the children can learn. Today's students are digital natives while their educators are digital immigrants who have migrated from one teaching methodology to another. The teachers continue to have within themselves a pertinent accent- digital immigrant accent – which may not make any relevance to the digital natives. There is a gap and disconnect here, solution for which cannot be sought immediately.
According to L Balasubramanian, digital competency can be achieved only when as a country we address the challenges of the quantity and quality in our education system, issues of poor infrastructure, absence of good and trained teachers, and absence of relevance/ context. He mentioned that collaboration is the key word for an effective ICT integration in education.
Meena Ganesh shared that the major challenge of Indian education is the reach and quality of basic education. With the advent of ICTs in education, complexity of concepts are better addressed and comprehended. ICT in classroom enhances cognitive learning process significantly improving engagement in the classroom and retention of knowledge.
Col. K J Kang spoke on the changing patterns of teaching and learning due to technological advances. With information having increasingly short shelf life, there is a need to enable learners to learn for themselves and continue to do so incessantly. A very important feature missing in our education system is to identify deserving students in the rural sector and move them to better facilities.
The Keynote session was concluded with an engaging interaction between the panelists and delegates. The session kick started the Digital Learning India 2009 Conference with a lot of energy. The highlight of the session was that ICT can offer innovative solutions to India's massive education needs, where implementation is the key challenge. Key learning skills for the future are – interpersonal skills, information skills, technology skills, basic skills and thinking skills. Our current learning environment needs to evolve to build a workforce that is more enquiring and challenging. India has great potential to design new solutions for the worlds' new educational problems.
digitalLEARNING keynote session II
ICT Application in Managing Change
Chair: Prof V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University.
Panelists: Dr. Duk- Hoo Kwak, President, Korea Education & Research Information Service (KERIS), Korea; Terry Wason, Country Manager for India, SMART Technologies; B Gopalakrishnan, Deputy General Manager, HCL Infosystems.
Objective of the session was to deliberate on key questions including:
// How is change management and capacity building for academic staff being conceptualised, implemented and maintained? What kinds of service organisations have been developed?
// How shall ICT resources and applications be used with appropriate methods and strategies?
// Why and how is the need of convergence of pedagogical and technological points of view to support effective connections with suitable technology to design learning environments?
Discussions and Recommendations
The chair, Prof. V N Rajasekharan Pillai, stressed that ICT use in education has brought about rapid social changes, pedagogical paradigm shift, and advancements in Information and Communication Technology. However, there needs to be generational change and not incremental change in this context.
He also urged everyone to use the platform of eINDIA 2009 for bringing out concrete solutions and recommendations to the challenges of ICT and Indian education system by dialoguing, deliberations and brain storming discourse.
Dr. Kwak spoke about the development of e-Learning in Korea with an emphasis on KERIS endeavour as an e-Learning specialised organisation in Korea. ICT use is changing the face of education. These changes can be divided into three main areas: a) diverse learning tools – various kinds of learning tools including mobile devices and advanced solutions are available to students; b) changes in demand – students are actively participating in the learning process; and c) changes in contents – educational content is also changing as learning becomes more individualised and collaborative.
Terry Wason empasised on the changing demands of the digital world. He stated that knowledge-based economies need knowledge workers. Technology can be used to break down the economic, geographic, social or cultural barriers for development and advancement. 21st-century students need to learn differently and they need to be lifelong learners. Active and experiential learning is central, as it contextualises knowledge. Technology enables a new mindset and a new skill set. However, it is about learning, and not technology: “A computer is just an object. It cannot replace a person.” We need to accommodate diverse learning environments – whole class, small group, individual and distance learning environments.
B Gopalakrishnan started his presentation by delineating on the desired change for Indian education system, which includes parity in education system, improving quality and quantity of education, need to expand the capacity thereby increasing accessibility, transform from an industrial society to a knowledge based society. He also mentioned that the change agents are policy, processes, ICT tools, knowledge enablers and learners. He envisioned a lifelong learning environment by equipping training institutes and training the knowledge enablers, to review progress and sustain and upgrade ICT tools.
The Keynote session proved to be highly interactive. It provided a lot of networking opportunities with an interesting Q & A (question and answer) round. The session highlighted on bringing a true transformation, which is not merely adjusting and modifying past and present models, but designing and building the future of education, training and learning by true systemic, holistic and revolutionary change. The session highlighted that there is a strong need to engage all the stakeholders of education – students and teachers, government and education system, parents, community, business. Technology should always be kept in perspective. The six key factors for successful e-learning, are accessibility, quality assurance, human resources development and recruitment, international collaboration, e-Learning standardisation and amendment of e-learning related laws and regulations.