Ratnesh, a class IX student of a city government high school, used to feel out of place when boys of his age group, who study in private schools, talked about the web world or the features of their school computer lab. This boy, however, does not feel the same now, as he too now knows how to operate computers and what does sending an e-mail mean. Son of a class IV government employee, Ratnesh did not join any computer institute to learn all these things, rather he learnt the computers in his own school. There are, in fact, thousands of students of government schools in Bihar who have become conversant with computers after the launch of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) project in government-run secondary and senior secondary schools last year. Incidentally, the very purpose of this project is to bridge the digital divide. Under this project, a computer lab is established in select schools, and each lab consists of one server, 10 nodes, networked with a printer and a scanner, computer, furniture etc. Internet connection, too, has been provided to these labs.
Power backup facilities like UPS and gensets too are provided to each school and to enable students to have a quality education in computer, a dedicated IT trainer is also provided. Initially, this central-funded scheme had provisions for supplying computers and furniture to each school, but the Bihar government added some more components like provision of IT trainer, maintenance etc. bearing the additional cost of these features from its own funds. To mitigate risks of failure on operational and financial fronts, the project was rolled out under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model, specially using Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model on quarterly lease basis for three years. Bihar e-Governance Services & Technologies Ltd. (BeST), which is a joint venture of IL&FS and government of Bihar, has been nominated as the project consultant. Currently, about 425 government schools are enjoying the benefits of this project, though in the first phase it was meant for one thousand schools.