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Internet in Asia - 2009

Top 10 Countries
China
Japan
India
Korea, South
Indonesia
Philippines
Vietnam
Pakistan
Malaysia
Thailand
0

50

100

150

200

250

Millions of Users

Source: www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm
Estimated Internet users in Asia 764,435,900 for 2009
Copyright @2010, Miniwatts Marketing Group

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Foreword
We must remove the digital divide in education

nformation Technology is transforming our world in revolutionary ways. It is changing the


way we communicate, study, work, create wealth, produce new knowledge, find new
applications of knowledge, entertain ourselves, and deliver and access an ever-widening range
of services. It has enhanced the productivity of human labour to unimaginable levels, and
continues to do so with newer possibilities which too are unimaginable. Internet, through which
IT has reduced the world to a 'Global Village', is changing the ways in which people network and
form new communities. It is enabling more and more people to interact with one another in a
multitude of new ways by transcending the limitations of distance, both physically and virtually.
Some of the most dramatic changes wrought by IT can be seen in the area of education. It has
changed the very meaning of "school" and "student", by enabling people to pursue lifelong
learning in practically any subject of their choice. The potential benefits of IT in education for
personal development, social transformation and national progress are simply enormous.
However, we have to ask ourselves honestly: How is India faring in achieving the goal of
Education for All, as measured by the four cardinal principles of Access, Equity, Quality and
Affordability? IT can definitely help us make high-quality education accessible to all, and at all
levels of education - primary, secondary, college and university. But this is still a distant dream
for a vast majority of children and youth in India. IT can also help immensely in the
development of employable skills - both for first-time employment seekers as well as for the
existing workforce that needs training and re-training. But here, too, our performance so far is
dismal. Clearly, the rich-poor and urban-rural divide in Indian society has become pronounced
in the field of education, making a mockery of our claim to pursue the ideal of Inclusive
Development. The situation presents both a risk and a reward. On the one hand, IT has created
tremendous awareness and aspiration in all sections of our society, especially among the youth.
On the other hand, the government and privileged sections of society have failed, largely, to fulfil
those aspirations. This failure can prove very costly for India, just as success can be hugely
rewarding for all.
There is no doubt that a small section of educational establishments in India have benefited
from tapping the transformative power of IT. But how can this achievement be scaled up
quickly, widely and in impact-making ways? What are the impediments in resources, policy and
implementation that need to be removed? How can the enormous power of public-private
partnership be unleashed in advancing the agenda of IT-enabled education and employable skill
development?
In this report, my colleague Dr. Leena Chandran-Wadia has examined these questions with indepth research, helped by the contributions of others who share the commitment of the
Observer Research Foundation to remove the digital divide in education and in other areas of
Indias national development. I am happy to present it for wider public debate.

Sudheendra Kulkarni
Chairman
Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

January 2011

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Contents
Foreword ............................................................................................................................................................................. 1
List of Abbreviations ....................................................................................................................................................... 4
A model for the induction of ICT into educational institutions in India on a massive scale, to
promote inclusive access to quality education .................................................................................................... 5
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................... 5
Implementation Plan - Executive Summary ..................................................................................................... 7
ICT Infrastructure Requirements at Educational Institutions ....................................................................... 9
Schools ............................................................................................................................................................................. 9
Colleges ......................................................................................................................................................................... 10
Universities ................................................................................................................................................................. 11
Research Institutes .................................................................................................................................................. 11
ICT infrastructure for Open and Distance Learning ................................................................................... 12
Detailed Implementation Plan: An Integrated Approach to the provision of ICT Infrastructure at
Educational Institutions ............................................................................................................................................. 13
Overall Scope of Work ............................................................................................................................................ 13
The Novelty of the Approach ............................................................................................................................... 15
The Organization ........................................................................................................................................................... 16
Responsibilities of the User Group .................................................................................................................... 16
Characteristics of the User Group ...................................................................................................................... 17
The Value Proposition ................................................................................................................................................. 18
Key Drivers for this Approach ............................................................................................................................. 19
Exciting Ripple Effects ............................................................................................................................................ 20
Financials and Business Models .............................................................................................................................. 20
Revenue Models ........................................................................................................................................................ 21
Role of Governments ............................................................................................................................................... 21
A Representative Pilot Project ................................................................................................................................. 22
Benefits to Stakeholders ............................................................................................................................................. 22
Regulators .................................................................................................................................................................... 22
Funding Agencies...................................................................................................................................................... 23
Faculty ........................................................................................................................................................................... 23
Students ........................................................................................................................................................................ 24
Researchers ................................................................................................................................................................. 24
Institutions .................................................................................................................................................................. 25
Society ........................................................................................................................................................................... 25
Vendors/Service providers .................................................................................................................................. 25
2

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Final Thoughts ................................................................................................................................................................ 26
Annexure I Report of the Consultative Roundtable Discussion held at the Observer Research
Foundation Mumbai ..................................................................................................................................................... 27
List of Invited Participants.................................................................................................................................... 27
ORF Participants ....................................................................................................................................................... 27
Report of the Roundtable ........................................................................................................................................... 27
What ails education today?................................................................................................................................... 28
What are the ICT infrastructure requirements? .......................................................................................... 29
Why a centralised approach?............................................................................................................................... 31
Promotion of FOSS and OER................................................................................................................................. 31
Finances and Business Models ............................................................................................................................ 32
Conclusion and Action Plan .................................................................................................................................. 32
Annexure II - Suggestions for a representative Pilot Project ...................................................................... 33
Benefits of the Pilot:................................................................................................................................................. 34
About Observer Research Foundation Mumbai................................................................................................ 35
Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................................................... 36
About the Author ........................................................................................................................................................... 36

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


List of Abbreviations
AICTE
A/V
CMS
CSIR
ERP
FOSS
GER
ICT
IIM
IISc
IIT
ITI
IT
LAN
LDAP
LMS
MCIT
MHRD
NCERT
NCTE
NGO
NKC
NKN
NMEICT
NMITLI
NPTEL
NSERB
OCW
OER
OLPC
OLPF
ORF
PC
PPP
Q&A
R&E
SaaS
SLA
UAT
UGC

All India Council for Technical Education


Audio/Visual
Content Management System
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Enterprise Resource Planning
Free and Open Source Software
Gross Enrolment Ratio
Information and Communication Technology
Indian Institute of Management
Indian Institute of Science
Indian Institute of Technology
Industrial Training Institute
Information Technology
Local Area Network
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
Learning Management Systems
Ministry of Communication and Information Technology
Ministry of Human Resource Development
National Council of Educational Research and Training
National Council for Teacher Education
Non Government Organization
National Knowledge Commission
National Knowledge Network
National Mission on Education through ICT
New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative
National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning
National Science and Engineering Research Board
Open Course Ware
Open Educational Resources
One Laptop Per Child
One Laptop Per Faculty
Observer Research Foundation
Personal Computer
Public Private Partnership
Question and Answer
Research and Education
Software-as-a-Service
Service Level Agreement
User Acceptance Test
University Grants Commission

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


A model for the induction of ICT into educational institutions in India
on a massive scale, to promote inclusive access to quality education
Introduction
It is well known that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can expand the reach
and quality of education in India1,2 like never before. Recognizing the need to use ICT to help
increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and launch skill development initiatives across the
country, the Government of India has recently put in place two very important initiatives.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is rolling out the National
Knowledge Network (NKN)3, recommended by the National Knowledge Commission4, which will
provide research institutions with high-speed network connectivity and Internet access at
Gigabit speeds.
The Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched the National Mission on
Education through ICT (NMEICT)5. About 60 percent of the budget of the NMEICT
(approximately Rs. 4600 crores for phase I) is earmarked to provide Internet connectivity to all
the Universities and colleges in the country6. MHRD is also working with State Governments
through their ICT@Schools initiatives to provide computer hardware and software in schools in
collaboration with vendors7. Some of the other key initiatives that are part of the NMEICT are

The National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL)8, being run in


collaboration with the IITs and IISc Bangalore, seeks to improve engineering
education in India by developing video and web based courses and placing them
in the public domain. There is also support for other content generation
activities such as the creation of training material on ICT and so on.
Sakshat9 - the one-stop education portal - to facilitate lifelong learning, free of
cost.
Extensive content generation activities at various institutions around the
country.

http://www.planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/11th/11_v2/11th_vol2.pdf Section 1.2.20,


pg 34.
2 The word education is used here not only to refer to formal classroom-based instruction but also to
refer to education relating to Skill Development, Adult Education and Lifelong Learning.
3 http://www.mit.gov.in/content/national-knowledge-network.
4 http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/recommendations/knowledgenetwork.asp
5 http://www.education.nic.in/dl/MissionDocument.pdf is the mission document of NMEICT. The 11 th
plan document (Vol2) also lists the goals of the NMEICT (Section 1.3.61, 62 pg 50) and ascribes focus to
working with state governments (Section 1.2.22, pg 35) on ICT@schools as a sub-mission of NMEICT.
6 http://www.iiitb.ac.in/t4e09/presentations/NPTEL%20Presentation.pdf Presentation by Prof. Mangala
Sundar Krishnan, IIT Madras
7 For example, NIIT is working with many state governments such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar,
Tripura and others to provide services to schools and colleges under the BOOT
model.http://www.niit.com/SERVICES/SOLUTIONSFORGOVERNMENT/ITEDUCATIONFORSCHOOLS/Pag
es/ComputerEducationAtSchools.aspx
8 http://nptel.iitm.ac.in/ Website of the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning. These
lectures are also available on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/nptelhrd
9 http://www.sakshat.ac.in/ The one-stop education portal of MHRD.
1

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Provision of e-books and e-journals, support for development of low-cost access


devices, and other initiatives for provision of ICT infrastructure.

However this top-down initiative of the MHRD, despite being extremely timely and having
adequate scope, is unlikely to address the scale problem. Given that there are over 500
universities, 25000+ colleges and about 150,000 secondary and senior secondary schools (well
over 1 million schools) in the country presently, the task of reaching ICT infrastructure to these
educational institutions within a reasonable period of time is of gargantuan proportions. The
NMEICT is an unprecedented opportunity for capacitybuilding in education as well as in ICT, for exploration
of new pedagogies and innovative ways of teaching and
The NMEICT is an unprecedented
learning. It is therefore imperative to try and leverage
opportunity
for
capacitythis opportunity to the maximum extent. A key
building in education as well as
ingredient that is missing from the NMEICT initiative at
in ICT. It is imperative to
present is the involvement of the User Community in
leverage this opportunity to the
adequate numbers grassroots level participation of
maximum extent.
faculty, staff, researchers, and senior students from
different types of institutions. These representatives of
the User Community could be invited to become actively involved in creating and nurturing a
parallel movement for the innovative use of Computers in Education (as opposed to Computer
Education) which would enhance the impact of the NMEICT enormously.
What is really required is a clear focus on the opportunity for capacity-building and on
the value-addition that can be created from these two government initiatives. The latter
includes a push for increased access to scientific computing and the eSciences, for faculty,
researchers and students from a much wider set of institutions. This will enable them to enter
new and exciting computing-intensive fields such as computational biology, weather and
climate modelling, and the data-driven sciences, among others. On the capacity-building front, it
is necessary to create a vast ICT-enabled workforce which can help leverage the benefits of ICT
in their own respective fields - not just in science and engineering but also in healthcare,
agriculture, governance and many others.
The vision therefore is the empowerment of Students and Faculty, in formal as well as
non-formal education. Within the field of ICT, students have contributed to some of the most
important advances in information and communications technologies. These include data
compression, interactive computer graphics, Ethernet, Berkeley Unix, the spreadsheet, public
key cryptography, speech recognition, Mosaic, and Google10. Increasingly, we see a trend of
younger and younger innovators. There is now a move in the United States to launch another
student led wave of innovation, supported by the private sector with funds from the Broadband
Technology Opportunities Program11. In India too our young students, who tend to be natively
comfortable with all things digital, must be empowered with free access to broadband and all
the associated tools and resources so that they can make contributions to ICT and to the many

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/25/role-student-led-innovation-killer-apps-broadbandnetworks The role of student-led Innovation in Killer Apps for broadband networks, blog post by Tom
Kalil (Deputy Director for Policy) and Aneesh Chopra (U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate
Director for Technology) from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, USA
11 http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/
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Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


other fields. An obvious place to start is the classroom where they spend a large part of their
day. While the Telecom revolution has ensured voice connectivity, education and innovation
require access to high-speed networks, cutting-edge peripherals, software development kits
and cloud computing services12.
The consultative Roundtable held at ORF Mumbai on May 8, 2010, discussed many aspects of
education and the opportunities for value creation thrown open by the coming of the NKN and
the NMEICT. A specific suggestion by the author, of setting up of an organization devoted to
serving the ICT infrastructure needs of the Research and
Education (R&E) community, was discussed in detail. The
Setting up a non-profit
organization, which would be not-for-profit, would consist
organization dedicated to
mainly of educators, researchers and technologists from
serving the ICT infrastructure
various representative educational institutions, as well as
needs of the R&E community
representatives from industry. The mandate of the
can help institutions induct
organization would be to supplement the efforts of
ICT quickly and optimally.
NKN, NMEICT and ICT@Schools with specific
initiatives for capacity-building among stakeholders
and to explicitly leverage all the opportunities for
value-addition. The organization would also work with industry for the actual rollout of all
services, by providing detailed requirements for software and services, and by conducting user
acceptance tests and overseeing quality control.
This report is based on research conducted at ORF Mumbai and on discussions at its
consultative Roundtable. The list of invited participants and a more detailed report of the
Roundtable is given in Annexure I. As suggested by participants at the Roundtable, this report
provides a detailed description of the model for implementation so that it can form the basis for
further, informed, discussions on transforming the ideas into reality. The implementation plan
is an integrated approach that has the potential to create a movement, to unleash cascading
changes that can completely transform the practice of education, by involving the larger
community - members of society and all interested stakeholders - and getting it to contribute
towards the effort in large numbers.

Implementation Plan - Executive Summary


The implementation plan describes how the NMEICT can be further supplemented so that
faculty, staff, students and management of educational institutions, throughout the country, can
derive maximum benefit from the generous spending on ICT by the Government. Some of the
key supplements that are required include:

Provision of software for all aspects of learning and for administration of educational
institutions, such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) systems, among many others.
Provision of software in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which benefits a much
larger number of educational institutions due to the shared development cost of the
specialized software. Cloud computing and other virtualization technologies can be

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/25/role-student-led-innovation-killer-apps-broadbandnetworks Text from the white house blog described earlier, which is also relevant for India.
12

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

leveraged to create shared data centres that are accessed through high-speed networks,
resulting in huge cost savings.
Appropriate support for management of local as well as shared ICT Infrastructure at
these institutions, in the form of managed services, and supported by helpdesks.
Fulfilment of a myriad of training requirements for users in varied disciplines and at
different types of institutions, by the creation of inexpensive training material and their
widespread dissemination.

As mentioned earlier, grassroots level participation of the user community, in large numbers, is
critical to ensuring that ICT is optimally used in educational institutions to help improve the
quality of education. We believe that this can best be achieved by creating an organization
devoted to working with the users, with the
government and with service providers to
The net intangible benefits from a
deploy cost-effective, yet state-of-the-art, ICT
national perspective would be
infrastructure in educational institutions. The
organization must be representative of the user
Reaching out to the unreached
community it serves. It must consist of
at a faster pace Tier 2 and
researchers, educators and technologists who
Tier 3 institutions
can help educational institutions understand
Faster
democratization
of
their requirements and help them induct their
education and opportunities
local infrastructure from the market. It can help
Increased transparency in all
disseminate information and knowhow widely
aspects
of
advance
and assist institutions in sharing experiences
administration of educational
with each other. It can also work with the
institutions
government, with vendors and all other
stakeholders to commission and deploy shared
infrastructure in the most cost effective way. All this will ensure that individual institutions will
get the best possible ICT infrastructure, given their budget and their needs, and will put it to use
innovatively in the provision of quality education. Such an approach has the following key
benefits:

Addresses the scale problem by sharing the knowhow (and also the common
software and services) across institutions this initiative has the potential to scale out
quickly to a large numbers of institutions in the country that have little or no ICT
infrastructure.
Provides Inclusive Access - this initiative will serve tier 2 and 3 institutions best,
bringing them on board well before they would otherwise be able to do so.
Proactive Capacity Building effort the focus here is on empowering generations of
young students. They will make maximum use of the infrastructure, teach themselves to
a very large extent, get comfortable with current technologies and then innovate.
Deep Commitment to Quality and Excellence sub-standard infrastructure or subcritical levels of it will not have the same inspirational value that a Google quality
service would have. The aim here is to provide cutting-edge infrastructure at the lowest
possible cost.

The net intangible benefits from a national perspective would therefore be

Reaching out to the unreached at a faster pace Tier 2 and Tier 3 institutions

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Faster democratization of education and opportunities


Increased transparency in all aspects of advance administration of educational
institutions

In the following we first describe the What namely, the type of ICT Infrastructure that needs
to be inducted into educational institutions, before moving on to outline the How in more
detail. We believe that full implementation of this plan will produce a transformation that will
fulfil the stated goals of the Government, of 1) Access and Equity, 2) Quality and Excellence,
and 3) Expansion of education across the country.

ICT Infrastructure Requirements at Educational Institutions


We begin by outlining the details of the ICT infrastructure that is required at the different
types of institutions across the country. The aim is to provide end-to-end (turnkey) services
to all users faculty, students and staff. This will ensure that the users can focus on using ICT
in education without having to worry about managing the ICT infrastructure.

Schools
The Hole in the wall experiment13 amply demonstrated the fact that children become
comfortable with technology quickly. They dont need to be taught how to use computers, they
learn on their own. The ability to self-learn is independent of their social, economic and
educational background, literacy levels in English or any other language, ethnicity and place of
origin etc14. Therefore, children from all walks of life must be provided with access to
technology most urgently. Ideally, a school must be provided with the following:

PCs and/or Laptops for all faculty and selected staff. Just as the OLPC15 (One Laptop
Per Child) initiative, we should launch a One Laptop Per Faculty (OLPF) initiative all
across the country. These laptops must be supplemented with Data Cards for Mobile
Internet access so as to encourage faculty to explore online educational resources
continuously.
One or more computer rooms with PCs for students, from which they are never
locked out. (These are already being provided in many states as part of the ICT@schools
program.)
LCD projectors and Screens in one or more classrooms. To keep costs low there can
be just one Audio/Visual (A/V) room per school, but since projectors are portable and
screens can even be painted on the walls, it would be best to have them in all
classrooms.
Internet connection in classrooms so that students and faculty together can access
shared resources (text, Audio, Video) as well as content on the Internet during class.
This would require deploying Local Area Networks (LANs).

http://www.hole-in-the-wall.com/Beginnings.html outlines the description of the first experiment


conducted in 1999.
14 Description of the Hole-in-the-Wall experiment, in NCERTs position paper on Educational Technology.
Available at http://www.ncert.nic.in/html/focus_group.htm
15 http://www.laptop.org/en/vision/index.shtml
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Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Wireless Internet access on campus and a well thought-out policy on mobile phone
usage. In time, mobile phones will become cheaper and more comfortable to use for
educational purposes (bigger screens and full capability browsers).
Domain based email for faculty, staff and students. Also, list based addresses such as
faculty@schoolname.state.edu.in for ease of communication.
A hosted website for each school backed by a Content Management System (CMS) and
training for selected staff and senior students on how to use the CMS to manage the site
Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative for educational content in which
faculty and students are not only encouraged to re-use educational content created
elsewhere but also encouraged to create and contribute educational content to the pool,
particularly in Indian languages.
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in order to keep costs low. This will include
the Operating System, Office Productivity Software, Audio and Video Conferencing
software etc., all with Indian language and localization support where available.
Shared software: individual schools can choose to participate in a shared software
initiative that will cover software for generic administrative needs such as Student
Management, Finances, Examinations, Grading and Results etc., but also software for
Teaching and Learning.
Comprehensive Security Services including protected web-surfing, spam and virusfree email, access control and many others.
Backup Power Facility for local infrastructure.

In addition, schools can be encouraged to make their infrastructure available, outside of office
hours, for adult education, skill development, or even for an Internet Caf. This will help defray
the costs. Entrepreneurship models can also be encouraged whereby entrepreneurs take charge
of the upkeep of the entire local infrastructure through appropriate business models.

Colleges
In addition to the list mentioned above, which may be scaled up appropriately as needed,
colleges will need the following additional infrastructure.

10

Intranet - for proprietary content: Not all content created by educators and faculty
need to be freely available. Many institutions will create specialized content that will
only be accessible to bona fide students and staff of the college.
Specialized hardware, software packages and tools: Technology institutions such as
Engineering colleges and ITIs will need local laboratories - LANs to support Servers, PCs,
and specialized hardware as well as software libraries, simulation and design tools,
graphics and imaging tools and other support for scientific computing.
Software support for Open and Distance Learning: Colleges which participate in
open and distance learning programs will require appropriate technology infrastructure
support in the form of suitably equipped A/V rooms and appropriate software. Details of
the latter are described below.

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Universities
Most of the universities in the country today are affiliating universities with many colleges
attached to them. This responsibility immediately translates into additional software
requirements:

ICT support for scheduling and conducting examinations including


management of examination centres; creation, printing and dispatch of question
papers; facilitation of online printing of Hall Tickets; announcement of results
and many other related activities.
ICT support for the management of affiliated institutions including
gathering of financial reporting data online from them and integration with the
accounts of the University.
Student management systems standardised with the help of regulatory
authorities such as the UGC, so that students can transfer, within the university
as well as to other universities in the country, relatively easily.
ICT support to conduct open and distance learning described earlier. In
particular, it should be possible to make niche university courses available to
students in colleges affiliated to the university through web conferencing and
other such tools.
Universities have a lot of physical infrastructure large campuses, buildings etc.,
but they do not yet have scale on-campus i.e., they do not support adequate
number of students on-campus. Given ICT support for maximizing the use of
their physical infrastructure, universities could become more vibrant
campuses supporting many more students. Some examples (partial list) of such
ICT support include:
o Classroom and Seminar room scheduling software (for optimal use of
classrooms),
o Software for automating the application and admissions process,
o Online payment systems for fees and other payment collection, and
o Local content repositories for management and re-use of courseware
(proprietary) with a provision to share them with affiliated colleges, on
need basis.
Scientists and Researchers additionally require:
o Software support for organizing conferences as well as for creating a
comprehensive listing of academic conferences and workshops,
o Software libraries for scientific computing, and
o Access to research journals and databases.

Research Institutes
The premier research institutions in the country do not need much support from this initiative
since they are well-endowed with respect to the type of ICT infrastructure being discussed here.
This is also true for some of the premier teaching institutions such as the IITs, IIMs and others.
These institutions must instead become important resource centres in the Implementation Plan
because most of the expert educationists, researchers and technologists required for the
proposed organization will be drawn from them. Since these institutes are also engaged in
cutting-edge research, this kind of involvement will help build bridges between research and
education at different levels.
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Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


ICT infrastructure for Open and Distance Learning
This is an area where ICT can make the maximum impact quickly. The ability to conduct open
and distance learning programs at will, would empower many institutions around the country
to increase their reach enormously, thus contributing directly to the increase in GER being
sought by MHRD. Moreover, pressing concerns such as the nationwide shortage of teachers
could be addressed by training teachers using distance learning methods.
On 6 April, 2010 a separate brainstorm session was held at ORF Mumbai in order to discuss the
use of ICT in Distance Education (taken to mean both open and distance learning modes). The
minutes of the session are available separately. The requirements for ICT support for distance
education depends broadly on which mode is chosen namely, Synchronous vs. Asynchronous
and also on whether the model of learning is classroom-based (all students are gathered at a
remote location) or individual-based (students are sitting at their own computers, at their
preferred locations).
In the Synchronous mode, lectures are beamed live to audiences. A good example of this is the
use of high-speed networks of the NKN by some of the IITs to
mentor the new IITs. For example, high definition video and
audio are sent across to students at IIT Gandhinagar from IIT
ICT
and
broadband
Internet are considered
Bombay. In this model, both students and faculty use specially
as basic infrastructure in
prepared A/V rooms with two-way Video connections. IIT
the developed countries.
Bombay uses a 4-quadrant model consisting of the talking
Optimal delivery of Open
head (faculty), the presentation (digital) material, the Q & A
and Distance learning
session and a video of the remote class. A leaner model,
can only be done through
particularly useful in individual-based teaching, is to utilize
the extensive use of ICT.
only audio and presentation materials. Web-based
conferencing systems16 typically provide these. These can be
supplemented by recording services, where live lectures are recorded and stored on servers to
allow students repeated access to them.
The Asynchronous mode is generally less expensive because pre-recorded material, either CDs
or DVDs, can be handed out and students can watch them at their leisure. This mode has the
potential to scale enormously. Institutions must, however, have the infrastructure to record
lectures, either while they are being conducted live in a specially equipped classroom or
specifically for distribution purposes using video recording crews.
In either case, Synchronous or Asynchronous, it is best to supplement the Audio/Video material
with a Free and Open Source (FOSS) Learning Management System such as Moodle17 for
presentation material, and an appropriate student management system for administration of
the courses.

There are many free and commercial web-based conferencing systems. See for example, Dimdim at
http://www.dimdim.com/website/signup_in
17 A popular, free and open source Learning Management System http://moodle.org/
16

12

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Detailed Implementation Plan: An Integrated Approach to the
provision of ICT Infrastructure at Educational Institutions
Much of the hardware, software, services and training requirements are common across
institutions in a certain grouping (example,
engineering colleges). Therefore, the knowhow with
The knowhow with respect to
respect to inducting ICT is completely reusable across
inducting ICT is completely
members of a group. Institutions will benefit from
reusable
across
similar
sharing requirements, documents, whitepapers,
institutions. They will benefit
training modules, best practices etc., among
from
sharing
requirements
themselves. This would be extremely useful to them
documents, whitepapers, training
because the knowhow is in fact an extremely scarce
modules, and best practices
commodity among educational institutions in India
today. Many institutions do not have local decision makers who are abreast of the latest
information regarding technologies that need to be inducted.
Therefore, an organization consisting of educators, researchers and technologists, drawn from
representative educational institutions, would best be suited to oversee the creation and
sharing of knowhow across all institutions. This organization can help select and commission
shared software and services, identify training requirements, make choices with respect to the
technologies that need to be inducted, share experiences and best practices and prescribe
guidelines for standardization and interoperability. This will create a buzz and build a
movement that will generate a PULL for the products and services of NMEICT and NKN. With
the support of the organization, educational institutions will be able to take the initiative to
induct ICT infrastructure instead of having it prescribed to them. In the following we outline an
integrated approach to the provision of ICT infrastructure that can result in large savings in cost
as well as in the requirement for trained manpower.

Overall Scope of Work


Generally speaking, all the requirements at various institutions as well as those for distance
education described in the previous section (being referred to as ICT Infrastructure), can be
classified into the following groups:
1. Local infrastructure (at the premises of each of the institutions)
PCs, Thin Clients, Laptops & Mobiles are appropriately chosen for different
user groups and local Servers wherever necessary.
Campus LANs - wired and wireless, backed up by registration software that
monitors all bona fide users and their devices. A useful consequence of the
registration process will be the creation of a Database of Professionals in the
education space, as only they would be allowed access to Campus LANs.
Optionally, this can also be supplemented by Roaming18 facilities between
educational institutions so that genuine collaborators can get more privileges
than simply Guest access at the institutions they visit.

See for example EDUROAM http://www.eduroam.org/ which is a secure world-wide roaming access
service developed for the International Research and Education community.
18

13

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Selected people at individual local institutions must be assisted with the knowhow they need to
commission their local infrastructure needs from Vendors of their choice. For instance, they
must be alerted about the need to build in service and support for the local infrastructure into
the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that are built into contracts of the Vendors, and educated
on enforcement of these SLAs. All ICT facilities must be backed up by high-quality managed
services so that management does not have deal with problems related to malfunctioning
hardware or software. Users must have access to 16x7 helpdesk services.
2. Shared infrastructure and services
Shared Data Centre Services for hosting websites, mail servers and all
shared application software. This can be done using Cloud Computing and
other virtualization technologies. It will save costs enormously and will require a
much smaller group of people to manage the shared data centre on behalf of
many institutions.
Shared software in the Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) model, hosted at the shared
data centres. Some examples of such software (a partial list) include;
o Content repositories that can support free as well as paid content
contributed by stakeholders. The repositories must be accompanied by
appropriate tagging (labelling) and rating systems that allow quality
content to be found easily and quickly;
o Learning Management Systems for the creation of courseware online and
for management of the progress of students (assignment submissions
etc.);
o Student Administration System for handling admissions, collecting fees
through online payments, managing students records, tracking courses
taken, tracking completion requirements, announcing results and so on;
and
o Financial software - Accounts and Auditing, particularly with respect to
reporting to funding agencies.
3. Technical support for all shared software in the Managed Services paradigm
using Call Centres as required. This can be outsourced to Vendors who will be
expected to provide support for software and services under stringent SLAs. [As
mentioned earlier, support for local infrastructure must be built into the SLAs of the
providers of the local infrastructure.] Managed Services and support must be
provided for
All software provided in the SaaS model above;
Generic services such as email, website creation and hosting, conferencing and
other A/V services; and
Tools for computation, modelling and simulation, graphics and visualization, and
collaboration.
4. Training support for all users (faculty, students, staff and managements) on the
utilization of all application software as deemed appropriate. Additionally, selected
personnel at each institution must be trained to become Systems Administrators of
all local infrastructures, using standardized training modules. Training material can
be distributed in the form of CDs or DVDs or made available on the web. These
14

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


efforts can be supported by workshops and conferences for information
dissemination and for gathering of feedback.
5. High-speed network connectivity, to connect the local and shared infrastructure
and good Internet connectivity for access to global knowledge repositories. It is
extremely important that networks are not under provisioned and can support
several multimedia streams.
The advent of virtualization technologies and cloud computing provides us with an opportunity
to induct software in the SaaS model at relatively low
cost using shared data centres. This is indeed a huge
opportunity. The fact that there is almost no installed
Educational institutions all over
base of software in educational institutions across
the world are trying to move
India creates a unique opportunity to directly deploy
towards a shared infrastructure
this cutting-edge technology. Elsewhere in the world,
model in order to save costs
educational institutions are trying to move towards
maximally, earn carbon credits,
such a shared infrastructure model19 in order to save
and foster innovation and
costs maximally (through software reuse and server
collaborative discovery.
consolidation), earn carbon credits (reduce energy
usage for computers and for cooling) and foster
innovation and collaborative discovery.
Many institutions that have already inducted ICT at various levels may prefer to continue down
their own path. However, they can have the option to get new software, services and training
from the community, if they so desire. The largest beneficiaries of this initiative however, is
likely to be a completely different set of institutions - tier 2 and tier 3 schools, colleges and
universities - who would otherwise be unable to induct ICT anytime soon due to the lack of local
knowhow. Here the rollout of ICT must be accompanied by a strong human capacity building
effort in terms of training and support. It is important to also mention here that the full
spectrum of institutions - universities, colleges and schools all over the country are candidates
for the provision of services under this initiative. The ICT infrastructure can also eventually be
thrown open to students and educators from the non-formal sector NGOs, individuals and
civil society.

The Novelty of the Approach


The novelty of the approach comes from the following aspects:
1. Involvement of the user community at the grassroots level. We expect that some of
these people will become part of the organization and champion the use of ICT in all
institutions.
2. The integrated approach of providing end-to-end service - including software, services
and training, to all users. The vibrant IT industry in the country can be used to provide
high-quality software and services that will help extend the reach of quality education.

http://cenic2010.cenic.org/stream/regency/Cenic-20100309-110644-021.mp4 Ed Lazowska, Bill &


Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, Director,eScience Institute and Chair, Computing
Community Consortium at the University of Washington, speaking on cloud computing.
19

15

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


3. The idea of Centralized Provisioning: of planning centrally and rolling out
simultaneously all across the country. This ability to cover geography quickly, thereby
reaching out to institutions throughout the country within a short span of time is critical
to the growth of education at this juncture.
4. The plan to use Cloud Computing and other virtualization technologies to share
resources innovatively, thus reducing costs enormously and minimizing the
environmental impact. India can seek to be a leader in this space, and additionally be
able to harvest the benefits of fostering innovation and improving collaboration for joint
discovery.
5. The use of a widespread information dissemination campaign, coupled with a
strong push towards sharing of knowhow, will generate the momentum that can help
the benefits of this initiative reach the institutions that stand to benefit from it the most.

The Organization
As mentioned earlier, the goal is to help faculty and
students get accustomed to ICT technologies so that they
can utilise them optimally to teach, learn and innovate.
This is best accomplished by constituting a User Group
which is the Voice of the Community. The User Group
must work with the government and with the IT industry
to ensure that users at educational institutions are
provided with comprehensive end-to-end services with
respect to ICT infrastructure. The User Group, working
on behalf of all educational institutions, will oversee the
creation and use of shared infrastructure and facilities
and will also help institutions rollout their in-house
infrastructure.

The organization must be


representative of the user
community it serves. It must
consist
of
researchers,
educators and technologists
who can help educational
institutions understand their
requirements and help them
induct
their
local
ICT
infrastructure
from
the
market.

Responsibilities of the User Group


An indicative list of tasks could include the following:

16

Provide consultancy and technical support to institutions that are seeking to induct ICT
on campus by creating and sharing whitepapers, reports, requirements documents and
other material pertinent to the tasks at hand.
Commission Shared Software on behalf of different groups of users, conduct User
Acceptance Testing (UAT) and arrange for maintenance of the entire software lifecycle.
The important task of UAT is often overlooked when software is commissioned through
the use of consultants, resulting in software that is not user friendly, has incomplete
functionality, and is prone to bugs.
Become a conduit for fresh requests for new software and services from institutions.
Oversee the provision of 16x7 technical support to users and institutions, also in the
form of Managed Services where necessary, with the help of private players.
Negotiate access to important libraries, journals and knowledge repositories that are
hard to secure, for all students and researchers countrywide, at the best prices.
Assist institutions with purchasing special purpose software and tools.

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Design and coordinate rollout of training programs in association with private players.
Disseminate information aggressively, through organizing conferences, workshops and
other events in order to generate PULL for the software and services - a preferred
option.
Invite support and participation from civil society and donors and coordinate their
efforts by pairing resources up with institutions.
Engage in fundraising to help/pay for the costs of disadvantaged schools/colleges to
embark online.

The opportunity for close coordination among institutions and the potential that exists in
tapping into the expertise of the User Group on behalf of all institutions can result in enhanced
value additions. Some of these include the following:

A vision for the development and growth of Scientific Computing and e-Sciences
nationwide.
A method of creating a Database of professionals and their expertise in the educational
space (a stated goal of NMEICT).
The creation of a movement around Open Educational Resources and Open Courseware
(OCW). The most scalable model for educational content creation is to allow the
community to create and share. Open Education Resources20 (OER) is a recognized
movement which seeks to take advantage of our collective knowledge. Wikipedia21 is a
brilliant example of how users can become active resource creators. We in India need to
take the OER and the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement forward in
innovative ways and create similar archives for content of various kinds. Moreover,
given that less than 10% of the Indian population speaks English we need to initiate this
kind of activity in Indian Languages urgently.

Characteristics of the User Group


Whilst the general consensus at the Roundtable was for the establishment of an organization
that could deliver on the goals outlined earlier, there was a lot
less clarity regarding the manner in which this organization
Software support for
ought to be created. The argument for a single centralized
administrative
tasks,
organization is that core policies (for example, promotion of
will
allow
institutions
to
FOSS) for interoperability and for sharing of infrastructure can
become more efficient.
be formulated in a coherent manner. But some at the
In particular they can do
Roundtable expressed reservations that an organization such as
more with their physical
this, that was centralized, could become monopolistic. A single
infrastructure and enrol
organization is naturally prone to monopolistic tendencies and
many more students
than they do presently.
this must be actively discouraged. The need of the hour is for an
organization that will act as a facilitator. It may be best if there
is more than one such organization, perhaps one in each state.
The participants were also clearly in favour of creating a non-profit organization.

http://www.oercommons.org/ Open Educational Resources Community


http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home The Wikimedia Foundation and its largest collaboratively
edited reference projects, Wikipedia
20
21

17

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


One way to fulfil many of these expectations is to encourage the formation of multiple user
groups, one among each institution or group of users that have some commonality of interest
with respect to ICT infrastructure. These user groups could then contribute members to a
specialist Task Force, a smaller group of people that is entrusted with the responsibility of
accomplishing the consensus goals in mission mode. Ideas, information, knowhow and even
people can flow freely between the user groups and the Task Force. The responsibility of the
user groups is to be the representatives of their respective communities and to be a watchdog
over the Task Force. While details need to be worked out separately, after more extensive
consultations, some key expectations from such a Task Force could be the following:

The Task Force must be professionally managed, focused on the central goal of
coordination (through the user groups) among educational institutions for the creation
of shared software and services.
Although there can be many User Groups, they must all coordinate to select the Task
Force. The Task Force takes over the role of Individual Consultants.
The Task Force is an agency that is primarily building infrastructure, not doing R&D.
Therefore, unlike R&D organizations, it is subject to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
with respect to the quality of service that it provides. Therefore it must use proven
technology and employ people with a different mindset, one that is service oriented and
focused on strict adherence to SLAs.
The organization must be willing to pay competitive salaries as needed, in order to be
able to source talent from the market.
The guiding principle is to Maintain the highest level of QUALITY in all technology
deployments in order to promote excellence.
Ideally the Task Force must be stationed at a University campus so that trainees, interns
and students can work on related projects.

The Value Proposition


The intent is to view this initiative as a capacity building endeavour and to encourage active
participation of stakeholders so that there is plenty of
diversity with respect to the deployment of ICT
The most scalable model for
solutions. No attempt will be made to enforce uniform
educational content creation is
solutions locally at individual institutions. Only the
to allow the community to
knowhow and best practices will be shared so that
create
and
share.
Open
institutions can make informed choices with respect to
Education Resources (OER) is a
selection of hardware and software vendors and other
recognized movement which
service providers. The aim is to create a User
seeks to take advantage of our
Community by using social networking and Web 2.0
collective knowledge.
technologies extensively, holding regular conferences
and meetings to help disseminate information and to
generate a PULL for the shared software and services. The guiding principle with regard to the
entire initiative is one of complete commitment to quality and excellence from the start.

18

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Key Drivers for this Approach
While it is true that the ideas outlined in this initiative overlap in parts with the work of other
ongoing initiatives such as the NMEICT (and to a much lesser extent the NKN), what sets this
one apart is the fact that it addresses the entire scope of the problem it provides a blueprint
for the provisioning of complete end-to-end services. This approach corrects for the lacunae in
the system currently and is therefore likely to render maximum benefits to the largest number
of students and faculty, as well as to funding agencies. The other key drivers for this initiative
include the following:

Providing Inclusive Access - Tier 2 and 3 institutions are likely to benefit the most
because they will get access to state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure much earlier than they
would have otherwise. They will also receive support for creation and consumption of
content in Indian languages which is a long overdue effort.
Addressing the Scale Problem The number of institutions that need to be
empowered is dauntingly large. Through sharing of all knowhow across institutions and
through sharing infrastructure where appropriate, it is possible to quickly rollout ICT
infrastructure and educational content to a large number of institutions in the country
today that have little or no ICT infrastructure.
Building Capacity Proactively The focus, in this initiative, is on training generations
of young students in high schools and colleges. They will be self-learners to a very large
extent and as soon as they become comfortable with the current technologies, they will
begin to innovate and create new technologies.
Making a Deep Commitment to Quality and Excellence The aim is to provide stateof-the-art ICT infrastructure to educational institutions, leveraging volumes and newer
technologies such as cloud computing to keep costs low. A sub-standard or sub-critical
infrastructure will not possess the same inspirational value for students that a Google
quality or an Apple quality service would have.
Promoting Interoperability and Standardization where required Lack of
interoperability, which will inevitably arise if educational institutions are left to equip
themselves with ICT infrastructure on their own, will eventually push the costs higher.
Therefore, it is wise to build in interoperability from the start.
Promoting the use of FOSS and OER for Education & Research This is the trend
worldwide, mainly because it helps keep costs down and allows interested stakeholders
to experiment with source code and with the creation of educational content. It will also
promote entrepreneurship, whereby smaller companies will be created to maintain and
support specific software with localization support (example, Red Hat Linux), for a
relatively small fee.
Providing Opportunity to Leverage many Value Adds: for example, the opportunity
for distributed Content Creation, which will help build a vibrant marketplace for
educational content:
o Access to ICT Infrastructure will enable distributed content creation by all
interested parties including non-traditional contributors such as homemakers
and NGOs,
o Backed by a lightweight moderation and editing system and quick information
dissemination facilities, this will ensure that the problem of shortage of digital
content is mitigated quickly,
19

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


o
o

Educational material can be made easy to locate by linking relevant websites to


content repositories from Sakshat (MHRDs one-stop education portal),
Searches can be made easier by mandating that the creators of content label
their content appropriately (using tags such as age group, syllabus, language
etc), and
Industry players can upload and showcase material (free as well as paid),
thereby allowing them to easily reach out to their constituencies.

Exciting Ripple Effects

Students will innovate in new and unexpected ways. This is probably the single most
important opportunity that this initiative can bring about. India can look forward to its
own versions of companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and more in the future.
Collaborative discovery will become the norm. At the Roundtable, one of the invitees
described an inspirational example of how a group of 400 young students, under the
guidance of a few senior researchers, were able to sequence the TB (tuberculosis)
genome using mobile phones and Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter to coordinate
among themselves.
Internet penetration will increase sharply as the demand for Internet Access from
homes will track the growth of Internet Access from schools and colleges.
Frequent Curriculum Extension and Revision will become possible. The initiative will
promote new learner centric approaches which will demand more flexibility and
frequent changes in the curriculum. Since technical difficulties with revising curriculum
will be mitigated by ICT, this will indeed be possible and students will become the
beneficiaries.
Growth of Intranets with reusable and competitive content, student management
systems, distance education support, etc., will enable institutions to accommodate more
students thus increasing GER much faster than it otherwise would have.
Teacher Training programmes, one of our biggest and most important challenges
currently, will become far easier to rollout nationwide, thus contributing to
significant improvement in the quality of education provided by our institutions.

It is important to note that the issue of educational content itself (generation, dissemination,
quality control and standardisation etc.) is outside the scope of work being described here. This
initiative stops at providing the infrastructure that enables experts to create educational
material in a distributed fashion and to share it easily. Despite the fact that only technology
infrastructure is sought to be provided, the desired effect of the generation of a large body of
quality educational content will be a natural outcome, as more people learn to use the
infrastructure, become confidant and start to express themselves innovatively.

Financials and Business Models


On the question of Who will pay for this infrastructure? the consensus at the Roundtable was
that the Government (States and the Centre) must be an important contributor, even if it does
not cover 100 percent of the costs. Operationally, it is clear that there are two separate cost
components: the local infrastructure at the institutions and the shared data centre and software
services. The former must be paid for in a User pays model in which the institutions pay as per
20

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


their own technology choices, irrespective of whether they are government-run, governmentaided or privately owned. Governments can make provisions for providing funds to the
institutions in the first two categories. However, payment for shared infrastructure must be
done exclusively by the Government.

Revenue Models
Since the infrastructure required is extremely capital Intensive, multiple sources of funds need
to be explored to cover all costs. Institutions can pay for
local infrastructure and then recover them through
Worldwide there is only one
additional fees, charges for usage of infrastructure after
model of funding education
hours and top-up subsidies. Whats more, students and
that works:
parents are likely to be more than willing to contribute
to the additional costs provided it gives them access to
education funded in
better
quality
education.
Therefore,
student
part by students (fees),
contribution is critical and needs to be carefully
contributions made by
evaluated. Regarding purchase of local infrastructure,
faculty ( consultancy),
here the institutions must directly pay the vendors.
donations,
There is an opportunity however, for the User Group to
corpus, and
negotiate best prices on behalf of all institutions, and
Government.
this should be looked into. With respect to shared
infrastructure, it is best that the government pays for it.
However, it should also be possible to mobilise funds from foundations, corporate donors and
individuals.
Assuming that a not-for-profit organization is created, it will need to generate funds for its
operational expenses and to pay salaries. An important component of income for the
organization could be membership fees paid by Vendors. So far we have not discussed the role
of companies in the technology and education space that are likely to be a part of this initiative.
While it would be business as usual for them in terms of products and services that they provide
to individual institutions, this ICT initiative would result in a sharp spike in their sales (as
awareness sets in and more and more institutions look to introducing ICT infrastructure) and
therefore it is reasonable to ask them to contribute a small sum annually as membership fees to
the organization (similar to the NASSCOM membership model). Conversely, institutions must
also be members, paying a relatively small fee for the privilege of receiving knowhow, training
and being kept abreast of developments in technology.

Role of Governments
Coming back to the role of the central government, the consensus was that it should pay for onetime costs of the shared infrastructure namely, the Data centres (one or more, in different states
if necessary) and also for the software development costs. Later on, it should be the endeavour
of the User Group to generate not just its own running costs, but also that of maintaining and
upgrading the shared hardware and software. State governments must provide the necessary
funds to institutions within their states in order to induct local ICT infrastructure as per their
needs.
Another very critical role that can be played by the central as well as state governments is to put
their weight behind this initiative thereby helping it succeed. Through its agencies such as the
UGC, AICTE, NCTE etc., it can help reach out to all the Vice-Chancellors, heads of institutions and
21

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


faculty, thus helping to disseminate information to all the institutions that are a target of this
initiative. This will help the initiative achieve critical mass quickly.

A Representative Pilot Project


There was agreement among the participants that a representative pilot demonstrating the
utility of all the ideas outlined so far is critical at this juncture. The Pilot will also sensitize all
the stakeholders - the institutions, government, administrators, faculty and other decision
makers and, in turn, bring valuable inputs from them on strategies to take the initiative
forward. The Pilot can be taken up anywhere in the country, depending on which set of
stakeholders come forward.
On the technology side, this will help fix the requirements that different kinds of institutions
may have, provided a representative set of institutions are chosen for the Pilot. The Pilot will
also enable the gathering of detailed information regarding price points and costs towards a
detailed business plan for the full initiative.
A representative Pilot deployment of ICT infrastructure must include a University Campus,
Colleges of different kinds (Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Management), Secondary Schools,
Adult Education programs and Skill Development programs. Further guidelines for the Pilot
project are available in Annexure II. Funding for the Pilot could be sought from one or more of
several sources such as private Foundations or Trusts, the newly formed National Science and
Engineering Research Board (NSERB), the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership
Initiative (NMITLI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research22 (CSIR), or the
Multiplier Grants Scheme23 of the Ministry of Communications and Information technology.

Benefits to Stakeholders
The ability to disseminate information widely and quickly, through domain-based list email
addresses (faculty@iitb.ac.in, mtech2@cse.iitb.ac.in) and through the use of Web 2.0
technologies is a game changer. It has the potential to usher in transformative change through
ensuring better communication and coordination among all stakeholders, including funding
agencies and regulators. The ability to create online communities of practice, with quick
dissemination through email, bulletin boards, etc. will push the speed of learning, research and
discovery in all areas. Aside from this, some of the other benefits to different stakeholders
include the following:

Regulators
Regulators will have the ability to enforce transparency and accountability norms at all
levels; among Management, Administration, Faculty and even students. They can mandate the
use of shared software for Accounting and Finances that can be viewed online by concerned
http://www.csir.res.in/external/heads/collaborations/nmitli.htm R&D scheme to boost publicprivate-partnership (PPP) with industry
23 http://www.mit.gov.in/content/multiplier-grants-scheme Multiplier Grants for joint R&D with
industry.
22

22

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


regulators. They can also mandate that the websites of all institutions carry the following
information (partial, suggestive, list)

Fee structure,
Faculty profiles,
Course structure and course content,
Accreditation status, detailed information regarding local infrastructure, and
An online rating system for students, parents and employers of the facilities provided by
the institution.

Vigilance can be achieved through a distributed mechanism by giving students, parents,


employers and civil society a process that allows them to report discrepancies online. Combined
with the fact that tribunals are already in the process of being set up to look into speedy
resolution of complaints, this would result in a system that is more accountable to the
constituency that it serves, a remarkable improvement.

Funding Agencies
Funding agencies will see their money achieving more. The User Group will be able to
leverage the economies of scale, that come from serving a large number of institutions, to
provide more infrastructure and to many more institutions for the same outlay of money.
In terms of transparency in the usage of funds, funding agencies can demand online access to
reports from all institutions in prescribed formats. This can be facilitated by commissioning and
deploying software for the purpose and then mandating the use of this software for financial
reporting by all aided institutions. As more and more institutions start to use it, the value of
shared software increases. Therefore, under these circumstances, it is best that the use of such
financial reporting software is mandated by the funding agencies themselves.
Similarly funds disbursements can be made quicker and more effective. Since the precise
financial situation will now be known online at all times, reallocation of unused funds can be
done quickly between different budget heads
within the financial year, ensuring that funds are
Distance learning technologies
spent on time and for the right purposes. In short,
provide the added advantage that
funding agencies will have an accurate and detailed
faculty can be trained even while
picture of the utilization of funds at all times, again
they are stationed at their
a remarkable improvement.
respective home institutions. Both
Faculty
trainers and trainees need not be
The current situation vis-a-vis shortage of trained
displaced during faculty training
faculty can be resolved only if ICT is used
workshops. This is a tremendous
extensively to achieve this goal, particularly
saving in time which opens up an
distance learning technologies, so that faculty can
all-year round opportunity for
be trained even while they continue working at
training faculty, instead of only
their home institutions. In general, distance
summer training programmes.
education programs tend to have only limited
success among first-time learners of a subject but
faculty does not fall into this category. They can benefit immensely, partly because they will use
distance learning mode mainly for refresher courses and partly because they are more mature
23

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


with regard to handling the new medium. ICT provides the added advantage that faculty
(both trainers and trainees) need not be displaced during the training programs, a
tremendous saving in time which opens up an all-year round opportunity instead of only
summer training workshops for faculty. Of course, the distance education effort must be backed
up by workshops and demonstration sessions as necessary.
Other benefits include

Faculty gets access to all the training material that is designed for them during office
hours and are not obliged to take time out from their homes.
Faculty and students get access to educational material when they are together in class,
so that more engaging discussions and interactions can take place based on the material
provided.
Many students and faculty may not be able to afford broadband Internet access from
home (there are only approximately 9m broadband connections in the country
presently). Therefore, it is imperative to enable plentiful access for them from their
institutions.

Students
There is a special challenge associated with providing quality ICT access to students in India
since their numbers are very large. However, if we can enable wireless access across all
institutions backed by appropriate security measures, and organize special mobile devices with
large screens (purchased in bulk) for them, many students can welcome in a new world. If, in
addition, educational content created as an offshoot of this initiative is mandated to be
compatible with the mobile phone then, for most students, the mobile phone will become and
first and only device that they will use for educational purposes.
Students will also benefit immensely from

Classrooms with PCs, overhead projectors and wired Internet access so that they can
watch videos and listen to audios as supplements to the classroom discussions.
Labs with Servers and PCs where students can learn about the technology itself, using
open source software of all kinds. It is very likely that the next generation of applications
and innovations will come from among them.
Computing and supercomputing resources can be made on-demand. Many generations
of students are not even thinking about scientific computing and e-Sciences as areas
where they can study and conduct projects, because their home institutions do not
possess the necessary infrastructure. This will change completely under this initiative,
because students will now have access to both computational-resources-on-tap as well
as guidance on-demand.

Researchers
Researchers in India sometimes work on problems that have already been addressed elsewhere.
This is because they do not have adequate access to information regarding the frontiers of
research in their chosen areas. This will now change because they will have access to all the
information relevant to their research, on the Internet, in a timely manner. They will then have
the ability to select novel and challenging research problems and be able to leverage Indians
abroad as joint theses advisors. All this will greatly improve the quality of research from India.
24

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Aside from technology students, researchers are another group that will benefit enormously
from access to managed computational services on-demand. This will lead to accelerated
growth of research in computational sciences. Similarly, access to digital libraries, research
reports, tools for sharing and collaboration and tools for modelling, visualization, and graphics
etc., will result in a steep climb in the quality of the theses that are produced in India.
Researchers at different types of institutions will be able to interact and learn from each other,
and also with their counterparts across the world, giving rise to more inter-disciplinary
research.

Institutions
Institutions will be able to use their physical infrastructure to the maximum extent. This
will enable them to serve more students through the
on-site as well as distance and open learning modes
with the same infrastructure, improving their
The largest beneficiaries of this
efficiency enormously. Administrative staff can be reinitiative however, are likely to
trained for this effort since their load will be reduced
be a completely different set of
due to the software support that they will receive.
institutions - tier 2 and tier 3
Most importantly, institutions will have the option of
schools, colleges, universities making a considerable improvement in the quality of
who would otherwise be unable
education that they provide and it is likely that many
to induct ICT anytime soon due
institutions will avail the opportunity, particularly in
to the lack of knowhow.
the light of future competition from foreign
universities and institutions.
As mentioned earlier, large institutions such as universities can avail of the technology to
manage many of their most cumbersome tasks such as handling exams and so on. Besides this,
they will also be able to respond to RTI queries in a timely manner. This is a growing problem,
with the phenomenal increase in the popularity of RTI. Similarly financial reporting which is
presently a two-tier effort in which affiliated colleges report to the universities and the
universities in turn collate the data for reporting to funding agencies, can be simplified
enormously using appropriate software modules for financial administration that is made
available across the network. Of course all of this depends, for its success, on the availability of
sufficient trained local staff and this challenge is also being addressed as part of the initiative.

Society
This initiative will allow society at large to participate by contributing content, taking up
support of the institutions either through giving their time or providing small amounts of
funding. If this could be backed up by a suitably designed credit system, online as well as offline,
so that those who make donations in cash as well as in kind get credit for their contributions,
then people will have more incentives to contribute.

Vendors/Service providers
For vendors of hardware, software and services it will be Business as usual within this
initiative. Their sales efforts will however become much easier since larger markets will be
created due to the awareness generated among the user community.

25

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Final Thoughts
As Prof. Morris of IIMA put it, the tragedy in India is
not that the adults are illiterate. The real tragedy is
that, of the children being born now, a third will remain
illiterate. We ought to be hanging our heads in shame!
This is an extremely sobering thought and it is true that
we as a nation ought to be in a tearing hurry to try and
correct the situation. Although a lot more needs to be
done besides inducting ICT, the latter is a powerful tool
that can assist in the task and must therefore be
utilized to its fullest extent.

The
current
regulatory
environment is at the core of the
problems with the education
system today. It has produced a
system that is far worse in
quality than one that would
have been produced by a
completely
unregulated
environment!

Finding a successful model in the field of education will also open up the similar opportunities
in other disciplines such as 1) Healthcare, 2) Agriculture, 3) E-governance, and 4) Citizen
services. The initiative can be adapted to the special needs of each new discipline. An extremely
successful example of using ICT intelligently to deliver quality healthcare, at relatively low-cost,
to a very large population, is the work of the Aarogyasri Trust in Andhra Pradesh24.

https://www.aarogyasri.org/ASRI/index.jsp They have been able to provide health insurance and


quality healthcare to 70 million or more people who are below the poverty line at very nominal costs.
24

26

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Annexure I Report of the Consultative Roundtable Discussion held at
the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai
List of Invited Participants

Prof. Kavi Arya, IIT Bombay


Mr. Hitesh Ashar, MD and CEO, Uforic Systems
Mr. Devendra Gupta, Advisor-Agusta Westland Project, Chairmans office, Tata Sons
Dr. Sasi Kumar, Executive Director Research, CDAC
Prof. Sebastian Morris, IIM Ahmedabad
Prof. G. Nagarjuna, Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education, TIFR
Mr. Chetan Pisal, Virtualization Architect, Customer Services, Tata Communications
Dr. S. Ramakrishnan, Advisor, Media Lab Asia (previously DG, CDAC)
Prof. Jitendra Shah, Adjunct Professor, IIT Bombay (previously VJTI)
Dr. Sunil Sherlekar, TCRL, now Director of Parallel Computing Research, Intel India
Mr. Sachin Torne, Head - Education Solutions India, Tata Interactive Systems
Mr. Ninad Vengurlekar, VP, IL&FS Education and Technology Services Limited
Prof. Spenta Wadia, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

ORF Participants

Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman ORF Mumbai


Mr. Rishi Agarwal
Ms. Sharmeen Contractor
Mr. Dhaval Desai
Mr. Anay Joglekar
Mr. Maulik Mavani
Ms. Varsha Raj
Ms. Radha Vishwanath
Dr. Leena Chandran-Wadia (Author of report)

Report of the Roundtable


The meeting began with a welcome address by Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of the
Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Mumbai. He stated that ORF was keen on promoting the
use of ICT in Marathi and all other Indian languages, and hoped that the Roundtable would
make many useful recommendations, which would unlock the potential of ICT to transform
Education as well as other fields.
Following his speech, Dr. Leena Chandran-Wadia made a presentation acquainting the audience
with the issues and details of the proposed Implementation Plan, which had been conceived to
help rollout ICT to educational institutions in the quickest way and at maximal value for money.
The key idea is to share the scarce, but re-usable, knowhow on what technologies need to be
27

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


inducted, how to induct them, and also to commission shared software and move to cloud
computing. This requires the services of a group of experts, a User Group, which can function
as the Voice of the community and can work with the industry to oversee deployment of all
shared infrastructure and also help individual institutions attain their local infrastructure. She
highlighted some of the key issues that needed to be discussed:
a)
b)
c)
d)

The nature of the User Group and its sources of funding;


The business models under which such expensive, infrastructure could be rolled out;
Governance structures and the role of the government in the initiative;
Support for Free and Open Source Software for Scientific Computing, for Localisation,
and for software in Indian languages;
e) The need for a representative Pilot.
The full-day Roundtable was vigorous and full of animated discussions. The entire morning
session was devoted to a general discussion on all aspects of education: the present lack of
innovation in it, the role ICT could play to change this, the role of government, the nature of the
initiative and the details of the implementation plan, what is meant by ICT infrastructure and
more. There was agreement on the fact that there has been very little innovation in the field of
education in India in the years since independence. There was also agreement with Prof.
Morriss observation that the current regulatory environment is at the core of the problems
with the education system today. It has produced a system that is far worse in quality than the
one that would have been produced by a completely unregulated environment!
The afternoon session began with a presentation on Cloud Computing by Mr. Chetan Pisal of
Tata Communications. He brought the audience up to speed on the technology aspects of Clouds.
He also mentioned that while there are still several challenges to overcome, several vendors in
India, including Tata Communications, are gearing up for a commercial launch of their cloud
services25. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to specific issues relating to support for Indian
languages, requirements for scientific computing, promotion of FOSS and OER, and the contents
of a representative Pilot. It would be difficult to report in detail on all of the discussions,
particularly because many of them were on technical issues. However, a summary of the
discussions, under a broad classification of issues, follows.

What ails education today?


Prof. Sebastian Morris highlighted the serious debilities in the Indian education system today.
Universities in India dont have scale on-campus, even though they have enrolments running
into tens of thousands or even lakhs of students. The only exceptions are the universities in the
metros. The reason for this is that traditionally, universities have only been affiliating
institutions. Most of the scale is in colleges. However colleges dont have either the scope vertical scope in terms of multiple levels of education and research and horizontal scope in
terms of being multi-disciplinary - or the resources (finances). Elite teaching institutions
(example, the IITs) have the resources and the vertical scope, but not the horizontal scope. Elite
research institutions have invested in research without teaching and dissemination and as a
result do not have vertical scope. Therefore, none of our institutions are complete in all aspects.
ICT can help them overcome their individual debilities and to help each other.

25

The slides of Mr. Pisals presentation are available on request.

28

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Prof. Morris further explained that worldwide there is only one model of funding education
that works: education funded in part by students through fees (which are far too low a
percentage of the costs in India), contributions made by faculty through consultancy (again
miniscule in India), donations, corpus, and government. Therefore government must fund
education adequately. The real problem in India, however, is with regulation. This is why it is
only in India that businessmen and politicians get into education. Elsewhere in the world, it is
the initiative of charities and educationists.
Mr. Ninad Vengurlekar, in a very interesting presentation contrasting the aviation industry with
the education industry, pointed out that while there has been extensive innovation in the former
there has been almost no innovation in the education industry over the last 100 years. He felt
strongly that it was time to allow private players to compete in the education field so that
change can occur at a much faster pace than before.

What are the ICT infrastructure requirements?


As is well known, ICT and broadband Internet are considered as basic infrastructure (akin
to roads, airports etc.,) in most of the developed countries in the world. This follows naturally
from the fact that when people get connected to each other through the Internet,
communication and collaboration improves and consequently their productivity increases.
Access to computing resources increases the scope of scientific problems that researchers can
take up and innovate around, in order to generate new technologies and patents. Similarly,
education of all kinds including Skill-based (Vocational) education, Adult education and Lifelong
learning (in Indian languages as needed), get a tremendous boost when there is access to
infrastructure. As per the ITU, a 10 percent increase in the penetration of broadband Internet
can increase GDP by an average of 1.3 percent26.
The real need is to facilitate access to infrastructure, as pointed out by Prof. G. Nagarjuna.
There is plenty of unused fibre available with
many Telecom players27. Universities in the
Unites States have been empowered to purchase
Any concern that ICT Infrastructure, if
unused fibre cheaply, allowing them to become
provided, will remain unused is
completely unfounded. Students and
Gigabit campuses overnight. However, the
researchers will most certainly think of
Indian R&E community does not have access to
innovative
ways
of
using
the unused fibre in India. Even in situations
infrastructure provided they are given
where infrastructure such as PCs and software
access. Once a student has been
are available, access to it is often made difficult.
admitted and has paid the fees he/she
There are many cases of institutions locking up
should be given unhindered access to
their computer rooms and not allowing access
ICT infrastructure.
to computers, peripherals and other hardware
to their staff and students for much of the
lifetime of these devices. There are also cases of sophisticated computers and other scientific
equipment remaining unused for many months after they have been purchased.

26

Speech by ITU Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun I. Toure Achieving Ubiquitous Broadband networks,
February 2010, Bahrain, http://www.itu.int/en/osg/speeches/pages/2010-02-22.aspx
27 There is well over 5-lac Km of public fibre. Planning Commision report 11th 5-year plan report, Chap.
12, ICT

29

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Dr. Sunil Sherlekar clarified that any concern that ICT Infrastructure, if provided, will
remain unused is completely unfounded. Students and researchers will most certainly think
of innovative ways of using infrastructure provided they are given access. Once a student has
been admitted and has paid the fees, he/she should be given unhindered access to ICT
infrastructure. The days of locking up computers must be done away with. One way to do this is
to remove the fear of breakage, damage and difficulty to repair hardware that institutions often
suffer thereby making them vulnerable to tactics of locking up resources. If these fears could be
set aside through services outlined in the Implementation Plan, for example, then hardware will
be fruitfully utilized.
Optimal delivery of Open and Distance learning can only be done through the extensive use of
ICT. For example, IGNOU had engaged TCS to create ODLsoft, an ERP software package for
open and distance learning28. It would be useful if this software were made available to other
institutions that conduct open and distance learning programs. Where different software is
being used we must ensure that interfaces and communications are standardized, in order to
ensure maximum interoperability. Standardization is required not just to save costs but to
increase usage because then interaction among users can be very high. However, even as we
standardize technology, care must be taken to ensure that diversity in learning processes is
carefully nurtured and preserved. Diversity in education must be encouraged, as befits the
needs of a country as diverse as India.
Besides distance education, on-campus education will also be enriched by ICT. Students
these days learn and interact very differently. They use short messages extensively and appear
to enjoy video lectures on YouTube. It would be extremely interesting to tap into student
networks and document the change that is happening in classrooms. Using student networks
and Web 2.0 technologies to create a buzz around this activity could be extremely useful in an
initiative such as this, where information dissemination on the project is so critical.
Distributed content creation is the only way that the issue of paucity of digital educational
content can be addressed, particularly in Indian languages. NGO, individuals, civil society, all
need to be engaged in creating diverse content and making it widely available. Translation
services and the provision for reading other languages in Devnagri script would also be a good
idea. Since less than 10% of the countrys population speaks English, support for Indian
languages is critical and a fair degree of coordination will be needed to ensure that all the
valuable educational content is made available in most Indian languages.
The Inflibnet initiative of the UGC is one of the major successes, where coordination across
institutions is concerned. However many more journals and databases, particularly in the social
sciences, need to be accessible to all students. These databases are very expensive so it is
important to negotiate hard and get the best prices for access to a wider audience.
Software for administration: So far we have not yet developed administrative software such
as school and student management, financial reporting etc., and deployed it in educational
institutions. Part of the reason could be that many of our premier institutions are over manned
(more staff than faculty and students), thereby negating the incentive to create such software.
Wherever institutions are using in-house software for administration, finances etc., these can

28

See for example IGNOUs effort in this direction http://www.ignou.ac.in/erp/erp.htm

30

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


become good candidates for sharing. It is important to look into whether such software can be
made more widely available as it would help improve operational efficiency. IITs can lead in this
effort but innovative approaches such as contests for developing software must also be thought
over. FOSS would be a good way to go in this effort. The extensive amount of testing that needs
to be done, for competitive entrance exams to many premier courses, is another major area
where the use of ICT can go a long way. Standardized testing services need to be created.

Why a centralised approach?


Many institutions in the country are already conducting cutting edge work on par with the rest
of the world. Therefore, the aim here is to focus more on
those institutions that have not seen as much investment
in money from the government. A common feature of such
Distributed content creation
academic institutions is that unlike their more fortunate
is the only way that the issue
counterparts in India and in the developed countries,
of
paucity
of
digital
educational content can be
there is very little IT knowhow in these places. This is the
addressed, particularly in
result of the sustained denial of computers, Internet
Indian languages.
access, and related resources for more than two decades.
Even today there are only approximately 9 million
broadband connections in India, of which very few are
from academic institutions. As a result there are many institutions where there isnt enough
awareness, within the management, of the power of the Information Technology Revolution.
Even when there is awareness, there is insufficient knowhow of what technologies to use and
which services to deploy in order to empower students. Consequently young students,
particularly at tier 2 and tier 3 institutions continue to be denied access to these powerful
resources. One way to break the deadlock is to supplement the local knowhow with information
regarding best practices at other premier institutions. This approach is the subject of the
initiative discussed in this report.
The heartening feature to keep in mind about students is that they use all software with
absolutely no training. They are natively comfortable with all things digital and therefore they
must be made a significant part of the rollout of infrastructure i.e. allowed to help with the
induction of ICT infrastructure wherever possible. Dr. Sherlekar also described a recent
example of collaborative research in which approximately 400 young people participated in the
sequencing of the TB genome.

Promotion of FOSS and OER


Dr. Sherlekar brought up an important point that besides the advantages of significant costsaving and utility for educational purposes, FOSS must also be nurtured because we as a nation
must not be vulnerable to being held to ransom by vendors of commercial software.
The most scalable model for educational content creation is to allow the community to create
and share. Open Education Resources29 (OER) is a recognized movement which seeks to take
advantage of our collective knowledge. The Wikipedia30 is a brilliant example of how users can

http://www.oercommons.org/ Open Educational Resources Community


http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home The Wikimedia Foundation and its largest collaboratively
edited reference projects, Wikipedia
29
30

31

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


become active resource creators. We in India need to take the OER and the FOSS movement
forward in innovative ways and create archives for content of various kinds in all Indian
languages. This effort will receive a boost only when a critical mass of educators who are
comfortable with creating content in Indian Languages, are given access to the Internet, to the
content creation infrastructure, and to training on how to use these.

Finances and Business Models


In India students either contribute nothing or everything towards the cost of education, and this
situation must be rationalised at the earliest. There is definitely a case for the governments
involvement in paying for shared infrastructure and it must do so. We must start by outlining
our needs and working with the government to make maximal use of its support. Furthermore,
the Government must also subsidize the cost of bandwidth. Institutions can pay for it and get
reimbursed. It is important that institutions be encouraged and assisted in the payment of local
infrastructure that they can utilize. Otherwise the entire external infrastructure being created
by the government (NKN and NMEICT) will not be used. Besides the avenues suggested, other
models whereby the government can top up the institutional spending on local infrastructure,
similar to R&D subsidies, can also be evaluated.

Conclusion and Action Plan


Many important discussions, on pedagogy related issues, on policy support for ICT in Indian
Languages, on content creation initiatives, on the details of a Pilot and several other topics were
covered extensively during an engrossing day.
However, as Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni pointed out in his concluding remarks there was not
enough operational clarity on the way forward. Who will drive the Pilot, What should the Pilot
be like, What after the Pilot and Who will scale out the Pilot were all questions that needed
further discussion in more meetings. As a starting point it was decided that the Roundtable
report should be a detailed document capturing as many details of the implementation plan as
possible, which is what we have tried to do here.
Regarding the role of ORF, Mr. Kulkarni clarified that we would like to offer ourselves as an
advocacy platform for the transformative power of ICT in education. A lot can be accomplished
with vigorous well researched advocacy, from primary school education, college and university,
open and distance learning, linkages with employable skills development to scientific
computing. ORF hopes to produce ideas that become part of a wider debate that enriches policy
making, enriches ongoing programmes of government and non-government entities. He
appealed to the participants to continue working with ORF towards sustained advocacy in this
area.
We hope that, with this report, we have made a good beginning in this direction.

32

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Annexure II - Suggestions for a representative Pilot Project


The ideal Pilot project would involve a university and several of its affiliated colleges and
perhaps some schools in the vicinity of the university. Many of the details of the Pilot will
depend on the special needs of the subset of institutions chosen, and also on the extent of
funding available to the Pilot. An indicative list of hardware, software and services components
that could be provided at the university and its affiliated college campuses could include:
Network and Connectivity: High-speed connectivity to the Internet. Locally, each institution
will get a campus-wide Local Area Network (LAN) including secure wired and wireless access
for PC, Laptops and Mobile phones. The NKN and NMEICT will, between them, provide
connectivity to universities and colleges.
Local Hardware Infrastructure: 1) PC, Laptops, Thin Clients etc. as per the requirements of
each institution; 2) IT labs with PCs and Servers where requested, for example in engineering
colleges and for Intranets; 3) One or more classrooms with A/V equipment including PCs,
Projectors and Internet Access; and 4) For administrators, PCs with Internet access for using
shared hosted software such as ERP. All the hardware will have appropriate SLAs built into the
contracts so that any failures are rectified at the earliest.
Local Software used will be largely Free and Open Source - Linux, Openoffice, Mozilla Firefox
and Thunderbird etc., all with Indian Language Support wherever available. Training on usage
of hardware and software is an essential component of the Pilot and considerable energy must
be devoted to creating re-usable training materials.
Educational software (Middleware) will include an open source based Learning Management
System such as Moodle, Content Creation Tools, Software for testing and many others. This
section can be expanded as per the requests made by respective institutions.
Software for administration can include Student Administration Systems, and some others for
maximizing the use of the physical infrastructure such as classroom and seminar room
scheduling and so on. As with educational software, all user-centric software must support
multiple devices including mobile phones. Additionally, it must also support Indian languages.
Shared Software: Only representative software will be created and installed to showcase the
value of shared web-based software for administration and student management. Two
examples could be the following 1) Online registration of hardware MAC addresses that
matches with student IDs for secure wireless access. This form should be designed in such a way
as to lead to the creation of a database of resource persons in the field of education 2) Student
Management System using Open ERP which will help institutions handle more students easily.
Software services provided over the network - An indicative list of services include the
following (institutions can chose from the list depending on what services they already have)

Basic institutional e-mail with anti-spam, anti-virus and support for web and mobile
mail;
Protected (Safe) Web Surfing with Internet Filters and site permissions based on users;
Website Hosting with a Content Management System and training for site maintainers;
33

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem

Directory and Phonebook LDAP directory with rights and all user data;
Registration and Role based Secure Access of Resources including wireless;
Content hosting (Text, Audio, Video) and Video on Demand;
Network and Systems Monitoring with alerts on mail and SMS and escalation; and
Hosted ERP services.

Data Centre Access to shared software will be provided from a shared data centre. The goal is
to showcase the fact that server resources can be shared by many institutions as a low cost
solution. As virtualization technologies mature more of them can be inducted for better
efficiency.

Benefits of the Pilot:


Assuming that adequate funding is available, the first step is to identify the organizations that
would like to participate in the Pilot. After which, would follow a period of extensive
requirement gathering of all the facilities that these institutions would like to have. This can be
accomplished by engaging with stakeholders at all levels and classifying the requirements into
two sets the ones that can be generalized to other institutions (most) and those that are
specific (few). This knowhow must be written up and enhanced throughout the Pilot as part of
the set of whitepapers and experience documents that will eventually become the bulk of the
shareable material created by the Pilot. A careful study of requirements from a cross section of
institutions will provide real data about the detailed hardware, software and services that
educational institutions really need.
Execution can then begin, with Vendors being brought on board as required and costs being
recorded meticulously as unit prices that will go into creating the larger business plan. This is
the second important benefit of a good representative Pilot. Realistic inputs of actual cost
during the Pilot will enable a much better estimate of the costs of scaling out the infrastructure
to all educational institutions in the country.
On the question of choice of institutions, it was felt that in Maharashtra, Mumbai University,
Pune University or even SNDT University, a less-complex yet multi-state university, could be a
judicious choice. Mumbai University, in particular, could be an ideal choice because:

34

It is one of the oldest universities in the country. Perhaps the Maharashtra government
would be interested in introducing state of the art infrastructure here first.
The University has been declared as a University with a potential for excellence by the
UGC and allocated additional funds. The University may like to consider using some of
those funds for ICT infrastructure.
There is considerable interest from within the University departments to try and induct
ICT, particularly for distance learning programs.

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


About Observer Research Foundation Mumbai
Observer Research Foundation is a multidisciplinary public policy think tank started in Delhi
in 1990 by the late Shri R K Mishra, a widely respected public figure, who envisaged it to be a
broad-based intellectual platform pulsating with ideas needed for Indias nation-building. Its
areas of focus are Energy Security, International Relations and Defence. In its journey of over
twenty years, ORF has brought together leading Indian policymakers, academics, public figures,
social activists and business leaders to discuss various issues of national importance. ORF
scholars have made significant contributions towards improving government policies, and have
produced a large body of critically acclaimed publications.
In January 2010 ORF Mumbai was re-established, under the chairmanship of Mr. Sudheendra
Kulkarni, to pursue the vision of the foundation in Indias business and financial capital. We
have selected a broad mandate, consisting of six diverse research areas for our work: Education,
Public Health, Urban Renewal, Inclusive and Sustainable Development, Youth Development and
Promotion and Preservation of Indias Priceless Heritage, Arts and Culture. In June 2010 the
Centre for the Study of Maharashtra @ 50 was inaugurated to commemorate the 50th
anniversary year of the state. ORF's Centre for the Study of Indian Knowledge Traditions is
another ambitious initiative. It has organised lectures by eminent scholars on Indias
contribution to astronomy, mathematics and other sciences. It has also sought to promote
traditional systems of medicine and yoga for health and well being. ORF Mumbais mission
statement is: Ideas and Actions for a Better India.
Some of the recent research reports produced by ORF Mumbai include:
A study on the NCHER Bill (2010) and Higher Education Reforms
A study on Promotion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for
Maharashtra and ICTs in Marathi
A study on Sanitation on Mumbais Suburban Railways
A study on Mumbais Second Airport Too Little too Late
A Report on Affordable Housing for Mumbais Poor
Some of the recent Roundtable discussions and other events are:

Open and Green Spaces for a Healthier Mumbai


Affordable Housing: Policies for Mumbais Poor
Problems faced by Maharashtras Farming Community: The Need to Promote Best
Practices in Sustainable Agriculture
Reforms in Medical Education to Promote Affordable & Accessible Healthcare for All
Joint Roundtable with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on A Vision for
Mumbais Healthcare needs
A Bridge over the Himalayas: Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of India-China
Diplomatic Relations
A lecture series by eminent scientists titled Gurus of Science. Lectures have been
delivered by Nobel Laureate scientists Dr. Jean Marie Lehn and Dr. Harold Kroto. Other
speakers include Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Dr. Spenta R. Wadia and Dr Syed Maqbool Ahmed

35

Inclusive Access to Quality Education: Tackling the Scale Problem


Acknowledgments
ORF would like to thank all the participants who attended the Roundtable and presented us
with their valuable insights. We are especially grateful to Dr. Sunil Sherlekar, Dr. Sasi Kumar, Mr.
Hitesh Ashar, Dr. S. Ramakrishnan for chairing the sessions and for their helpful guidance before
and after the Roundtable. Prof. Sebastian Morris and Dr. S. Ramakrishnan came from out station
especially for this meeting and we are very appreciative.
ORF would like to like to particularly thank the Tata group for their strong presence at the
Roundtable. We would like to express the hope that they will continue to work with us in
making this endeavour a reality. Specifically, we would like to thank Mr. Chetan Pisal of Tata
Communications for his presentation on Cloud Computing and Mr. N. Srinath, MD and CEO of
Tata Communications, for his sustained support.

About the Author


Dr. Leena Chandran-Wadia, Senior Research Fellow, ORF Mumbai
Leena received her Ph.D in physics from IISc Bangalore. Her post-doctoral
work was at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She has been a researcher at several
places in India and abroad including NCST Mumbai (now CDAC), EPFL and
CERN in Switzerland. More recently she has served as Senior VP and CTO at
Netcore Solutions Pvt. Ltd., a startup company in the space of Mobile ValueAdded Services. She left Netcore to pursue her passion the use of ICT to
bring about societal change. At ORF she is doing research and advocacy in
the areas of Education, Public Health and Sustainable Agriculture.

36