By Volunteer Roshni Subramani, FHI Kolkata
A global pandemic has created havoc in the education sector in the past one year, and teachers, trainers and students have begun to take it in their stride to become digitally fluent. This article entails for a close assessment of the significance and expansion of India’s Digital Literacy Outreach programs, and Digital Literacy as a significant life skill. The context here is to analyze the policies taken up by the Ministry of Education for promoting digital literacy and enhancing infrastructure requirements. This article will also study the importance of such a literacy skill in school curriculums and how Digital Literacy stands at par with basic literacy. Once analyzed, the article shall also gauge the existence of several roadblocks when it comes to the availability and accessibility of such tools and measures adopted by the government.
For the advancement of Digital Literacy in India, there are four major programs initiated by the government of India. The Digital India Programme, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Sakshatra Abhiyan, National Digital Literacy Mission and the Bharat Net Programme. For a child to keep up with the lightning pace of today’s modern markets, he or she or they should learn to procure some major 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, information literacy, technology literacy, media literacy, initiative, leadership and social skills. These skills are usually categorized into learning, literacy and life skills. Under literacy we have digital literacy. The introduction of digital literacy to school curriculums and teacher training programs will help both teachers and students use digital tools which is a manifestation of applying, searching, evaluating, assimilating and utilizing the information procured online. Teachers and students must have digital literacy tool kits. The digital tools are like building blocks which will help children in adapting to digital prerequisites as specified in their respective projects. However with the Covid 19 crisis, millions of children are losing their chances of interacting with their playmates physically, and are now part of virtual playrooms. So in the context of a classroom or a playroom, digital literacy in a professional mentor signifies awareness and basic proficiency of a large range of IT tools. This would evaluate the teacher’s calibre to utilize the ‘model of technology, media and social media through appropriate behaviour and skills.’
The Digital Literacy skill, is an essential skill because it –‘helps nourish a positive attitude towards digital technology. Encourages “self-regulation” to control the instincts of digital overuse and abuse. Should display safe on-line behaviors by following cyber-safety protocols and help in developing the aptitude for using digital tools for problem solving.’ – Rashmi Chari in Edutrends India.
However, the problem of digital divide in India has been an ongoing issue even before the advent of Covid 19. In India, according to the NSSO data, (National Sample Survey Office | Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation), only 4.4% of rural households and 23.4% of urban households own computers. ‘In the year 2020, while 42% of urban households have computers with internet connection, the same is available to only 14.9% of rural households.’ A report produced by Nielson in 2019 asserts that West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand record the lowest in the graph of internet facilities. Remote learning therefore becomes an ordeal due to the unavailability of resources. ‘ In conclusion, Digital Literacy is yet to make an impact in a developing country like India, where it becomes imperative for the expansion of availability and accessibility of digital resources to all parts of society, without discrimination.