Scrapping ‘Cyber Age’ is a blunder

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
29 March 2010 17:44 IST

Chief minister Digambar Kamat, according to me, has made a grave mistake by scrapping the Cyber Age scheme for students. The education department, as per the scheme, was supplying computers to all the students once they pass Std XI, at nominal price.

I could understand if the scheme was scrapped due to paucity of funds. It's not. Instead, Digambarbab has replaced it with computer labs in the schools. It consists of additional 10 computers, two printers, UPS and internet connectivity.

Unfortunately, he has met the demand of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It did not come from the educational fraternity.

To be precise, the GCCI stand was like this: "Cyber Age scheme should be scrapped and instead efforts should be made to set up computer labs, particularly in rural areas, where students from schools should be imparted computer education".

Sadly, neither the GCCI nor the chief minister realised the basic concept behind the Cyber Age scheme. More sadly, Digambar proved with this announcement that his government does not look at any scheme from conceptual point of view. They are simply made to please the people.

Otherwise, can a school-based computer lab with limited number of PCs be an alternative to home-based individual computer, ‘owned' by each and every eligible student?

It's true that the scheme has many lacunae. Firstly, right from the beginning, poor quality computers were supplied to the students. Secondly, the department had miserably failed on the part of maintenance. Thirdly, one house got three, four and even five computers under this scheme. Fourthly, public treasury was wasted on supplying computers even to the wealthy students, who already had computers at home.

The scheme was started by Manohar Parrikar, during his regime, in    2002. It was, no doubt, a populist scheme. Students and parents were over joyous. Its basic concept was nice. It did not keep the e-learning limited to the campus. It was taken home. Through the student, the whole family was roped into e-education.

I have personally seen such homes in rural areas, where the first generation was a student or had passed Std X. I have shared their (parents) joy, their curiosity, their urge to even learn the computer. Obviously, it begins, and it has to begin, with games...

Exposing to a computer is not a simple exposure to any normal machine. It opens Pandora's box for them. If powered with Internet, each home is filled with the whole universe. Moreover, with the recent BSNL scheme, each home in the rural areas can get a broadband connection, only for Rs 99.

The BSNL launched the scheme in March.... and the government scrapped the Cyber Age scheme the same month....

Is chief minister Digambar Kamat aware of this BSNL scheme? Is he aware what revolution it had made in homes when a computer was connected? Is he aware ‘what' he has disconnected the people from?

When we confronted him on TV debates, Kamat was wise enough to alter his stand that he would review the Cyber Age scheme. But will he actually do it?

And dear GCCI, can you tell me in what way a computer lab in the school building can replace these e-homes? Or don't you want e-homes?

I fully support the demand of strengthening the computer labs in the schools. In fact they have to, when the mere computer trainers have now been made the permanent computer teachers.

But, please, not at the cost of Cyber Age scheme.

Instead, the education department needs to streamline the Cyber Age scheme. This good scheme was initially exploited by Parrikar's close aides to swindle by supplying sub-standard computers. And the culture continued...

In fact, I hear that education minister Babush Monseratte was upset with the chief minister because funds were not released for Cyber Age computers of last year. He, it seems, even threatened to topple his government if the funds were not released. Definitely not for the love of students...

Finally, Digambarbab satisfied Babush. The funds were released for the last year.

Has it been scrapped now to settle political scores with Babush? By making the whole student community a scapegoat?

Or is it to satisfy the industry, which is simply not bothered to understand the wonders it had made, especially in the rural areas?

The scheme thus needs to be streamlined. The education department needs to set up a committee of ‘sincere' IT experts and educationists, for checks and balances, so that good quality computers reach students.

In fact, the Cyber Age scheme should be seen as a foundation of beginning a new era of making Goa a hub of IT, by making villages as it epicentres. Instead, we are still planning for IT habitats etc at central urban places like Dona Paula.

IT hubs or habitats is an urban concept, for cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mangalore etc.  Not for Goa, which is a city state. Its road network and communication network is far better than any other state in the country. The educational standard in the villages, in fact, is much better than the cities.

By creating e-culture across the length and breadth of Goa through the Cyber Age scheme, the education department needs to identify the students interested in this field and provide computer labs for them in the campus for an organised upgraded IT education.

On the other hand, the IT industry needs to be concentrated in the villages rather than centring it around IT hubs and habitats in urban areas. Each house could become the IT hub. Under the Goa Broadband scheme, the state government has already connected all the villages with high bandwidth internet connectivity. This could play wonders in the villages.

A committee set up for IT development under the chairmanship of Vijay Bhatkar could think of developing IT on these lines, in a unique manner. Its one of the members Ashank Desai is originally from Gaodongri in Canacona. He could reach this height because he got an opportunity to study in the town. If this committee plans for village-based IT education and IT business, Goa could create many more Ashank Desais from the villages.

The Cyber Age scheme is a door of Alibaba's IT treasure, hidden in Goa's villages. Don't seal it, simply with the fear of 40 thieves.... we know where they sit!

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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Previous Comments

i fully agree with you Dr. Srinivas you have rightly pointed out basic problem of infrastracture. writing about qualified teachers i feel education dept. should conduct regular training workshops for teachers and make it mandatory for teachers to attend so that they get updated with latest changes in infromation techonology.

- sanjay p Sawant Dessai, Curchorem Goa | 13 th April 2010 06:40

 

without assessing the motto of srapping cyber age scheme and launch of computer labs in schools, i would focus on some different aspects: defenitely the computer labs with internet will benefit and have some positive effect for school children. However to assess the past performance of school labs existing in rural goa depicts that, most of the schools are not having regular electric supply, so supply of computers to such areas is a wastage of resources. large number of schools don't even have the qualified teachers. there are some instances wherein the so called computer teachers don't even know to write email ids. for instance i met one teacher from sanguem taluka writing email id starting with www. This is the fate of our computer teachers. in such circumstances the government should improve basic rural infracstructure and then infiltrate such schemes for maximum harness. otherwise such schemes may not benefit the students effectively.

- Dr. G. SRINIVAS, CURCHOREM | 11 th April 2010 11:19

 

I fully agree with Sandesh. I was skeptical of the scheme when it was launched due to the malpractices followed in allotting the contracts.

The PC along with BSNL's attractive offer would have given a great advantage to our students in this era of social networking and online applications. The real reason behind scrapping must be something else but the real losers are Goan students especially coming from poor and rural areas.

- Ramrao Wagh, Goa | 06 th April 2010 16:14

 

Instead of wasting breath, words and e-time on the merits/demerits of "the cyberage scheme" vis-a-vis "more computers in labs", I think we should be vocal about more serious issues like paucity of good teachers in schools and the undesired plethora of private tuition classes. Let us not miss the wood for the trees. After all, if computers and the internet were the answer to all educational drawbacks, how come the US of A does not produce the best?

- Dilip, Margao | 05 th April 2010 23:52

 

To Amit: I think ideal and foolproof way to examine, assess, bring up a child or an ideal governance which is also acceptable to everybody, all these are utopian concepts.

How does one control a child that he or she does not read pornographic books, does not smoke or drink, and not do a variety of other activities which would shudder any parent? In fact they would do many of these things, without parents knowing it. Important is they should not get carried away with it. Here I think mature love and affection of parents is important to keep the child on track. Internet is knowledge power, so parents should inculcate love for all round knowledge, relaxation by different arts, science and literature available on i'net into children. Even with this, some may go astray, but that should not mean all should be closetted under the pallu of their mothers. I suggest you read a story titled 'September' by Somerset Maugham. It beautifully describes how to love a child.

- Kalidas Sawkar, Goa-India | 03 rd April 2010 18:45

 

Kalidas, I did not mean not to ever use internet I meant how does one regulate the misuse at home. Also the best is to open some avenues to children only when they are mature to handle it.

I am ok to drinking Coca-cola but after 16-18 yrs of age i.e. after puberty ..so the caffeine does not affect the child's growth.

Frankly we are not evolving any different from how America evolved .. in terms of modernization. Hence we should be careful as what we want to incorporate in our society as a requirement versus a leisure/mis-use of any technology.

American kids were exposed to many such things and I don't. They have very well used it...hence moderation and right time is very critical in a child's development.

I am a big fan of interent hence am a Netizen :-)

- Amit, Goa | 03 rd April 2010 02:32

 

Well equiped lab is required for the training purpose and not to practice. As it is Practically not possible, If we consider on an average 200 students per school (as in villages where personal computer is unaffordable) and 10 computers per lab (as Sandesh said), with five hours a day (school time that too for only 210 working days which includes examination and curricular, co-curricular activities), then how much time will each student get to practice?

When any scheme is framed and implimented, in due course the scheme should be evaluated to find and rectify its shortcomings.

The only Good thing may come out of this decision is revival of student movement (I mean as few years back students were on roads to demand computers for themselves.)

- Chetan, Canacona | 01 st April 2010 21:29

 

After some years, if Digamber Kamat does get tired and retired, he is going to be amazed at his skill as a trapez artist.

***

His detractors should not be happy at this comment, for they take full blame for it by their greed for kodels. I suggest before the next elections names of these G-7 should be printed repeatedly so voters know who is what.

- Kalidas Sawkar, Goa-India | 30 th March 2010 17:25

 

I totally agree with you. Computer lab with ten computers cannot be equated with Cyber - Age scheme . Student can learn and make best use of computer only when they have it at home.

Secondly quality of computers supplied and providing good after-sale service is also important for success of cyber age scheme.

I think for success one needs not only opportunity but exposure is also equally important.

- Sanjay p Sawant Dessai, Curchorem goa | 30 th March 2010 06:22

 

In my lexicon, denial to internet is a crime, a social and intellectual suffocation. It retards the growth of mind and national progress. Only conservative minds (Muslims in UP are reported to have expressed their displeasure at internet being used by their children) or people with vested interests could deny this opportunity to children of Goa.

- Kalidas Sawkar, Goa-India | 30 th March 2010 00:08

 

I agree to Sandesh here ... the lack of vision over the concept of any scheme.

Also from convenience perspective I think it is wise to hand over a computer to the student rather then make them sit at school all the time.

Also parents should be advised over misuse of internet and they should not be encouraged to buy it in the first place.

Moreover with the cyberage scheme I think if every student has a computer, then assignments should be computer drafted .. that way the students would use it for more fruitful purposes rather than planning Computer or Online Games

- Amit, Goa | 29 th March 2010 23:53

 

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