To provide hands-on internet experience to students in rural schools, IIT Bombay is collaborating with the Nehru Science Centre in which volunteers trained by the students and faculty of IIT Bombay will show how content can be accessed with a click. The “internet for all” project, which is being piloted at 26 rural schools in Nashik district and was launched Tuesday, will be a facility incorporated in Nehru Science Centre’s mobile science exhibition bus and will cover a distance of 650 km. The aim is to literally take internet to the doorsteps of students studying in remote parts of the state.
“Conventional education is extremely rigid with little scope for creative thinking. Such outside syllabus exposure is the need of the day to motivate students. We need to tell students, who have no idea about the internet, that there’s something called connectivity and web pages, how the net works, how browser works. Digital divide, in my opinion, could be worse than social divide,” said IIT Bombay Professor D B Phatak.
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The initiative is being launched as part of ‘Techfest’, the annual science and technology festival of IIT Bombay, which is scheduled to be held in December this year. Phatak also said that by year-end, an executable plan for scaling up the project will be ready, which can include net capsules in multiple languages. “As connectivity progresses to villages, we should already have children who know how to use the internet,” he added.
According to Professor Phatak, after accessing Marathi sites with interesting content, the latter was downloaded on a single server, which can simulate several servers.
Each bus will have three volunteers, a laptop with Wi-Fi connectivity and five Aakash tablets. “All tablets will be connected to the laptop and students will be able to access meaningful content in Marathi. They will first see the science exhibits on the bus and subsequently experience the internet. Taking a cue from this project, we are planning to scale it up. We can have 20 such buses, 20 laptops, 100 Aakash tablets and internet capsules or content can be created in multiple local languages. The only bottleneck could be selection and training of volunteers for the project,” he said.
The mobile science exhibition is an exhibition on wheels in which 20 theme-based models are mounted on a specially designed bus and was started in 1965. It is the flagship rural outreach science education programme of the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM). Currently, NCSM has a fleet of 20 such buses, attached to various science centres across India.
The exhibition remains on tours for six to seven months in a year in two phases and covers upto 50 sites in each phase. The idea is to enthuse students to take up careers in science and technology and the bus remains in a rural school for two days at each site.
“The bus will travel to rural areas fully equipped with equipments and infrastructure. Besides giving hands-on internet experience, volunteers will be responsible for educating rural school students about the power of the internet in delivering services in areas like health, education, agriculture, banking etc in rural areas,” said Shivaprasad Khened, Nehru Science Centre director.