Digital ‘Jugaad’ Puts Education-In-A-Box For Rural Kids

Ever wondered if children living in remote areas of India have even seen a tablet? Or held one and learnt their lessons, when there is no steady electricity supply to their villages, or even teachers available? Well, someone has made this happen now. Founder & Director, Edtech, Buddha Burman has set up Digital-Education-in-a-Box (DEIAB). He was inspired by a conversation he had with a friend, Rohini, who had spent a few years in West Bengal and the North-East and had described some of the schools she had come across in the rural and tribal areas.

Burman told NetworkedIndia, “She went on to mention a study called the ‘Digital Youth Project’ conducted by the MacArthur Foundation a few years ago. The study explored how digital media is changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. As per the study, the term digital divide, when used a decade ago, described the gap between those who had access to computers and the Internet and those who did not.”

“While doing some field test in a remote, rural school, a kid approached us and asked: ‘Will this system help me in becoming a Scientist?’ We were moved to see the dream of a rural kid and this motivated us to find a way to educate millions of rural kids, so they can live their dreams. Also most of the big educational companies, only focus on the urban population segment.”

He added, “Today, it is less about access to technology and more about participation. Participation includes the quality of engagement and what people are doing with the technology that they have access to. This, along with my experience at the rural schools that I had visited, motivated us to start thinking about something that could bridge the digital divide. Thus, arose the idea that led to the building of this operational prototype.”

DEAIB is an advanced portable education platform that extends the ability to create a digital classroom in the middle of nowhere – without the need for buildings or electricity. So, imagine a Wi-Fi-enabled classroom in a pristine location, where digital content, tablets, and quality teachers, engage students and make a positive impact on their learning and performance.

The complete ecosystem features affordable hardware, software and long range Wi-Fi, tablets for autonomous learning, teachers for supported learning, and innovative educational content. An intermittent connection to the cloud enables the syncing of data between the remote hub and the central cloud server, thus helping DEIAB track learning progress and the effectiveness of the system. This platform will act as a service model and will drive accessibility in remote areas.

For the DEIAB team, who were also finalists at the mBillionth Awards South Asia 2015, the biggest challenge was to build a system which is hi-tech, yet simple enough to be used by people in rural areas. So they designed the system to be portable and which works with very low power, using solar energy, and connected to a long range antenna which creates a Wi-Fi zone of around 1 km, so students can use tablets easily.

Having made such a laudable attempt to create a level playing-field for children lacking resources, for Burman, the icing on the cake is when people come to see how the system works and then are amazed about it. And he loves it, when he hears this from many parents: “Babuji agar yeh baksa humarey bachhon ko miljaye, toh woh bhi afsar ban jayenge.” (If our children get this ‘box’, even they will become officers.”)

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