"We live in an amazing time when technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives—at breathtaking speed.”
- A Cloud for Global Good, by Satya Nadella and Brad Smith
In their book ‘A Cloud for Global Good’, Satya and Brad emphasise on the importance of Digital Literacy - to drive social change.
“ While the connection between digital literacy and economic opportunity is well-understood, many governments are struggling to reach their goals for increasing digital literacy, particularly in the face of competing policy priorities and limited budgets. The answer lies in expanding access to digital literacy education and skills training through programs that emphasize computer programming and other essential 21st century skills, including digital communication and collaboration, computational thinking, and problem-solving.”
This speed of change is even more breathtaking for a dynamic country like India, where adoption of digital practices has become more than a necessity - thanks to the penetration of consumer messaging apps (primarily whatsapp), availability of cheap smartphone options for the masses, and more recently - the demonetisation drive by the government to eradicate corruption and cash economy - forcing millions of people to learn more about internet banking, plastic money, mobile wallets, ecommerce and other electronic alternatives to cash.
The progress of digital literacy across India is pretty impressive. Driven by the power of 65% population below the age of 35, smartphone adoption in India is exploding. While number of mobile subscribers has already crossed 1 billion mark (http://www.forbes.com/sites/saritharai/2016/01/06/india-just-crossed-1-billion-mobile-subscribers-milestone-and-the-excitements-just-beginning/#2e27e66f5ac2), smartphone users are currently less than 150 million, expected to grow to 640 million by 2019.
The good news
People in India are eager to learn and adopt to change. This change is evident in day to day conversations - large number of business, trade and even agricultural information exchange has started to happen over messaging apps. Small shop owners in urban and rural areas altogether are adopting and opening up to mobile payments, card payments, receiving orders through messages, etc. Work life is not the same at any level or any type of business or professional activity. After PM Modi’s demonetisation master stroke, even older ‘bank passbook’ generation is enquiring and learning about how to use internet, mobile and ATM cards.
And this is a very urgent and immediate literacy need for millions of ‘digitally illiterate' Indians.
The adoption is still low, and significant public and private training and skills development effort and initiatives are needed to enable digital literacy. Older generation and rural population are specially at risk of being left out, and needs to part of this inclusive growth. Uninterrupted access to internet and mobile services is another bottleneck that will require significant investments. Internet privacy, security and safety literacy is equally important and should be part of the digital education programs.
Large scale digital literacy can be enabled by some of the most compelling and emerging technologies out there.
- Cloud based products and platforms can play a very important role to bring about this social change. Large scale programs can be rolled out by governments and organisations without upfront capital investments.
- Low code app development programs can be used to design learning apps and curriculum that are easy and convenient for users.
- Covering the language barrier through the use of advanced intelligent platforms.
- Messengers and chat bots apps to provide the user friendly personal touch and reducing the need for physical trainers.
- Advanced machine learning and intelligent assistant platforms like Cortana, Google Now, Alexa and Siri can be most useful to drive adoption and improve education program effectiveness.
Clearly, this is the fourth industrial revolution in action - digital transformation enabling social change - and right here in developing countries like India! The full impact of this revolution will take a few years to unfold but will be much faster than earlier revolutions - at a breathtaking speed!