For ages, literacy in rural households in its most rudimentary and exclusive definition has meant the ability of creating personal signatures on paper. India’s government, however, has been aiming to add a new dimension to this basic definition- eLiteracy! The government hopes to introduce digital literacy to at least one member of the 147 million poor households in our country by the year 2020.
Vittiya Sakshatra Abhiyan, VISAKA for short, is a riveting campaign adopted by higher educational institutions to directly participate in the making of digital India. Under this campaign, volunteers are sent out to spread education on digital literacy. The ministry allows these institutions to submit daily updates on their contribution. The HRD minister, Prakash Javedkar has visited several such institutions to inaugurate the Digital Literacy Campaign, Manipal University being one of them.
The Digital Literacy Campaign launched by Manipal University had four stages. The Campaign commenced with the training of student volunteers by around 50 teachers of the University. Shopkeepers and vendors around the city were taught how to perform digital transactions by four methods – Cards (PoS), e-Wallet, USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) and Aadhar Cards around various places in Manipal like Tiger Circle. Around 500 people were made aware of the working of digital transactions and management at MIS.
On the 7th of December, 2016, the volunteers went ahead with creating an interactive PowerPoint presentation to promote digital literacy the moment they were notified by the UGC. The presentation incorporated the rudimentary and introductory basics of IT literacy. They explained the advantages, methods, requirements and challenges of this campaign in a concise manner. The presentation introduced people to the elementary and reliable methods of digital cash management. Apart from the presentation, a publicity poster was created to promulgate the idea of ‘less-cash’ in Manipal. Many VSO volunteers signed up be a part of this transformative campaign.
The volunteers registered at the MHRD website and were assigned the task of educating at least twenty people each on the different methods of digital cash transactions. The pdf files sent by the MHRD were mainly used, going according to the fundamental guidelines laid down by the ministry. For the benefit of the general people in Manipal, the pocket guide was translated into a Kannada Audio-Visual. The Volunteer Services Organization of Manipal University aided the campaign with its volunteers. The whole town was brimming with activity as VISAKA awareness programs were being held in a diverse number of locations from MMMC (22nd December, 2016), DOC (23rd December, 2016) to SOIS (6th January, 2017). Hundreds of people attended these informative programs and actively participated, turning these initiatives into useful learning experiences. The Volunteers did not stop at these programs, a street play was organized by WGSHA and Syndicate Bank at Hiriadka. They successfully transformed a seemingly intimidating duty into an interesting acquisition.
After the commendable efforts made by the volunteers, the Registrar, Mr. Narayana Sahabit, addressed everyone with an articulate speech on marching towards a ‘less-cash’ society. Student volunteers left no stone unturned as they took feedback by the people they trained to ensure an all-round implementation of the campaign. There were varied responses but the absolute success of this campaign can be comprehended from the fact that many other eager villages reached out to the volunteers, asking for similar awareness programs.
Currently, in India, computer literacy is about 6.5 %. The question is, will the attention of literacy shift from that of the rudimentary definition to a more functional, digital one? If it does, will our country be able to catch up with the vast and interconnected web of interactive development.
Nida Khan | Manipal Institute of Technology (2016-2020)