Technology affects everyone everyday. Technology runs in the veins of society. It is the fuel that drives our lives. It is an integral part of daily life. It has definitely benefited society. It has brought luxury in the life of every common man. Automation brought about by technology has saved human effort and time to a large extent. It has brought distant places closer and simplified information access. It has made the world a smaller place to live in.
Let us look at some of the important areas, where technology has brought a positive change. Four years back we were working on a project called Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd (HiWEL) as local partners in the state of Nagaland which is a wholly owned subsidiary of NIIT Ltd. which was born out of the path breaking learning methodology, “Minimally Invasive Education”. Initiated as are search experiment in 1999 and later established in 2001, HiWEL uses its product and service offerings to facilitate learning through unconditional and public access to computers. In its endeavor to positively impact learning outcomes in elementary education and computer literacy, HiWEL also addresses the digital divide and school drop-out rate, and works towards providing effective and interesting teaching-learning experience.
HiWEL Playground Learning Centre (PLC) is much more than a rugged PC in an open playground setting. While the product offering consists of innovations in hardware technology, software technology and cognitive design, the service offerings such as periodic content upgrade, monitoring and evaluations, student-teacher orientation and elaborate community intervention programs ensure the efficacy of the initiative. The underlying idea is to supplement learning resources to enable creative and interactive self-learning in an informal setting. Children discover a versatile learning tool and they embark on a journey through experimentation, collaboration and social networking amongst learning communities.
We worked as local partners with HIWEL in the State to take care of the whole 11 districts in the state covering 80 project sites i.e. two learning stations in each project site. All these project sites were in the rural villages besides one each in the district head quarters. To monitor and execute (i.e. train the teachers and children and collect datas from the Learning station every month and report to Delhi Office and take care of both software and hardware of the learning machines) the projects in each districts we appointed one female Local Coordinator.
Why female, girls, women only?
When our Radio, TV, or any home appliances breaks down or not working what do we first do? We think to take it to a mechanic or engineer to get it repaired. Have you ever imagine taking your stuff to a female mechanic, engineer or etc for repair? No. This is what we wanted to let everyone say Yes (Women Empowerment).
Everyone doubts on us that girls will not be able to take the task assigned to them when we first took up the HiWEL Project as it is a male dominated job. The project sites are in the rural areas and they sometimes have to walk miles to reach the project sites and sometimes to carry the parts back for repairing. Through this project we have been able to change the perceptions of our people that such works are not only meant for male but even female can do and in fact female are steadier and better. My girls in the field instead of having lipsticks, eyebrow pencils and mascara their bags were filled with screw drivers, wires, tapes and CDs and etc. After this project we also imparted Mobile repairing training to girls and women where in the history of Naga people girls completed Training on Mobile Repairing. After this there is no turn back.
Society has always been impacted by technology. Each invention has affected how people relate to one another and how cultures have expanded or ended. Technology impacts how cities grow, where people live, and who owns what. We are at a crucial time in history where we as social educators can make a difference in how our peoples interact with one another and make a place for themselves in society.
The areas where my farmers live are all in the far flung areas of the state. The only means to connect these villages is by road which some of the villages it take 13 to 15 Hours journey by road. There are some villages which have no electricity and communicating to these places becomes very difficult.
When we first started working in some of these villages without our present technological programme we found so hard to communicate, understand, maintain and manage. Earlier they had to write down their problems and later write back to the head office. Now through our Video Conferences we can hear live from the very person and even give the reply immediately.
To make my writing more clearer I would like to answer these three questions
• What challenges do you, and women in your community, face when learning to use the Internet? How have you overcome them?
When we first started this programmes women were not cooperating with us to share their grievances and problems as they were afraid that their men will not be happy and might create problems in their families. Slowly they realized that it is for their own benefit and started to open up and cooperated with us. Even now good number of women has not yet even touches a mobile phone nor even operated.
NCHD-IT plans in five years from now these women groups take the whole initiatives in running this Vedio Conferencing Programme in their own respective villages and the organization will monitor from the Head office. Keeping this in mind, the organization invited women interested to learn the use of Computer and internet. A good number of women came forward who were interested. But the men folks came to us and said whatever you and your organization have done with our women is OK but regarding learning computer and uses of internet how frogs learn such sophisticated machines? Why are you wasting your time and our time as computer is for our children in schools but not for these women, they have more important work in the house and their fields? They stop their women to meet us. Later, we decided to select leaders from each colony in the villages and trained them when their men were out. Now some of them are comfortable using the computer and internet, but your field workers are still present in the villages so they still guide them.
• Have you helped train others on Internet use and digital literacy? How did you do it?
Within our Organization, four times a year we organized refresher courses and Motivational training online for office and field staff in the Head Office in Dimapur. Our resources persons are expert in their respective field and interact, teach and communicate through Vedio conferencing. Besides the training to our women folks in different villages throughout the year we give free training on Computer Application to children who are economically very weak.
We also keep in our mind that it is our duty as educators to guide students and other educators as they become innovative producers, teach them to become cautious consumers, and learn how they can use these tools to reach their fullest potential.
• What tools, resources, and trainings would you like to have access to in order to feel more comfortable using the Internet?
Since our work is all based in rural areas and electricity is not reliable, a good number of laptops are needed in the first place because there are very limited and the organization has no resources. A good battery backup is also very essential during the training programme.
We the organization is embarking into this same programme and invasion to expanding to the remaining districts and plans to cover all 2000+ officially declared villages in the state. We will be receiving different news, information, assignments and can communicate and reach out to larger groups at a time and for this we want to create a software which will regulate the whole programme systematically and if given a chance we can even connect with Women Weave the Web Campaign all the time.
With more people and crowded conditions, new technologies will be necessary to support and sustain us also. We will also make sure we use these tools to tell and protect our stories. Video, audio, images, and interactive features open doors to worlds and cultures that we and even our children could never learn in a book. We look forward to take these next few years to design digital ways to connect us not only to each other but to promote our values, to respect each other, and to encourage innovation as we develop a place for ourselves in this century!