Interaction with Prabhat Pani, Project Director, Tata Trusts, on Digital Interventions for India

We found out more about the ICT initiatives by Tata Trusts over an interaction with Prabhat Pani, Project Director, Tata Trusts.

Prabhat Pani is the director of Tata Trusts, one of India's oldest non-sectarian philanthropic organisations, which uses the internet and emerging technologies to develop communities. The organisation is particularly active in rural India, with a focus on promoting digital literacy among women and children.

Tata Trusts is collaborating with Khan Academy to build a platform that delivers India-oriented education material to students, in both online and offline channels. Tata Trusts has worked with the Government of Uttar Pradesh to digitise the Public Distribution System.

Project Druv is an initiative to transform the lives of rural and remote populations. CLIx is a project by Tata Trusts, TISS, and MIT for integrating information and communications technology solutions into high schools across India. By partnering with Google for Internet Saathi, Tata Trusts has launched a program where women teach their communities to use technology, boosting the digital literacy rates. An app is used to reduce mortality of mothers and children in the high risk Nandurbar district. We found out more about these initiatives.

Q: Can you tell us more about how you are adapting content for Indian languages, and for Indian curricula?
A: As part of the adaptation of Khan Academy’s mathematics content for Indian curriculum and languages, a careful process of adaptation and new content creation is being followed. A detailed curriculum mapping of the existing content to the national NCERT curriculum (and state curriculums where necessary) is underway. This involves not only matching the video and exercise titles to the curriculum strands, but also viewing each piece of content in detail to analyse if the methodology and examples are contextually relevant. During the process of translation to Indian languages, contextual alignment is also addressed. With State board curricula, as in the case of Rajasthan where we will start our first pilot, curriculum mapping will be done in collaboration with the State education departments.

At the early stages of the translation process (currently to Hindi), field surveys were conducted. Students and teachers were presented with the translated videos and exercises in an effort to understand if the language and terminologies used would be comfortable for use in the classroom. This exercise along with several classroom observations have informed the translation process. Care is being taken to ensure that voice over, as well as any on-screen text used, is in the local language.

Gaps identified in the content offering (curriculum topics for which there are no corresponding videos / exercises) will be filled with new content. Besides the core team, we also hope to tap into the vast pool of experienced teachers and academicians to contribute to locally relevant new content creation.

Q: How will the Khan academy material be made available through offline channels?
A: There are several ways in which we propose to make the Khan Academy content available through offline channels.

The first model entails the distribution of low-cost mini tablets with one device serving as a server. The offline product of the Khan Academy content – KA LITE is loaded on to the server and configured for use in a local network. A hot spot created within the classroom will allow students to access the content on their mini tablet. Teachers can use the server to monitor progress and analyse the dashboards.

Under the ICT@schools scheme, many schools have a computer lab with ten functioning computers. A similar LAN environment as above can be created within these labs with the offline offering pre-loaded on a designated server. This model may not allow for a 1:1 usage ratio. Therefore batching and grouping of students will have to be investigated to maximise positive learning outcomes.

An Android mobile app (available in both English and Hindi) configured with the major functionality of the web portal is being developed. This app can be used to download content to be used in an offline mode. Collaborations with telecom companies and SD card makers is envisaged to facilitate offline use through the mobile app.

Khan Academy

Q: How does the mother and child high risk tracking system work?
A: Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) is a program developed with the aim of real time tracking of beneficiary’s high risk indicators. mKhushali is an app which captures all mother and child related information Auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM) are supposed to enter in registers. It sends a message to the ANM, Anganwadi workers (AWW), Lady Supervisor and beneficiary when a high risk is identified and when a follow up visit has been missed.

Auxiliary Nurse and Midwives with tablets that support alerts. Image: Armman.

Auxiliary Nurse and Midwives with tablets that support alerts. Image: Armman.

Through a live dashboard all this information is segregated and arranged for real time monitoring by the district collector and other senior authorities. mKhushali app, acts as a job aid for the ANM, a frontline worker under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) who touches the lives of last mile, sparing her from the rigorous register entry followed by similar computer entry for record. This app also act as a work planner for the ANMs, assisting them with due visits and follow up of beneficiaries.

This app is loaded with region specific animated videos (created as part of this project) as counselling videos on pregnancy and child care to be played on Village Health Nutrition Days. Automated messages will help ANMs track high risk cases and follow up on cases who missed visits. It will save her from coordinating with AWW who will receive parallel messages. Lady supervisor can track information entered by ANM’s in real time and since she also receives parallel messages can check online for update on high risk cases.

Pregnant mother will be ensured of her minimum 3 (antenatal care) ANC visits and follow up on rigorous basis. She will be counselled using region specific animated videos on various pregnancy and child care topics for long lasted effect. This will also ensure scientifically correct, sound and full information each time for mothers. Through this program, mother and child’s pressing indicators will be addressed at the right time.

Real time tracking and follow up push will help close the loop of comprehensive health care for the mother. This is developed by ARMAAN and supported by Tata Trusts

Q: How did MIT contribute to CLIx?
A: Tata Trusts believes that technology has not only been instrumental in addressing the demand-supply gap for quality education, but has also fundamentally changed the nature of several educational processes. The Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx) is one such programme seeded by Tata Trusts in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), through which the Trusts actively works towards exploring innovations in the education sector.

MIT is a core, founding member of the CLIx team. They have been involved right from the outset in design and development. All curriculum modules have been developed in close collaboration with the MIT team. Pedagogical guidance, especially on how to leverage technology to create interactive modules, tool creation and supervision in the selection of appropriate available open source tools are but a few areas that MIT is involved in, where curriculum development is concerned. Design camps are held every year in MIT where the core development team interacts with leaders in education technology, to brainstorm on curriculum offerings and how best they can be delivered through technology and building capacity of the Indian team on technology integration.

MIT has played a fundamental role in developing the first generation CLIx delivery platform. Keeping in mind the issue of low connectivity in most parts of rural India, this platform is optimised for offline usage. Decisions and development of the next generation platform are being done in close association with MIT. Teacher Professional Development and research are other two CLIx components where MIT experts are closely working with the Indian leads.

CLIx leverages ICT to provide young people, especially from lower- and middle-income rural areas of India, access to engaging, interactive, and hands-on learning experiences. The aim is to equip students with practical skills required in the 21st century. It will be integrated with the school curriculum to maximise the benefit for students and teachers. The platform will help create an open ecosystem to foster collaboration for the educational ecosystem across schools.

MIT is committed to bringing quality education at scale to a variety of learners around the world. MIT is a global leader in Open Education through Courseware and using technology in education to transform learning experiences for students as well as create a model for the world.

CLIx will leverage existing tools and technologies to create curriculum aligned interactive digital modules, carefully select existing Open Educational Resources and train teachers in strong and research proven pedagogical practices. It aims to provide an opportunity for students and teachers to transform the learning experience.

Q: What are the carts in villages, for the Internet Saathi programme with Google?
A: In the age where information is a key factor for livelihood opportunities, it is imperative for everyone to be able to access widely available knowledge. Internet is the proven technology for quick and efficient way to gain access to such information. The partnership of Tata Trusts with Google India and Intel for Internet Saathi focuses on training communities to go online, whilst providing them access to internet powered devices and get important information on various things.

Launched in July 2015, Internet Saathi program is now live in the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Madhya Pradesh where the program has already reached out to over 26,000 villages with about 19,000 Internet Saathis in the process of covering more villages. Close to 12,00,000 women have benefited from the programme by getting trained on digital and internet literacy.

Internet Saathi focuses on providing basic training on the usage and benefits of Internet for women to ‘Saathis’/ ‘Master Trainers’ through specially designed Internet cycle carts which are used to visit areas in villages where women can easily access and also learn more from the Internet. The cycle carts are laden with internet enabled devices like tablets and smartphones used to impart training to the rural community in their own and neighboring villages. The final roll out of the program and the training of the master trainers which comprises of Self Help Groups and Women’s federations is overseen and facilitated by Tata Trusts through its field partners on ground. In order to drive broader access and continuity in usage after the training, Internet enabled devices like tablets and smartphones are also placed within the school premises, community centers, self-help group meeting places, agriculture centers, PHCs, etc. for optimum exposure and learning amongst the community.

The joint initiative is aimed at bridging the technology gender divide, which currently puts women in rural India at further risk of getting marginalised in the society as the world around them benefits from getting online. The ‘Internet Saathi’ initiative brings us closer to the Digital India vision of the country.

The Internet Saathi initiative has picked great speed and ammunition with Tata Trusts’ involvement and looks to further expand to different states in the country.

The influence of the program in Gram Panchayats has been profound with a positive impact on the life of the villagers, especially women. With access to information from different spectrums, women have started exploring various ways to generate new revenue such as embroidery and arts and crafts. Some of the villagers have started exploring revenue generation opportunities through ecommerce portals such as Flipkart, demonstrating the impact it has created in such a short span of time and the potential that digital initiatives can generate in rural areas of India.

Q: What kinds of technology does DRUV use?
A: DRUV provides digital empowerment to citizens, specifically in the rural areas, irrespective of their literacy levels by enabling access to a variety of services and governance on demand. Through DRUV we aim to utilise the TV, the most commonly available gadget in rural homes, to provide access to digital content.


Q: How will rural populations benefit from DRUV?
A: Internet connectivity and smartphone penetration in rural areas is increasing. However, there is little evidence to demonstrate that digital literacy has increased. This is because in order to access digital information through a computer, there needs to be more than a basic literacy level to understand and use keyboard. Smartphones, though prevalent, are not accessible to all members of the household. DRUV attempts to improve digital literacy by providing access to relevant content with the help of a simple remote. Through DRUV, we are attempting to address the issue of digital literacy.

The DRUV platform and hardware, is really device neutral. However, because of higher presence of TVs than personal computers or smartphones, it becomes an important device to address digital literacy. Moreover, TV along with a remote lends itself well to exploration. Each member of the household has access to it at specific times. Hence, TV could be an important device for digital literacy, if used creatively.

There is a commitment to successfully install and make a difference to around 100,000 households beginning with 30k in Rajasthan to build a useful and vibrant rural digital ecosystem through this platform and see strong evidence of the same.

Q: Do you have plans to digitise the public distribution system in other regions, apart from Uttar Pradesh?
A: Tata Trusts can help the government to pilot and demonstrate in few areas the digitisation of Public Distribution System. However, the government has to budget for capital costs and scale up. The benefits in terms of savings will accrue in big numbers in the course of time. The Trusts will continue to give technical support and help implementation. We would like to use our work in UP as an example to collaborate in any other state.

The objective of the Aadhar enabled Public Distribution System (AePDS) is to bring in operational accuracy and efficiency to the PDS and monitor the stocks of the Fair Price Shops (FPS), thereby insuring adequate supply of commodities to its beneficiaries. The digital system will eliminate leakages, reduce systemic inefficiencies and ensure transparency. Furthermore, it will monitor real time transactions and obtain beneficiary level data, which will aid in designing better more targeted policies and improved resource allocation and utilisation.

Leveraging the latest cutting edge technology, Tata Trusts worked with the Government of Uttar Pradesh to modernise the PDS system at scale by providing technical assistance and programmatic management support; provided trainings to FPS owners on the use of electronic Point of Sale devices; and monitored the progress of the utilisation of the electronic devices. Tata Trusts is also working with the GoUP and the Unique Identification Authority of India (“UIDAI”) to improve the seeding process of Aadhar numbers in ration cards and improve the Aadhar penetration by facilitating mobile enrolment centers around the Fair Price Shops to ensure complete transition to the AePDS.

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