Cyberspace, according to Sociologists, had become a space completely occupied by the elitist group of the society. In this age of science and technology, the basic knowledge of computers and computing systems is what measures literacy. The nation, the half of whose population was illiterate, can never achieve development in its true sense if the people from the slum and the lowest class are not included in the mainstream education system that is well equipped with technological studies and information practice. What is drastic and even more alarming is that more than half of the population has never seen or touched a computer, let alone have their way around it. Hole in the Wall Experiment in India is an initiative that aims to bring computer education to the masses
As they say, it all started with a little idea. In January 1999, Sugata Mitra made a ‘Hole In The Wall’ (and hence the name Hole in the Wall Experiment) that connected the urban NIIT campus with the rural Slum area. He put a computer with internet and browsing facilities right outside the hole on the other side of the wall and waited patiently for the results. The computer soon sparked the interests of many of the slum children and they started to use it. Within no time they taught themselves how to use the computer to paint, play games and Google their never ending questions. This is what led to Mitra hypothesizing that anybody can acquire basic skills of computing if the learners are provided with even minimum facilities of computing and browsing. All that was important was the initiative and a little bit of encouragement and motivation.
Soon a chain of such computers were installed that came up with even better results. This developed into a private organisation by the name of The Hole In The Wall who took up this initiative to educate the have-nots. It was aided by a number of state governments and also the federal government. A total annual budget of around 50 million rupees was settled for the same. More than 500 computers in more than 30 villages across India have been set up to give free access to learning the basic computing skills.
Started under the name of ‘Minimally Invasive Education’, as it required minimal guidance of the instructor to learn the skills, this novel scheme won Prof. Mitra the prestigious TED award. He had actually initiated a global change that could completely change the face of India in the upcoming years. India is a nation that has more than half of its population living in the rural areas and this education programme had set out to educate that very unprivileged lot. The idea was to decrease the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and poor, the privileged and the underdog. Any small job, let it be a watchman at a big firm to grade four clerk at a small office one needs to have the basic knowledge of computers. This set up is a boon for the inhabitants of the rural areas who never had the opportunity to acquaint themselves well with computers so that they can aspire to get better jobs and dream higher.
It was an idea, as Prof. Mitra believed, that could, if not completely curb, challenge the ideology that believes in retaining knowledge and power in the upper stratum of society. What started with a little, hesitant experiment has reached unbelievable heights, speaking for itself within minutes of launching it.