This pandemic deepened the digital divide in India. Disadvantaged rural children, especially girls, have no computers and no Internet access, and have been unable to keep up with their studies. Numerous girls share one mobile phone as a group and share the data downloads that financially burden struggling families, thus being an obstacle to girls’ education. Many families do not see the value in providing girls with digital access.
With your support, and in partnership with the NGO NISHTHA, we are seeding the Digital Literacy Program in West Bengal with 5 desktop computers. Our goal is to create a large Computer Center with 100 computers and solid internet access, where hundreds and thousands of girls and women can come and learn computer skills, stay ahead of with their studies, and develop e-commerce skills – which will open up their job opportunities and increase their earning potential.
Specific objectives for the center include 1) increasing the number of girls taking secondary exams by 20% (which is the gateway to higher education and vocational training), 2) increasing the number of girls that enter the professional workforce or start their own business through vocational training by 20% 3) increasing the number of girls that pursue and obtain a college degree and graduate by 10%, 4) increasing the business expansion and revenue for microloan recipients by 10%.
We have surveyed the girls and women that will use the center to fully inform all the strategies and specific opportunities it can provide. Strategies that have been suggested and employed in the pilot Digital Literacy Program include basic computer training, advanced computer and software training (Microsoft), internet research methods, introduction to online banking, English language classes, utilizing WhatsApp for communication, and vocational training to prepare for lucrative job opportunities in the medical and technology fields. Additional strategies that have been identified via surveys include excel, inventory, and accounting training for the microloan recipients; introduction and access to e-commerce tools; conducting market research and building sales pages; applying for government programs for farming, and utilizing online design programs to support sari-stitching and other product design innovations.