5G boost to India's digital learning

5G will help propel India’s position as a global economic and technological powerhouse
Last Updated 27 February 2023, 20:20 IST

Recently, India added another feather to its cap with the launch of the much anticipated 5G telecom service. The launch of this next-generation technology has ushered the country into a novel direction of digital transformation that enables seamless wireless connectivity, thereby strengthening India’s digital governance goals. What distinguishes 5G in India from other nations is its potential to offer high 5G data speeds, massive bandwidth and network capacity, ultra-low latency, increased coverage, and more dependability. India’s major advantages in digital connectivity are its cheaper cost of devices, its vast user base, and its economical cost of data.

5G will help propel India’s position as a global economic and technological powerhouse. Moreover, this technological leap will provide new opportunities for start-ups to innovate and solve existing technological barriers, besides augmenting job creation and thereby contributing to India’s economic resilience. One major area where India can take its developmental journey to new heights is by utilising 5G technology to transform its educational sector.

Despite all efforts, India still ranks low in terms of the Human Development Index. As per HDI 2022, India’s global ranking is 132 out of 191 countries and territories. Therefore, leveraging the services of 5G in the education sector will unleash the potential of India. The National Education Policy 2020 has provisioned a suitable eco-system to penetrate digital learning. For example, a national repository of high-quality resources on foundational literacy and numeracy has been made available on the Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA). Secondly, digital libraries are being established. The interventions to transform the education system through digital technology will be energised with the 5G rollout.

The Covid-19 school closures opened many new ways of learning. The Government of India developed new contact-free online methods of teaching, learning, and educational planning. Moreover, resources for students and teachers were made available online.

However, connectivity remains a barrier in the implementation of these programmes in remote areas. The rollout of 5G technology will be a game changer. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) will bridge the internet coverage gap at low costs, which will boost its deployment not only in rural and remote areas but also bring hope to underserved communities. Once in place, the network will aid in addressing educational disruptions in future pandemic- like disasters.

With 5G services, new learning platforms based on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies will enhance students’ learning experiences and can be used to live stream lessons in real-time with high resolution. With the connectivity needed to respond in real time, robots will potentially help students with special needs. Digital smart classrooms and learning will assist children and adolescents in developing creative thinking skills as well as their curiosity for research and development.

However, the benefits of online/digital education cannot be leveraged unless the digital divide is eliminated through concerted efforts, such as the Digital India campaign and the availability of affordable computing devices. It is important that the use of technology for online and digital education adequately addresses concerns about equity.

Equally important is a stable, widespread power infrastructure that provides reliable, cheap, and uninterrupted electricity to support the use of technology. Given the ambition to move towards a more blended learning system, there is a need to consider the changing role of teachers and the support they may need.

The 5G FWA is a key factor in leading India’s digital education goals, which will play a crucial role in enhancing student learning experiences, increasing educational coverage, and facilitating learning for students with special needs. It has the potential to transform a conventional classroom in a remote
corner of the country into a global classroom.

The technology is already launched in 13 major cities across the country, and to further boost our digital education revolution, the technology needs to be implemented throughout the country quickly. The government has taken a keen interest in transforming India digitally; however, to pace up our digital ambitions with global standards, an effective implementation plan, which will not replace but operate with conventional education, is needed.

(Jha is Director and Kalal is Dy. Secretary, GoI, NITI Aayog.)

(Published 27 February 2023, 17:38 IST)

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