Budget 2022: Bridge the digital divide, ensure last-mile connectivity, says private sector

Private edtech firms demand better internet connectivity infrastructure, allocation of funds for teacher-training, reduction in 18% GST, focus on online education, etc.

Budget 2022: Bridge the digital divide, ensure last-mile connectivity, says private sector Union Budget 2022: Expectations of private sector (Representational Image)
Vagisha Kaushik | Jan 24, 2022 - 4:03 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Private sector expects a budget that can bridge the digital gap, better internet connectivity infrastructure, allocation of funds for teacher-training, reduction in 18% GST, focus on online education, and bring urban and rural population closer.

Niru Agarwal, Trustee, Greenwood High International School, Bangalore expects that the upcoming budget needs to take conducive steps to bridge the digital divide gap so that learning solutions can be easily accessed by everyone as it’s a critical need at the ground level. Additionally, the government should announce programmes to promote better internet connectivity infrastructure across the country that ensure last-mile connectivity. "Also, the creation of tech hubs, from where quality vernacular content can be disseminated is the need of the hour. The government must also allocate funds for technological upgradation of educational institutions in rural areas so that the education of students studying in these institutions does not get affected due to any other pandemic in the future," she said. Moreover, she expects allocation of funds for teacher-training.

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Prajodh Rajan, Co-founder and Group CEO, Lighthouse Learning is looking forward to Finance Minister to include relief steps for parents and schools, who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic. They expect due consideration on operational expenses for pre-schools and schools to be able to reopen and resume operations with appropriate safety measures including access to affordable credit and financing solutions. An increased allocation for the education sector will help negate the learning gaps children have endured due to the closure of schools for more than 18-20 months.

"A reduction in the 18% GST levied especially on rented premises used for pre-schools and schools would provide relief for the segment. More importantly, the government should also consider allocation in the Union Budget for developing the digital delivery and new age skill competencies for all the teachers. Digital infrastructure is a key component for the growth of all sectors and industries, and we seek the Finance Minister’s intervention to boost the investment into this, to help boost connectivity and usage across the country," he said.

Bridge the digital gap

Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief of Generation Unlimited (YuWaah) and Youth Development and Partnerships at UNICEF said, "Nearly 4% of our population in rural areas has access to computers compared to 23% in urban areas (Source: 2020 NSO Report on Education). As the pandemic has resulted in a higher pace of technological advances and rapid shift to online learning, addressing digital inequality and supporting young people to gain relevant skills of today's job market and youth entrepreneurship opportunities should be top priorities for the upcoming Union budget 2022. In addition, we must focus on supporting the most marginalised and vulnerable young people, such as young women and people with disabilities, so that no young person is left behind. Collaboration amongst young people, the public sector, private sector, civil society and academia is essential to address the systemic challenges that keep young people from reaching their full potential."

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Ravi Panchanadan, CEO and MD, Manipal Global Education Services said, "The lockdown due to the pandemic has profoundly impacted education. There was an overnight shift from campus to online delivery—this required quick implementation of digital assets. While we have ensured continuity, it is mainly limited to city limits due to erratic digital connectivity, which must be fixed on a war footing. Along with accessible internet, it is also vital to ensure that learners in need of digital assets are supported. Scholarships or subsidies to purchase laptops, smartphones, and other tech requirements, including more imaginative ways to utilize old digital assets, need to be explored, further. There is a gap in faculty training. We need to empower our experienced educators to understand new tools and techniques. It is important now to allocate budgets toward upskilling the existing instructors and training of fresher teachers, ensuring qualitative pedagogy. Further, there is a need to reimagine effective assessments focused on using digital methods and amplifying their benefits."

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"It is now crucial to invest in skills academies. We need to upskill individuals creating a first-day job-ready workforce to boost the future employment quotient of our country. The NEP 2020 opened the opportunity gates with flexibility in learning, the emphasis on conceptual understanding, and blended modules for effective study. It would also be interesting to lay a foundation for an ‘India Study’ program that incubates talent and nurtures the skills of future entrepreneurs/inventors/doers. The right support system and mentoring will help create an exceptional pipeline of future leaders in our country," he added.

Charu Noheria, Co-Founder and COO, Practically expects consideration on important factors such as stronger adoption of the blended learning model and investment in a stronger digital infrastructure beyond Tier 1 cities as well. Additionally, for educational institutions and courses the revision of the 18% GST slab will be largely beneficial in offering more conducive rates or fees to students.

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