After tasting success with its free bicycle scheme for school-going girls, the Bihar government is planning a freebie in tune with the times - a tablet PC - ahead of the 2014 elections. While other state governments have so far targeted the student community with free laptops and tablets, the Nitish Kumar government is working on an ambitious Rs 8,000 crore scheme to provide tablets to digitally illiterate women in both rural and urban areas.
The aim is to bring digital literacy to a largely ignored segment — the woman running a household — so that she can access health and education related information that will be useful for her whole family.
Top sources said the GPRS-backed tablet will have assistive technology like voice recognition system and interactive icons on the home screen, so that a user can simply speak and search for information — all in Hindi. It will be prepped with informative applications like how to give first aid to a child suffering a sudden bout of diarrhoea, helping the user to contact the nearest primary health centre and even call up a doctor there. It will also have education-related information to enable the user to help her children with homework. The government also hopes to monitor the midday meal scheme through these tablets.
“The idea is to bridge the gaping digital divide so that the woman of the house — many of whom are illiterate — is able to access necessary information. Through this woman, digital access will be extended to the entire family, including the children of the house who will probably help their mothers understand the device better,” said an official.
Women will have to clear a “digital literacy test” to be eligible for the free tablets. The state government has already readied an army of 10,000 trainers who will familiarise the women with the use of tablets and basics of digital education. After a two-month training period, the women will have to appear for a test.
The state’s apparatus of common service centres — vasudha kendras, panchayat level centres and schools with ICT infrastructure — will function as the network points for the scheme. The users will be required to visit these centres every month to update software and applications as well to mark their attendance. The state may rope in experts from IITs and elsewhere to ensure that the