Perspectives

Decoding the Bharatiya Model of Digital Literacy

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श्री गणेशाय नमः

If it be asked what inner riches India brings to aid in the realization of a civilization of the world, then, from the Indian standpoint, the answer must be found in her religions and her philosophy, and her constant application of abstract theory to practical life. – Anand Coomaraswamy

Since ages, achieving good governance has remained an important area of focus. The Rishi-Muni, Guru, and Aacharya have been playing important role in matters pertaining to policy and governance. The righteous kings used to consult them to run the kingdom efficiently and effectively. These visionaries had care, compassion and empathy along with being knowledgeable and thus, the Niti (policy) took care of the sustainable development of the society taking care of the environment too. Today, again we need to focus on the holistic approach to governance for providing amicable solutions to correct the errors made in past and create opportunities today for laying strong foundations for future.

As Coomaraswamy remarks about the constant application of the philosophy into practice, in terms of governance in digital era, our country is making stupendous efforts. Government has taken initiatives, corporate are joining hands with government, educational institutions are contributing significantly and changes are visible in every corner.

One such initiative at Faculty of Management Studies – WISDOM, Banasthali Vidyapith has been on developing the Bharatiya Model of Digital Literacy (BMDL). Bharatiya is the Hindi word for Indian. The researchers recognized that every concept should suit the context and culture in which it is being applied. This leads to better efficiency and effectiveness of the initiative. Based on learning from the ancient scriptures and practices of other countries, the BMDL defines digital literacy as:

“Digital literacy is that subset of holistic learning that captures the awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behavior of individuals and communities at various levels, for understanding and using the existing and emerging digital technologies for productive activities for self and everyone while ensuring the ethical usage, balancing, legal compliance, and cyber-security”[1]

It is important to define digital literacy in the comprehensive manner because often the efforts undertaken to improve the digital literacy are just confined to teaching usage of computer, smart phone and tablets focusing on the application for real life situations. But, emphasis on ethics, security aspect, and intelligent usage is equally important. Inarguably, ethics, legal compliance, balancing (considering the problem of addiction) and security are crucial aspects which worry all stakeholders of the digital world.

A shlok from Subhashit would be very apt:

यस्य नास्ति स्वयं प्रज्ञा शास्त्रं तस्य करोति किम् । लोचनाभ्यां विहीनस्य दर्पणः किं करिष्यति ॥

“Of what value are the scriptures to him who has no intelligence of his own? Of what value is a mirror to a blind person?”

This is crucial insight for digital reforms that our country is striving for. The digital world is double edged sword given its enormous potential and volatility. Therefore, we need intelligent and informed people in government, corporate, and society to be able to judiciously leverage the technology for achieving good governance. Apart from all this, all the stakeholders need to play an active role in ensuring that objectives of any social campaign are achieved.[2]

The researchers at Banasthali found that parents, teachers and other stakeholders are quick to act to improve the digital literacy but is the digital literacy compliant with the definition mentioned in this article? Unfortunately the answer is a big ‘No’, and therefore this gives us clues about the root causes of some of the problems in families and the digital world.

In this backdrop the role of the stakeholders can be summarized as:

Role of Government: As the current government focuses on minimum government and maximum governance, it has good opportunity to create level playing field and act as regulator in enabling better access to governance needs of society through digital infrastructure. The concerns shared above about intelligent usage should be given due consideration and BMDL can serve as a starting point.

Role of Corporate: Apart from themselves adopting the best practices in technology, they can, under CSR promote digitization by working with educational institutions, social organizations and government.

Role of Educational Institutions: The application of knowledge-action-reflection-wisdom framework[3] has tremendous usefulness in solving problems of the society.[4] Educational institutions can work for improving digital literacy at all levels – school, college students, and adjoining rural areas through training programmes. They can add new knowledge and disseminate the learning, research at all levels. The institutes should themselves adopt best technology to inspire others and importantly promote the intelligent usage.

Role of Parents/Teachers/NGO/Trainers: Just acquainting children or students or beneficiaries with using the computer, software, internet and technologies would not serve the purpose. Ensuring the training as per the BMDL should be considered.

Acknowledgement –  The blog has significant inputs from Dr. Ankur Joshi, Project coordinator, PRIME at Banasthali Vidyapith.

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[1] Purohit, H., Bharti, N. & Joshi, A. (2015). Partnering for Promotion of Digital Literacy Among Women in Rajasthan Through Bhartiya Model of Digital Literacy. Available at SSRN.

[2] Mehta, D., Purohit, H., Dwivedi, M., & Tyagi, P. (2015). Role of Various Stakeholders for Boosting Financial Literacy in Rajasthan. Available at SSRN 2666993.

[3] Sharma, S. (2015). New Ideas in Strategic Thinking & Management: A Knowledge Tree of New Age Mantras. New Age International Publishers, New Delhi.

[4] Sharma, S. (2006). Management in New Age: Western Windows Eastern Doors. New Age International Publishers, New Delhi.

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