Eight years, six private agencies, 2,000 schools, over Rs 1,000-crore project. That made for the ambitious ‘ICT@schools’ scheme, meant for government-aided secondary and senior secondary schools with the aim of bridging the digital divide, in Bihar.The only thing missing was the result.
Nobody knows how many children benefited from the scheme, which introduced computers to kids even as reports came in that many schools could never use them for power problems and other issues. This year, however, the government has launched a modified phase II of the scheme, involving four private operators for 1,000 schools in the six specified zones, though outcome of the earlier adopted 1,000 schools remains far from satisfactory for lack of computer literate teachers too.
Though the government did come up with a scheme to provide R1,000 per month as diesel allowance to run computer labs in schools, it did not help.
Department sources admitted that it only created one more opportunity for corruption, even as the computers rotted.
The project was started in 2008, when India’s leading computer education company NIIT was awarded contract for the ICT project in 400 schools.
It was supposed to cater to 60,000 students. Bihar State Electronics Development Corporation (BELTRON) was the state nodal agency.
A couple of years later, another contract for 600 schools was awarded to Educomp in 2010, which is now nearing completion of its term. “I have asked the company top brass to first develop an online monitoring mechanism, else further payment will be stopped. I have made it clear that we would like to see the effectiveness of the scheme first,” said Beltrom MD, Atul Sinha. Admitting that there were reports of lapses, Sinha said that running any scheme on diesel and gensets was fraught with risks.
The second phase of ICT@ schools project has been launched under the Bihar State Educational Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (BSEIDC), which has awarded contracts to ILFS and Compucom (in two zones each), besides Pearson and Core Education in one zone each on BOT (built, operate and transfer) mode. The companies have to install 10 computers in each of the schools and ensure proper training. “But monitoring remains a big concern. We are working on it, but only the outcome will determine the success,” said Sanjeevan.