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Harnessing the Power of Cell Phones for Education in India

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 24 2013

Hyderabad, India (Wikipedia)

You might know by now the widely publicized fact that Indians are more likely to have access to a cell phone than to a toilet, a troubling fact previously explored on techPresident. India has surpassed the US and UK to become the world's second largest cell phone market, and the fastest growing, boasting more than 6 million new subscribers every month. A recent study conducted in Hyderabad, India, turned up data specific to young students, which the researchers hope can be focused toward creating effective mobile learning platforms.

Researchers surveyed 450 14-year-old students across 13 schools about their access to and consumption of technology. It should be noted that access here generally meant through a parent or relative's phone, not personal ownership. The study found very few students actually own cell phones. Researchers found a sharp divide between the access of male students versus female students: 41 percent of males were cell phone users, while only 35 percent of females were. The divide for Internet access was even more extreme: 45 percent of males had access to Internet via cell phones, while a mere 15 percent of females had access.

As for consumption, the report found that the most popular use of the phone was for entertainment, rather than communication.

The report highlights three ways to optimize mobile learning platforms in India: to imitate students’ natural technology consumption by creating educational games, to teach English on phones since the language is a highly desired skill, and to design programs for existing phones, rather than exclusively for smartphones (as of December 2012, smartphone penetration in India was at 4 percent). The authors mentioned Kenya-based M-Prep as an example of a model cell phone education program.

The full report Education Technology in India: Designing Ed-Tech for Affordable Private Schools is available through the Ed-Tech India blog.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.