By Srinivas Moorthy
Life without internet is unthinkable today. This headline is not just to generate some curiosity also not to challenge the endless utilities of internet. Internet has become integral part of urban living, We are dependent on internet for numerous activities like learning, obtaining information, ticket booking, banking, news, trading, social networking, video, music and the list can be endless. So what I am referring to?.
This is about an interesting technology hack which could potentially change life of millions and completely give a new perspective to the way we deal with delivering of e- learning resources to the educational segments, Particularly to the rural Part of the India.
Before we step in to further details, Let us look at the internet scenario and demography of India with some of the readily available reference points.
As per the IMC-Delloite 2017 report released at India Mobile Congress 2017′ in New Delhi “Connecting the Next Billion , Propelling towards $5T economy ”. India’s Current internet penetration is 33%; juxtaposed with this is rural penetration at 16% currently ranks 36th among 75 nations in internet inclusiveness (based on Economist Intelligence Unit’s Availability, Affordability, Relevance, and Readiness factors).
It is relevant to understand the demography of India. Let me refer to the GoI’s national policy on skill development 2015, which begins with the statement – “India is one of the youngest nations in the world with more than 62% of its population in the working age group (15-59 years), and more than 54% of its total population below 25 years of age. It is further estimated that the average age of the population in India by 2020 will be 29 years as against 40”.
Considering 65% India’s population lives in rural India, We can reasonably assume that there exist a big digital divide in our society and a large population of young India live in the far side of digital divide with low or no access to ICT learning resources. They are most probably belong to student or teaching community .
Interestingly there has been vibrant activity around ICT -Enabled learning in India for the last few years. Thanks to Government initiatives and private participation.
Today , we have huge repository of digital learning resources in various languages in the form of e- books, animated contents, teaching videos by experts and so on. However benefits of these ICT learning resources are yet to reach the rural community due to the prevailing digital divide .
Apart from the ICT learning resources, Other informations like results, circulars ,exam schedules, question papers and transfer orders are also regularly required in a schools environment . There are about 15 Million schools in India and sizable number of them are in rural India. How long will it take to establish a good internet connection so that everyone has access the e- contents and other informations?. No one has definite answer , But it is going to be a long wait considering present connectivity scenario.
A commonly adopted method for delivering e-contents today is to upload the e- resources in a cloud or website and it is expected that users to access it through internet. Since internet itself is a challenge, This approach has not helped the real cause other than meeting a tick box intent of implementing agencies !.
So is there any way we can sort of this issue?. The answer is “Yes” with help of “Satellite multicast” we can overcome this challenge !.
For easy understanding of satellite multicast, Let us take example of Dish TV systems in which single Video broadcast stream is received by millions of homes. So, the cost of transmitting a channel is shared among many users making it a cost effective option. Similarly Satellite multicast can be used for data broadcast of educational content . Note , I am referring to data broadcast not video broadcast . The system works on the fundamental principal of IP multicast “ Transmit one and receive many” concept, no individual connections are required and transmission is accessible from any part of the country with just a dish and a satellite modem.
Since e-learning resources requirement at the schools are predefined , One common transmission of data broadcast over satellite multicast can cater millions of schools. This transmission (data ) can be received by schools using a dish antenna and satellite Modem subsequently stored ( cached ) in a local PC having good storage capacity. This PC would act as a local knowledge server at schools. Content can be accessed any time (offline ) by multiple devices simultaneously over multiple platform like HDMI , LAN and Wi-Fi. In this manner content delivery ecosystem can be built without internet connection for reaching of e- resources to remote schools anywhere in India.
This solution could be useful for the schools with internet connection as well. Lets see How?. Assume An animated content for a hard spot in science syllabus being accessed by different students in a school, same Content needs to flow to school via internet several times , eventually choking the connection speed resulting poor user experience to all users further downloading same information again and again would consume internet quota as well. If educational contents are cached and available locally through satellite multicast, Users will have better experience no need to depend on the internet availability and its speed.
How cost effective this could be is the natural question? . The infrastructure and satellite bandwidth cost per user (school) would be extremely low as single data channel caters thousands of schools.
Content delivery can take place on 24×7 basis including the holidays and data broadcast can be scheduled such that if some school missed out the reception , Those can update on the next schedule.
It would ideal for government agencies in ICT learning to setup such infrastructure with state specific data channels such that any school access the content by just installing the remote terminals.
Satellite Multicast Technology
Let me quote here about Digital Cinema movie delivery system, A successful example of satellite multicast technology in use. Film distribution business services have rapidly adopted to the satellite multicast technology in the recent years. It use to be logistical nightmare to manage celluloid films and preventing piracy.
Using the satellite content delivery techniques , Films are released at the same time to thousands of screens across the country saving millions of rupees towards cost of making celluloid films and logistics associated with it. Today India has more than 7000 screens equipped to receive movies through satellite multicast just days before release.
Some of the benefit of satellite multicast and local caching for distributing e- learning contents would be.
Large size content handling is made easy. For example a 2GB size file could be transmitted to thousands of schools with in two and half hours using only one 2 mbps satellite BW link!. It works of out to be 2 Tb data with in two and half hours considering 1000 schools have received the content using one 2 Mbps connection, Interesting isn’t?.
Cost per school could be as low as Rs.50 per school, way below to Government of India (GoI) grant of Rs.833.00 per month for internet under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA ) ICT scheme framework.
Contents and information are available to schools across
Live stream of video or audio channels could be added in the same platform.
Access to unwanted contents like games and other adult sites are one of the biggest worry. However with satellite multicast , administrators shall push selected contents to the schools ensuring that users have access to relevant contents only.
Since the contents are received, stored and serviced from a local device, multiple devise access with good speeds without buffering or disconnection can be achieved.
Concluding, I would like to reiterate that by adopting innovative Satellite IP multicast technology, ICT learning can be made available to millions of Indian schools and in turn benefiting the billion young minds. It is economical and viable solution to overcome the internet challenges and it is a path to provide universal access to e- contents resources to our schools . Today , under various schemes Government provides ICT equipment like laptops, Tabs and more schools are equipped with PCs. Those equipments could be greatly brought in use if e-learning contents are available at the school itself which can be achieved as discussed here. Hence the article title of “Who needs internet anyway” can be true for the e- content delivery scenarios for educational segments if adopt the satellite IP multicast strategy.
(The author is a senior telecom professional of the industry)