Education is one of the critical parameters for the development of any nation. In India, the rural population forms a significant segment of the society, with over 70 per cent of people still residing in rural or semi-urban areas. Several schemes by the government like mid-day meals, free education to poor households, scholarships to meritorious students and cheaper higher education in government or government-aided institutions are the positive steps that have helped education reach the grassroots of the society. However, tragedies like the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1985 further highlighted that the only way to avert such calamities in future was by empowering and educating people in rural India.
Founded In 1985
Therefore, Santosh Choubey founded the All-India Society for Electronics and Computer Technology (AISECT) in 1985 to lead the country, especially rural India, in skill development, financial inclusion-governance and other ICT based services. Choubey is a prominent social entrepreneur, an eminent educationist, a leading thinker, celebrated litterateur and poet of Hindi literature and a senior Ashoka fellow whose experience spans several worlds simultaneously. He envisioned bringing about an inclusive change in the semi-urban and rural areas of the country. The Bhopal-headquartered organization has been untiringly reaching out to the country's remotest corners to empower people, generate employment for the youth, and unfold entrepreneurial initiatives.
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Choubey said, "When the Bhopal Gas tragedy happened, I was engaged in promoting science in Indian languages. The basic idea was that the Indian community required a lot of scientific temperament. We had been promoting science in Hindi and other regional languages. At the same time, we found supportive science groups at the district level in schools and colleges. So, I found a small group voicing for the same in their extra time. While people of the group were doing their regular jobs, they were also working on science during their extra time".
Back then, the volunteers realized a need for correct policies and correct understanding all over the country. The computers had just started arriving in India, and while one could still find functional computers in big cities, they were still a rarity in villages, smaller towns and cities. Choubey said, "The realizations that computers can change instrument in the industry, and there was hardly any awareness about the same happened at the same time. We then moved on to IT and IT awareness in rural India. The basic idea came to my mind when I travelled in the hinterlands, where it is easy to find a Dhaba". While explaining the organization's genesis, Choubey said that the dhaba is a multipurpose place; At the same time, it serves people with food; you could also stop for social interactions or buy small eats.
Activities Of AISECT
"I always thought that our IT sector would be a multipurpose centre which would not only be computers but a support mechanism for the exchange of goods and services. There would be support for government data processing, and they would mainly work in Hindi", he told The Logical Indian. While providing details about AISECT, Choubey said, "The first thing we did was write some content in Indian languages. I wrote a book called 'Computer- Ek Parichay'. I wrote the book to promote awareness about computers, after which the government told me to conduct computer classes in schools and colleges. From there, we moved on to community centres".
The organization initially started opening the schools in the evenings to come and learn about computers. One significant aspect of the project was to spread the knowledge of computers in the bottom-rung of the pyramid. By the end of 2000, AISECT had set up about 2000 centres in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh. The multipurpose skill training was one part, the second was that there was a massive demand for repair and maintenance outstandingly. For instance, Choubey said that when a villager came to them, they had learned random things about electronics and requested to look at their CV or audio system.
Training, content creation and multipurpose training formed the foundations of the group. After that, the organization provided skill training to the youth, and currently, AISECT is training in about 17 sectors, including electronics, hardware, logistics, banking, and finance. There are about 27,000 centres that work in 27 states and Union Territories. The first university was set up in a tribal area in Chhattisgarh, a large campus that provides all facilities. Now, there are five universities in the country.
Trained Over 20 Lakh Students
AISECT was founded as SECT (Society for Electronics and Computer Technologies) in 1985. When the government of India recognized AISECT and asked them to expand in other states, it was registered as AISECT in 1997. Initially, all the education provided by AISECT was free of charge, but now there is a standard fee structure that they follow across all universities in the country. Over 20 lakh students have been trained by AISECT to date, out of which 15,000 are rural and semi-urban entrepreneurs. Moreover, over 10 Lakh Students were recruited, 5 Higher Education campuses were established, and 22 States were covered under skill development projects.
The organization focuses on giving skill-based education or vocational skill-focused through short-term training or courses not part of the formal education sector and employs in informal sectors for rural and semi-urban India. The organization has strengthened its online learning courses to enable hybrid learning models. It promotes startups and entrepreneurship on a massive scale through the incubation centres of the AISECT Group of Universities.
When digital space is the future, it is imperative to upskill all individuals with technical knowledge and provide incubation to innovative ideas that could further push the country's economic and scientific temperament.
Schemes such as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is the primary focus of AISECT group of universities students can receive both security and benefit, as it aids in an equivalent acknowledgement of both informal and formal learning