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Access to Broadband
UniversaIizing broadband and why this is important for Education


Telecommunication is the lifeline of a rapidly growing economy . ndia has the fastest
growing telecommunications industry in the world. t has a subscriber base of more
than 771 million subscribers (as of February 2011) making it the second largest in the
world and it is projected that ndia will have 1.159 billion mobile subscribers by 2013.
Although, the growth in Mobile telephony has been stupendous in ndia over the past 5-
6 years, the same cannot be said about broadband which could not reach the masses
due to higher prices, lower speeds, infrastructural issues among other reasons. The
broadband density is mainly concentrated in the urban cities .ndia also has the world's
third largest nternet users with over 100 million users (of whom 40 million use the
internet via mobile phones as of December 2010 ) yet the nternet penetration in ndia
is one of the lowest in the world which is about 8 -9% of the population, compared to
other nations like United States, Japan or South Korea. Broadband in ndia is also more
expensive as compared to Western Europe, United Kingdom and United States

Bringing nternet connectivity to the masses, especially in rural areas, is one of the key
goals that the Government has set and it envisages to cover around 2,50,000 village
panchayats with broadband by 2012. Currently, only about approximately 97,548
villages are covered with broadband.

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Among the states Maharashtra leads the broadband subscriber list with over 18 Lakhs
subscribers followed by Tamil Nadu (13.3 Lakhs) and Karnataka (11.3 Lakhs)
.Andaman & Nicobar slands has the least subscriber base with only 5000 subscribers .
The entire North-East region has about 37000 subscribers .Kerala, even though it is
one of the smaller states has about 7 lakh subscribers and has the maximum
broadband density among the states .
High-speed access to information and web based communication / transactions has
become a competitive differentiator both for business and education . nternet based
services (whether it is work or learning from homes, schools, colleges) or connectivity
for Small Office Home Office (SOHOs) and Small- Medium Enterprises is crucial for
enhanced productivity and perhaps even survival. Also the absence of inexpensive non
dial-up options is becoming a major stumbling block for the country's growth and
development . Ubiquitous and cost effective public and private Broadband networks are
as important today as the telecom networks were in the previous decade.

Broadband networks, both wireline and wireless, are best not seen as "technologies
but as "non dial up, always-on, integrated communication highways delivering voice,
data and video along with interactivity at speeds necessary for delivery of different
services at required quality levels and in a manner that current delivery mechanisms do
not enable.

Currently Broadband connectivity is one of the key drivers for Socio-economic growth,
Education, Health, Governance and citizen empowerment as this cannot be achieved
using the traditional brick and mortar solutions

The Educational segment is greatly affected by the political , economical, socio-cultural
and technological environment that prevails in the country. The current Government is

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trying to raise the current quality standards in Higher education as this will in turn
impact the quality of students and increase the employability levels which is one of the
current problems the country is facing.

The ndian higher education segment has nearly 14 million students and is plagued with
several problems relating to Question paper leakages, Student impersonation, shortage
of staff to teach courses, delays in result processing, inability to handle student
concerns, inability to cope with student application load, lack of transparency etc .

Globally the use of Technology has enabled new teaching and assessment techniques
to accommodate off campus learning, the increasing number of students taking
entrance exams has forced nstitutions to use Technology to re-look the traditional
assessment methods to facilitate mass testing , Universities are using Technological
nnovations to differentiate the student learning experience , Technology has also
enabled huge improvement jumps in curriculum delivery, automating administrative
processes , students assessments etc

n ndia in the last 5 years some Universities / nstitutes like the Ms, Manipal
University, Ts , GTU etc have transitioned their entrance exams to the online mode
thus eliminating several of the problems listed above but the gap between the
Universities/nstitutes using technology and not currently using technology still
continues to remain wide, one of the reasons for this being the lack of Broadband
connectivity and the associated cost . This has continued to remain a bottleneck to bring
about improvements in the education sector due to which this segment lags behind
despite the fact that ndia is considered as one of the fastest growing economies in the
world and a superpower.

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The EDGE- Valuenotes Report March 2010 carried out a survey of students across
various cities and some of the findings revealed that a majority of students feel that
Online exam process is more secure and reliable , an overwhelming majority felt that
Online exams are more accurate, about 81% students were more likely to join a
university which conducts online exams as it signified that the University was technically
more advanced, a significant majority of the students use the nternet for taking mock
exams, research , take e-tutorials etc .

Universities surveyed on the other hand are keen to introduce online exams sometime
in the future , accept that this will improve faster results, bring in greater transparency,
security, increase reach etc but as internet penetration is low, many Universities/
institutes are not equipped with sufficient computers and trained staff. Only some of the
progressive Universities use Technology for most of their processes. A few use it for
their administrative work but a vast majority still are not able to use technology across
various processes predominantly due to the lack of connectivity.

With the endeavour to address the felt requirement and with its experience in working
with educational clients Merittrac Services Pvt ltd has been a pioneer in introducing
Technologically linked services in ndia - like Authentrac -ndia's first Biometric services
used for Authenticating candidates taking an exam, Certitrac ndia's first technology-
led service for distribution of digital convocation certificates, On Screen Marking (OSM)
a revolutionary solution for enabling the evaluation of Offline Descriptive answer sheets
online by scanning and anonymizing the answer script and then uploading this on to an
application to enable evaluators to evaluate the papers online across locations and the
scores collated at the back end , Question Paper Management, Online Exams ,
Customized online application forms etc.

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The introduction of such services has come about primarily through various meetings
and discussions with several Universities/ nstitutes whereupon their pain points were
identified and solutions recognized and developed to address this .

Broadband connectivity remains the common denominator for using these services as
well as services like University Management Services , Examination Management
system etc which helps the Universities with their Administrative work, Examination
work , Fees management etc .

Hence though there is a lot of interest among the academicians, Universities and
nstitutes and given time, budgets can be worked out to invest in such services as
almost all stakeholders acknowledged that there is a real need for such services the
ground reality remains that the acceptance and actual usage has been slow primarily
because of the lack of proper broadband connectivity at the Universities/ nstitutes and
will continue to be so until the masses are able to have access to the internet and
broadband costs are substantially reduced. Until this happens the education sector will
continue to lag behind .

Sharon Fernandez
Regional Head- Business Development, Merittrac Services Pvt. Ltd
98202 30950

The topic is based on the Theme : overnance - Access to Broadband:
universaIizing broadband and its appIication in education, heaIth, IocaI
government, trade and economy etc