For any social initiative, delivery is more important than technology

In the last four years Microsoft has launched programs like Microsoft
Education Management Information System and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and has
trained over 2 lakh teachers.

What role does Microsoft play in the public education sector?
Apart from business, theres a social commitment attached to the whole
education initiative that Microsoft has undertaken. We are not addressing the
renowned schools, but the masses; government or municipal schools and colleges,
even in the interior villages of India. That comprises over 2.2 mn schools that
we want to reach out to. Microsoft has partnered with several NGOs, governments,
educators and academicians.

Our addressable landscape of schools is huge, starting right from typical
village pathshalas conducted under tree-shades to the most advanced schools in
bigger cities. We need to be specific to the needs of all genres, which are
undoubtedly very different from each other. These customizations are a big task
for us and most of our concentration goes into building them to suit every need
of the students as well as the teachers. The development part is perhaps the
simplest although one needs to give large amount of time on this. The challenge
lies in maintaining this chain in a perfect manner, and if any one of these
steps falters, the entire chain is disturbed. The support mechanism is very
important and is a pain area where maximum people fail to deliver a smooth

What kind of support mechanism does Microsoft have for such initiatives?
Sometimes people pay too much attention on the technology part and make
mistakes. It is all about addressing and delivering components. Service is the
most critical and challenging part of the entire chain. This is an area wherein
one needs to have a base and a well-laid network of skilled people available
24×7, throughout the year.

An insight into your future plans..
Looking at the success and impact of the Microsoft Education Management
Information System and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan initiatives, we have decided to
continue the program for another five years. We have association with MHRD to
understand what its focus areas are, so that we can align the programs
accordingly for higher impact.

We are planning to extend our reach and go deeper. Earlier we used to bring
the teachers in state level centers. Now we want to move to block levels in
order to reach out to the remotest of schools in every nook and corner of the
country. We are using the set-up of DIET centers (District Institute for
Education and Training) and arranging the training program. This has cut down
the logistics, lowering travel time as well as cost. Commencement of phase 2 was
announced a few months back, wherein we will be investing $20 mn over the next

What are the major challenges while deploying these projects?
Teachers have started to realize that the overall viewpoint toward adopting
new technology is changing.

There are a few basic things that we need to ensure. First is creating the
right infrastructure, so that all the teachers undergoing training dont have to
wait for their turn to have access to a PC. Next is tailoring the curriculum,
both for the teachers and students and customizing the curriculum in local
languages apart from English is another aspect.

Piyali Guha

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