The state government of Tamil Nadu announced free 2 GB data per day to about 969047 students who registered in government and government-aided arts and science colleges, engineering, polytechnic, and scholarship-funded private colleges between January and April 2021. K. Palaniswami, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu said on 10th January 2021 that the government has come up with this initiative to enable students to attend online classes.
The government made this decision recently as colleges have remained shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the maximum students were taking part in online classes, said the minister. The report further stated that about 969047 students pursuing various courses in government and aided arts and science colleges can access the free 2GB data per day. After hearing the news, mixed reactions came up from the polytechnic and college students.
SP Balamurugan, the co-founder of an online education technology startup incubated at IIT-Madras said the students can use 2GB of data each day to watch at least 8 hours of video content. He said, ‘The data usage will vary according to quality of video and the network provider. For attending online classes, 2GB of data a day will be more than enough.’
As of now, most students are accessing a 1GB data plan. But, this plan isn’t sufficient for attending 4-hour online classes and to download essential study materials. T. Veeramani, President, Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers’ Association [TNGCTA] said, ‘Students are struggling to download study materials and upload answer scripts due to lack of adequate data on their mobiles. It would ease the process of conducting online exams.’
Tamil Nadu has been in the top position in providing technology-driven education to the students for several years. The state offered free laptops to needy students almost 10 years back. Later, it installed smart boards in specific schools across the state to help the students ace in their studies. R Ramkumar, immediate Past President of Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, ‘With multi-modal learning becoming the new normal, it’s heartening to note that the State is providing 2 GB data cards to students to enable them to participate in online classes, and continue their learning anytime, anywhere and with any device.’
He stressed that in the current digital era, educational and communication infrastructure are truly critical for government, business, and society. Instead of providing data cards to students by spending huge money, the state government might have planned about setting up hubs near each college or village that can offer 10Gbps bandwidth. D Nedunchezhian, an educational consultant and founder of Technocrats India College Finder said, ‘This could lessen the cost and the bandwidth will also be pretty faster.’
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