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When Bill Gates regrets introducing PowerPoint to users in India

Top government officials are not alone guilty of killing the very purpose for which Bill Gates was so proud to have launched Microsoft PowerPoint

Nashik District Collector Office

[Image for representation purpose only.]

The venue was Nashik District Collectorate. Last Tuesday I was there to demonstrate software my team has developed to make life of school and college students easier. The hall was cramped by more than two dozen officials coming from all cities, towns and tehsils of Nashik district. At the center of the round table was Nashik District Collector Radhakrishnan (IAS) himself. Exactly opposite to him was hanging a huge screen connected with a projector and notebook computer.

As it turned out, Radhakrishnan was chairing a meeting to take stock of the preparations underway in different cities, towns and tehsils of the district for the 2019 General and State elections. There were also the sessions in between for training and discussion on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units and other election related matters.

Talking to the Nashik district collector office staff it was learnt that all Prant Officers (Deputy Collectors) and Tahsildars were asked to come with PowerPoint presentations giving details about the progress made, and problem if any, on the matter in their areas. The Nashik district collector office in itself was provided by the state election commission office a number of PowerPoint presentations for the training purpose.

The meeting was a marathon, running for more than 4 and half hours. It must have served, hopefully, the purpose it was called for. But, Oh My God, the PowerPoint Presentations!!! Seeing them the first thing that came into my mind was that Microsoft founder Bill Gates must have regretted introducing PowerPoint to India.

A PowerPoint presentation is meant to have minimum texts and maximum graphics, charts, bullets and images – having power to make a discussion, especially the meetings that run for hours, more meaningful, interactive and interesting for the participants. However what we saw at the Nashik Collector office was exactly opposite. There were around 20 presentations – all full of text contents, having hardly any graphics. And about a video clip, just forget it. It did not hence surprise me when I noticed some officers playing with their smartphones during the meeting.

Top government officials are not alone guilty of killing the very purpose for which Bill Gates was so proud to have launched Microsoft PowerPoint. A few years back I had a chance to attend a “National Level Seminar on Medicines”. Top doctors and professors of reputed institutions and universities were participants. They were all armed with Pen Drives (PDs) with a couple of “PowerPoint” to share at the seminar. But, their presentations were even worse than what we saw at Nashik district collector office.

So, where actually the fault lies? Of course not with the poor officials who are already overburdened with so many things. Not also with the doctors and professors who are already preoccupied with important research works. The fault is with the decades old syllabus they had grown up with. With invent of computers and dominance of Information Technology, the syllabus in schools and colleges in the Western world has been drastically changed. As IT penetrated almost every field, the Western world has integrated computers and IT education with all courses relating to trade, management, healthcare, administration, management et all so as to utilize best of IT tools and software.

We however have not changed and have blatantly stuck with the decades old syllabus. The existing syllabus might be producing good doctors, engineers, administration and management experts. Nowadays a good number of them are also joining the bureaucracy and civil services. But, please allow me to say that they are not skilled and trained enough to utilize the best of IT tools.

We also enroll our students to other courses like Bachelor in Arts and Commerce. Computers and IT have proven revolutionary for Commerce and Accounting. But, the existing syllabus simply does not have anything to train the students about the latest software in demand. The result is that Commerce graduates get jobs only after completing a Post Graduate Diploma in IT Professional Courses. Else, they remain jobless. As for the Art graduates, their learning level is so pathetic that nobody will hire them even for a simple clerical job.

The world is moving towards the era of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT). It means with times computers and Information technology will become more dominant. Whereas the ground reality is that we are not trained enough in basic IT tools and computer operating. A country of 125 crore people, India boasts of having one of the largest chunks of young population of the world. This young population which otherwise could be a strong workforce will be useless and a liability if it is not provided with the opportunities to learn the latest technologies and tools.

In the past few years there have been a number of representations made with universities and education departments of various states with demands to make the needed amendments in the syllabus so that they are up to the mark, and are able to meet the latest challenges and create a workforce which is trained in all aspects, especially Information Technology. However, all such demands have so far been met with deaf ears. We will be failing our youths if we do not read the prevailing situation even now. Suffice to say that if our 12th standard students are afraid of appearing in online Computer Based Tests (CBTs) for lack of basic computer operating knowledge then something is definitely wrong with our education system, and it will be suicidal if we remain blind to this fact any longer.

[The writer, Aleem Faizee, is Founder Editor of ummid.com and Lecturer at a senior college. He can be reached at aleem.faizee@gmail.com]

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