Mozilla Hello Web at Girl 2B Foundation,Tollygunge. | Picture by Anirban Saha
The Internet – Catalyst to Connectivity. It has made connecting with other humans, places and things faster than man in the physical world could have never dreamt of. And yet it’s here, a creation that man made but man fails to understand, and a world that rests beyond the physical realms and yet affects it with every breadth.
Success has different definitions depending on one’s environment, occupation and even age. While topping in class is success for a 10 year old, buying his dream car is success for the same lad two decades later. However, business bibles around the world arguably agree that success is directly proportional to the amount one is able to give back to society against what society has offered him/her to help them climb the ladder.
Humanity is based on the very foundation of human beings successfully shading off their selfish instincts to do good for others. Humans go through extraordinary measures to provide the underprivileged with the basic amenities of life. And sometimes, an idea changes the world for the better.
This is a small anecdote from my life – a life that I wish to spend in spreading knowledge about what I know best, hoping that maybe tomorrow, one of those souls will be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
Something that I picked up from my father, I have always worked on various anthropological projects involving the upliftment of lives of children. However, it struck me that while Governments around the world were doing their best to enhance the literacy rate, the web was the next thing forward. Web literacy simply means the ability to use the internet to expose oneself to the biggest virtual platform of interaction, education, business and promotion. Only 8% of the Indian population has access to full time internet today. This also means that 92% of the population has negligible or zero access to the Web. I realised that this statistic needed some fixing, and I knew better than to waste another minute.
Digital literacy can be safely designed as the ability to functionally utilise various technological devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. which usually require a certain amount of technical knowledge to be operated. The 21st century witnessed a boom in digital technology to the extent that a typical human cannot go through an entire day without utilising at least one of these devices. Thus, if one lives in this century, whether a toddler or a grandpa – he/she must have the basic knowledge to be able to interact with other human beings or get better job opportunities. Thankfully, the Web is an easy subject to learn and developers have strived hard to make the web as easy to use as possible. Nevertheless, there still remain a section of the society for whom the web is still a luxury – and making it a right is the challenge.
I, along with their fellow Mozillians, sat through hours of brainstorming sessions trying to pin point the exact direction to spearhead their project in. Being born to Bengali parents with Calcuttan origin, I shouted out to fellow Calcuttans in the Mozilla community studying in Chennai. The idea – holding web literacy workshops in various schools and orphanages in West Bengal where, though education has seeped in, exposure to the web world is scanty.
One talk led to another and the idea became a concept. Ms Geeta, Founder, Hope Fondation, Kolkata was contacted for the possibility of a web literacy session with the children that Hope Foundation takes care of. Headquartered in Kolkata, the Hope Foundation is dedicated to promoting the protection of street and slum children in Kolkata and the most underprivileged in India. HOPE works to effect immediate and lasting change in their lives.
By extending support to children and their communities via 60 on-ground projects, HOPE provides sustainable holistic solutions to protection and development. By providing healthcare, counselling and education, they ensure children in their care enter adulthood equipped with the tools and support they need to live healthy and happy lives. I wanted to extend my help towards digitally educating these slum children of Kolkata. Later, several more organisations were brought under this initiative.
Thus, in the heat of the Chennai sun, the entire plan of the second instalment of Hello Web – Web literacy campaign was chalked out.
The plan: to not just teach, but to enable the children to evolve around the presence of the Web. As part of this project, selected schools and orphanages would be installed with internet connectivity for a period of six months, thus ensuring exposure of children even after the workshops are over.
No one said it was going to be easy. Being the leader of this project didn’t give me the leeway to bunk academics. Juggling academics, parties and this project often left me with sleepy eyes and a happy face!
Once the plan was approved, Anirban Saha, Founder, Kolkata Bloggers, was contacted. He promised full support from the blogger community in the city towards this project. Next, local business giants were contacted to sponsor the project. Ruksana Kapadia, Mio Amore, extended her whole hearted support towards the cause. Sourcekart Founder, Mr Rahul Jhunjhunwala also extends his support as the merchandise partner of the project.
A total of sixteen volunteers, while included Mozillians and non-Mozillians committed to the project from Kolkata.
June 17 2016: Volunteers gathered at the Oxford Book House, Park Street to discuss the proceedings, content and sequence of the events. I personally feel that meetings are important for two important reasons – one, delegation of work must be sorted out before the event turns chaotic, two, people should really feel like a part of a project, even if their contribution is small. I walked the volunteers on how to use simple terms while addressing kids and use a language that the kids are familiar with.
June 18 2016: The first day of the project. Workshops were held in six different places – Ashar Alo Girls’ Home (Kalikapur), Kasba Girls’ Home (Kasba), Girls 2B Foundation (Tollygunge), Ashirvad Boys’ Home (Tollygunge), Punorjibon Reahbilitation Home for Boys (Tollygunge) and Bekind Boys’ Home (Kasba).
Catering partners Mio Amore provided cake slices and other snacks from their wide range of bakery products to the children and volunteers attending the events. Merchandise partners Sourcekart provided the volunteers with T-shirts customised for the event. About 200+ children belonging to the age group of 7-16 years of age attended the event.
The sessions started with the basics of computer – comparing the human brain with the CPU of the computer. It soon progressed to the internet, its reach, the Google search engine. Questions were thrown at the volunteers by the curious tiny minds and the crowd often broke into laughter. This was followed by quiz sessions and goodies were distributed amongst the children. Feedback was taken from the children for the first day to ensure a better second day.
The Mozilla Hello Web initiative seeks to enhance and improve the knowledge of technology-driven commodities, especially the effective usage of the internet to better understand the power of modern tools. […Read More]
June 20 2016: After a preparation break on 19th June, the crew was back on 20th June to hold the second event in the city of joy at Hope Computer Training Centre (Panditiya Place)! I took sessions personally this time. Being the Bong boy who has been struggling with broken Tamil for the last couple of years, I achieved what I thought was impossible – teaching HTML in Hindi! I exposed the kids to the concept of X-ray goggles by Mozilla, How to design their first Web page, Google drive and how it works. Anirban Saha was present to grace the occasion and even participated in one of the sessions. The project would have been far from success had he not been present for his constant support and motivation.
Reya Ahmed :
“To learn, we have to think beyond. So, what lies beyond the disproportionate spread of education in India? Networks. Going online.”[..Read More]
“More of such programs should be carried out at platforms like these and help more and more young minds use the internet for making their lives easier, better and get their works done faster.”[…Read More]
On the 20th and 21st of June, and the Nabadisha Home (Rashbehari Avenue) on the 22nd of June.Sessions were held on the topics like Internet Privacy, How be secure on the Internet and many more. The dream was materializing and every night, I returned home sweaty and teary eyed out of happiness.
Shreyas N. Kutty, the Regional Coordinator for Mozilla Clubs and the lead of Mozilla Learning Network’s (MLN) India Task Force said of the Hello Web campaign, “The idea is to provide a basic understanding of what the web is, how it works, how to stay safe on the web, etc. It is an opportunity to educate people about the importance of Web Literacy in a fun and participatory way. The larger goal is to set up Mozilla Clubs in these setups where learners can come together once in a while and learn about the web.”
Well I can call, The Kolkata chapter was a success. Now, it was time to head towards Siliguri.
The Times of India, “Only when every youngster has access to the web and has the knowledge of its utilities, can we be proud of a truly Digital India, as has been envisioned.[..Read More]”
June 27 2016: A workshop was held at Deshbandhu Hindi High School,Siliguri with students in the age group of 12-16 years. Students were given an overview of the WhatsApp end-to-end encryption concept. End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages on any digital platform. It prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation. The systems are designed to defeat any attempts at surveillance and/or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored. E2EE is an extremely important system as it protects one’s privacy and avoids cybercrime. Other volunteers spoke about App Permissions & Internet privacy.
On June 28 and June 29 2016, a more specialised workshop was held with students belonging to the age group of 16-18 years who already have access to the Internet from Narayana School,Siliguri. In these sessions, volunteers tried to infuse the importance of open source communities in the minds of the kids, thus popularizing the term in their mind, hoping for the next ground breaking evolution from the next generation.
“In a world where Information multiplies and grows at (almost) the speed of light, it is very important for the Young minds of the nation to be able to hunt out valid as well as appropriate information on the web and put information so found to proper use.
And this, is exactly what we mean when we talk about “Web Literacy”.[…Read More]
“We, rather than using the traditional blackboard method, deployed interactive games and web learning kits to make the process of learning more engaging.” […Read More]
“In a world teeming with people, a majority of who have adapted themselves so comfortably around the World Wide Web, that imagining a life without it is equivalent to making do without your arm or your leg.”
“Computer & Web Literacy has become an initial ‘base education’, especially in a developing country like India. Technology based vast communication is now at our door. We are just to grab it to continue the potential of our social development. So Mozilla is doing a great job with full energy.”[..Read More]
“Well, Mozilla, through its on-campus network among students in India, is attempting to bring the Web and all its myriad uses to those in India not fortunate or privileged enough to have regular access to their own computers and net connectivity.”[…Read More]
June 30 2016: A workshop was held at Army Public School (Sukna) where faculties and Principals from various schools in Siliguri, including Army Public School (Sukna), Army Public School (Bengdubi), and few more were invited. The main idea behind this workshop was that teachers spent almost eight hours with their students every day and could mould their thought process effectively. Thus, it was extremely important to convince the teachers about the importance of the concept of web literacy. As part of the workshop, teachers were given ideas on how they could use Mozilla Teaching Kits, Google for Education- Classrooms, Youtube for demonstration and smart classes for interactive learning. This day marked the end of the month long project that I and my crew spent sleepless nights on!
Being an part of the Mozilla Community, I have led various campaigns across the country till now. I have been associated with the Mozilla Clubs mentoring the Mozilla Clubs in Kolkata, New Delhi, Valsad and Chennai. Mozilla has exposed me to fellow Mozillians who will forever be my driving force and I will always try to return the favour and love I got from this community.
Thus, one idea managed to change a few hundred mind sets. Who says you are just a drop in the ocean? Strive and you can move the ocean.
This project could not have been successful without the generous contributions made by Ms Ruksana Kapadia and Mr Rahul Jhunjhunwala. We thank them for every bit of their contribution. Mr Anirban Saha has been a constant support and hope to continue our relationship in the future. The project would have been impossible without the hard work of all the volunteers and the participation of the beautiful children who graced the events with their presence.
Here’s to making the world a little more knowledgeable, the ocean – a little saltier. Cheers!
- Shreenath Tewari
- Rayan Dutta
- Debol Das
- Sourath Pal
- Tamoghna Maitra
- Ayan Pal
- Farag Anjum Kureshi
- Rohit Guha
- Kalyan Maji
- Ashun Kothari (Gujarat Region)
- Shubham Bhardwaj(Jaipur Region)