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PCs come almost free in Goa

September 15, 2003 08:19 IST

Alfina Khan, now a class XII science student in Chimbel near Panjim in Goa, recalls getting a personal computer in March 2003 - for a princely sum of Rs 1,000.

Her family had been thinking of buying a PC which would have otherwise cost many thousands more.

"It was a great surprise," says Khan. Similarly, Manisha Parab, also a student at Mapusa in Goa, paid Rs 1,000 for her PC, delivered around last April.

Khan and Parab are among the 2,086 science students last year to benefit from an ambitious new programme the Goa government has embarked on - of distributing PCs to class XI students at heavily subsidised rates.

This year, the state government is expanding the programme by disbursing 12,000 multimedia PCs and subsidised Internet connections to 11,000 students not just from the science stream but from other streams too.

Says the state's director for education, Ashok N P Desai: "This year under the Cyberage Students' Scheme each class XI student studying in any stream at the junior college level and some vocational course students will be provided computers. While there are 11,000 such students, an additional 1,000 computers will also be distributed under the computer literacy programme to more families."

The cost of the computers is subsidised. Students pay different sums for them, based on how they've performed academically.

"Class XI students who cleared their Secondary School Certification examinations in the first attempt will have to pay Rs 1,000 for computers. Students who passed in two or more attempts will have to shell out Rs 2,000, while students who managed to only secure a pass class in their SSC exams will have to pay Rs 3,000," Desai says.

What is more, the state government will provide interactive software that will allow students to post queries relating to their syllabus on the Internet (to be answered by specialists in the subject) and access a data base of similar queries raised by other students. Gradually, the entire syllabi will be posted on the Internet.

How much will the scheme cost the Goa government? Says Desai: "The Goa Electronic Company has been mandated the task of inviting tenders for the PCs as well as the software." This year, it is expected to spend Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million).

Why is Goa doing all this? State Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, an Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, graduate, explained the programme in a written statement this year: "The present number of students who are computer literate is inadequate. A large scale computer awareness in Goa is possible only if computers are available to students at home. If the computer goes to the house, the whole family will become computer literate and imbibe a liking for IT."

Still, students haven't yet got Internet connections. Says Parab: "We have no Internet connection."

Adds Khan: "I currently use the computer for learning programming applications and typing out letters."

Admits a senior government official: "No Internet connection has been installed as yet but we are talking to Reliance and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, among others. We are seeking 50 hours of Internet connectivity a month for a student at subsidised rates. We expect to have this in place in three months."

Renni Abraham in Panjim