Archive for March, 2023

Modeling a Citizen’s Environmental Network

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

1 Education Theme

International Community Understandings (ICU) is an expression of cosmopolitanism that gives an opportunity for education to bridge worlds and to work in the interest of human beings at all ages. Cosmopolitans consider themselves as world citizens. So, they “resist the temptations of the narrow nationalisms of the countries where they were born. They would never go to war for a country; but they will enlist in a campaign against any nation that gets in the way of universal justice.  Hence, cosmopolitanism can be considered as the foundation of a People-based International Community. (Bado Arsène Brice).

2 Education Objectives

(i) Groups:- Make local conservation plans and share them.

(ii) Individuals:- Become a good steward of local biodiversity.

(iii) Groups and Individuals: Create a permanent sense of place.

3 History

SCAN UK (1992-2000)

The Schools Communities and Nature project (SCAN) developed in Wales UK as a practical response to  the Rio environment summit in the 1990s.  It originated within the Dyfed County Council’s teacher’s advisory service from the response of schools in Pembrokeshire to the local Sea Empress oil spill.  It involved primary and secondary schools in Pembrokeshire piloting simple classroom methods for pupils of all ages to probe the quality of life in their communities. The aim of SCAN was to alert children to the character of their surroundings, and establish a features database that lists the good and bad things in their neighbourhood.  It failed to take root because it was a pre-INTERNET paper system that was eclipsed by the long drawn out development of classroom IT. 

4 Rationale

(i) Why India?

India is the first country to adopt the idea of a Citizen’s Environmental Network (CEN). It is centred on the concept of ‘Smartpur’ for villages.  ‘Smartpure’ emerged from the underlying idea of integrating IT into the existing practices, processes of community life.  The aim is to enable people of the community to make their lives better and contribute to the overall well-being of the village.  The IT roll out is funded by Nokia in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (  The content is managed locally by the community, its schools and businesses.

Smartpur stands on the foundation of six cultural pillars, namely education, health, finance, governance, livelihood and entertainment. Each of these pillars is further supported by wireless broadband access-enabled digital infrastructure, leading to efficiency in daily lives, transparency in governance, economic prosperity for households, and ease of access to various kinds of services and information.

Examples of Smartpur objectives:

  • communities have access to affordable medical diagnoses and consultation through digitally literate ASHA workers and telemedicine services; 
  • youth have relevant skills to find jobs or become entrepreneurs; 
  • people have timely and relevant access to welfare schemes or entitlements; 
  • households have access to digital financial services; 
  • the community has access to arts workers to help local communities plan and take part in activities like drama, dance, painting and photography and there is access to high quality audio-visual entertainment;
  • people have access to digital content for self learning about unfashionable school subjects, such as zoology, to gain an understanding of the natural world and how this can help consider ways to face global challenges such as climate change and food security, seeking to find solutions that help both animals and humans alike.

(ii) Why Kanchipuram?

‘Smartpur’ is aiming to reach Kanchipuram and become embedded in 10 villages with Asoor as the hub center and remaining 9 villages as the spoke centers. These locations may be considered as pilots for modeling a CEN.

HUB: Asoor

SPOKES: Kilpermunalur, Tennari, Kavathndagllam, Periyanattham, Kolathur, Vitchanthangal, Avalur, Chiniwalkam, Pallavaram.  Asoor village is in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu located on the north east coast of the state. Kanchipuram is home to 3.9 million people. 

5  Social exclusion

Eliminating social exclusion is one of the goals of the Indian constitution, wherein the masses can completely participate in all aspects of life with dignity.  Actually, the increased usage of the Internet and information and communication technology (ICT) in contemporary times has resulted in a newform of social inequality. This social inequality is arising because of the disparities between and among the individuals in terms of digital skills, use of the Internet, and access to digital devices. This divide is referred to as “the digital divide”, which is more visible today, especially in the form of social exclusion in India.

The nexus of the climate crisis and socioeconomic and political inequalities is at the root of various climate injustices, making India an archetypal site for their manifestation.  The worst impacts of the crisis are being denied, ignored and normalised, because these burdens fall on the poor, women, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and others with little political voice.

Internet usage by the masses largely depends on factors such as the availability of affordable devices, network coverage and connectivity, along with data costs. Today, when India is encouraging the digitalization of services, affordable data availability becomes crucial. However, even after the improvement in availability and accessibility of affordable devices and data, there are certain sections of society who, because of their social and cultural capital, have greater access to resources as compared to others. Because of its social, economic, and political implications, the digital divide has recently stimulated  the interest of academics and policymakers in community/school strategies to engage with an international community.

6 Digital literacy

.ICT, or information and communications technology, is the infrastructure and components that enable modern computing to occupy a substantial role in all our lives (especially in Covid-19 times). Digital literacy and successful use of Internet technology have become essential in today’s world. India is known for its social diversity, and the concept of social inclusion is enshrined in the Indian constitution. However, some groups and categories of people have historically been excluded and continue to be excluded today. There are varied reasons for such exclusion (e.g. caste, gender/transgenderism tribe, disability). The challenge to Smartpur is to focus on the assessment of the impact of the digital divide on Indian society, specifically on the phenomenon of social exclusion because of the coming digitalization of almost all aspects of our lives.  The notion of digital inclusion is not only about access to the technology and Internet sources, but also how access directly and indirectly influences the lives of the marginalized and deprived sections of the society.  The phenomenon of social exclusion has a deep impact on a person’s access to opportunities, especially in the context of power relationships.  Just reducing the financial and social hindrances towards Internet access would not reduce social inequalities until and unless equal efforts are made towards supporting the population and providing them the necessary digital skills. As a result, it’s critical that digital economic policies conceived and developed for sustainable growth should include initiatives to bridge these digital inequalities. Further research in the area will be more effective in addressing India’s hurdles to digital inclusion.

7  Richness of a digital learning environment

Our rapidly changing world has posed the long-standing question to education, ―How can today’s schools be transformed so as to become environments of teaching and learning that makes individuals lifelong learners and prepares them for the 21st Century?” The response to this question is the focus of the OECD project, ‘Innovative Learning Environments’, and has produced a sampling of the rich array of new visions for education around the world. As one might imagine, many learning environments have looked to technology in their efforts to redesign teaching and learning. While technology integration has long been a key area of concern in education, the intersection of technology with our rapidly transforming educational landscape is framing the nature of technology in education in profound, new ways. New and emerging technologies are provoking a re-conceptualisation of teaching and learning, while also serving as catalysts for transformation and innovation. Successfully preparing all learners with the skills and capacities for 21st century citizenship— global awareness, creativity, collaborative problem-solving, self-directed learning—is no small order, and many educational leaders are finding that the traditional forms of education that have evolved through the end of the last century are simply inadequate for achieving these goals. At the same time, while our outer world was transforming, considerable advances have been made in the learning sciences, forcing educators to reconsider how they approach learning, instruction, and the environments created to foster these. Finally, dramatic advances in educational technology have inspired powerful new ways for learners to engage with all kinds of content and activities in their own self-direct learning experiences. The juxtaposition of these three events creates a very interesting challenge and opportunity—a space to reconsider, re-imagine, and re-invent learning environments able to prepare and excel each individual for effective life-long learning.