The closures forced on the world by the covid-19 pandemic has put pressure on schools, parents and pupils to embrace innovation.
Has Edtech’s moment arrived? The picture is inevitably mixed. The covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the digital divide. The poorest students living in places with the creakiest digital infrastructure have been least able to take advantage of virtual schooling. But what has been achieved in many places has nonetheless been remarkable. Nowhere more so than in India, where more than 4,000 edtech start-ups, attracting over $2bn of venture-capital funding, have emerged in the past five years. “Necessity is the mother of all invention,” says a teacher at a school in Chandigarh in Punjab that has embraced edtech. “It came as a blessing in a bleak situation and made a world of difference.”
Two big hurdles have confronted edtech in the past: adoption and access. India’s severe lockdown, leaving the country’s 1.5m schools and 250m K-12 pupils (from kindergarten to 18) desperate to maintain at least some learning, provided the spur to overcome the former. And cheap smartphones and tablets, combined with some of the lowest data prices in the world, have gone a long way towards solving the access problem. At the beginning of the year, before covid-19 hit, India already had more than 500m smartphone users, which meant that 77% of Indians had access to the mobile internet. That number has since risen significantly.
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