New Delhi, Jan. 17: India launched the world’s first nationwide information highway inter-linking top educational institutions and research laboratories earlier this week, quietly ushering in a new mode of education sharing with the flick of a digital switch.
The National Knowledge Network (NKN) is up and running, allowing students in India the opportunity to attend live classes of their choice at educational institutions across the country.
First proposed by the National Knowledge Commission in 2006, the NKN will soon be formally unveiled to the nation through a public launch, government officials said. “But the NKN has been already switched on, earlier this week... and it is fascinating,” said an official who witnessed a demonstration at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The only other knowledge network of comparable size in the world is run by the California Institute of Technology and connects universities, laboratories and even schools across the state of California. The team of experts that erected the NKN had visited California to study their network. The seven older Indian Institutes of Technology, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and two laboratories of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research have been connected through the NKN so far.
But the plan, the official said, is to link over 10,000 higher education institutions within two years. “Ultimately, the aim is to link all schools across India,” said an official in the ministry of information and communications.
The NKN runs out of a highway of thousands of kilometres of underground cables that connect key cities and education hubs. Nodes are placed on the highway to allow information to be extracted from the cables.
Multiple institutions can link up to each node to share, via the highway, knowledge with others connected through the cables --- live.
The NKN allows around 2,500,000,000 bits of information flow per second --- 2.5 giga bits/s. This bandwidth is nearly a million times higher than what is available for the Garuda, the most advanced information highway available in the country at present, which links up scientific research organisations.
“The highway is wide precisely because, unlike all previous attempts at information linkups here, the NKN seeks to connect all educational and research institutions.“That means heavy traffic once the highway becomes popular,” the information and communications ministry official said.
Over the past year alone, India has set up six new IITs that are being mentored by existing IITs. Teachers from existing IITs have been travelling to the newer institutions to take classes, in the absence of adequate faculty hired for the new technology schools.