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Nilekani bets big on elementary education

After Aadhaar and politics, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani is learnt to be betting on education, primarily at the elementary level.

According to sources, the former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is launching a project that is expected to impact the way elementary education is imparted, especially to students aged two to seven. As a part of the not-for-profit initiative, Nilekani is creating a team of technologists to build a platform enabling children “to learn faster, quicker and deeper”.

“He (Nilekani) is giving the same amount of importance to this project as he had to UIDAI…he is personally taking the lead in finalising the structure,” said a source close to the initiative.

An email to Nilekani remained unanswered.

According to the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, there were 1.45 million schools offering elementary education in India in 2013-14. Of these, 86 per cent were in rural areas.

“A child’s brain develops fastest in the first six years. So, whatever you do to aid that process makes the learning more effective and is bound to help the children in the future. However, children in rural areas mostly stay away from schools till they are five or six, unlike their urban counterparts, in this critical phase of life,” said Meena Ganesh, technology entrepreneur and chief executive and managing director of Portea Medical.

“While I don’t know the specifics of what Nandan is doing, I am sure given his background, what he will create will definitely have a great impact on children’s learning,” she added.

This isn’t the first time the ace technocrat is launching an initiative aimed at aiding society. In 2003, he, along with technologist Srikanth Nadhamani, had launched eGovernment Foun-dation, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on developing easy-to-use software for municipalities and civic bodies. Arghyam Foundation, founded by Nilekani’s wife, Rohini Nilekani, works in the field of sustainable water management to meet the basic water needs of citizens, especially those from vulnerable communities.

After losing the Lok Sabha elections from the Bangalore South constituency on a Congress ticket, Nilekani had indicated he would continue to work in the social sector. “My agenda in the coming years include the priorities you shared with me,” he had said in a mail to voters.

Nilekani, along with his family, holds about three per cent stake in Infosys. According to Forbes, as of September, his net worth stood at $ 1.5 billion, making him India’s 66th richest man.


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