By Martyn Farrows

We were in India again this week securing a number of key strategic relationships for Learnovate and our partners. Again, the recurring theme for our visit has been the astonishing numbers and sheer scale of the education challenges here – and the ambitious plans to provide innovative solutions, supported by technology.

There are somewhere around 300 million students in education, of which 100 million are under the age of 10. Imagine the challenge of delivering a personalized learning experience at that scale to primary school students? That’s the challenge that the founders of EK Step have set themselves – and they are well on the way to achieving their vision.

The EK Step approach is to build a connected ecosystem for all stakeholders to engage – underpinned by an adaptive platform that will deliver a personalized experience for learners. The project had only just started when we first met them in June 2015 – but 8 months later and some core components of the ecosystem are already in place.

The team are already trialling with over 100,000 students, many in remote locations with no connectivity (and only 2 hours of electricity supply per day). Working offline on shared devices supplied as part of the project, the students have been able to engage with digital resources supporting numeracy and literacy – the student data being uploaded back to the EK Step platform when a connection can be found.

Scale will be achieved as more stakeholders engage with the ecosystem – fundamental infrastructural changes will also need to happen, but the natural assumption is that these (content, connectivity, devices) will come in time. We are looking forward to seeing the team at EK Step achieve their vision.

At the other end of the scale – and totally unrelated to the philanthropic efforts of EK Step – another remarkable event happened this week.

The director of Ringing Bells – Mohit Goel – announced the Freedom 251 smart phone, remarkable in that the ‘251’ in the title refers to the cost of the device in Rupees. That’s less than $4. For a smart phone.


Whilst the launch has been greeted with widespread skepticism (and visits from the police and tax officals!), the underlying narrative is compelling when related to the scale of building capacity in the education system.

Particularly when you look at the specs for the device:

“The dual SIM Freedom 251 device carries a 4-inch display, 1 GB RAM, 8GB internal memory with a 1.3 GHZ quad-core processor, dual cameras and comes with a charger, headphone and one-year warranty. “

Ringing Bells have already received 70 million registrations on their website and 2.5 million orders. Whether or not the orders will be fulfilled is a moot point and we will only know in time.

However, what we do know is that another important piece of the ‘scale’ equation may be within reach. If the cost of a device capable of delivering engaging, personalised digital content is coming down to this level, real impact can be achieved with global numeracy and literacy challenges.