CM Oommen Chandy launches distribution of Raspberry Pi computers to schoolchildren
Kerala’s Chief Minister Shri Oommen Chandy today reiterated his vision of a “Digital Kerala” leading India’s technology sector, as more than 2,500 schoolchildren across the state were given Raspberry Pi computer kits and encouraged to start coding under a first-of-its-kind education project in the country.
Shri Chandy formally launched the ‘Learn to Code’ programme on Saturday by handing over the first of the thousands of Raspberry Pi kits that were distributed simultaneously to selected Class VIII students in all 14 districts of the state.
In a first for Kerala, the state-level function held at North Paravur in Ernakulam was telecast live to thousands of schools via the Victers education channel. IT and Industries Minister Shri P K Kunhalikutty addressed the audience via video link from Malappuram and Education Minister Shri P K Abdu Rabb from Kasaragod.
“India’s IT exports total more than Rs 5,40,000 crores, Kerala’s contribution is a mere Rs 4,000 crores despite the fact that a large proportion IT professionals are young, talented Malayalis, mostly working outside the stae,” the Chief Minister said. “We missed the IT bus when the first technology wave hit India, now is the time to regain those lost years.”
He said the idea of ‘Digital Kerala’ was not just that of a technology powerhouse built on IT education and entrepreneurship, but a governance system that brought IT and enabled services, through panchayats and local bodies, right to the doorsteps of citizens.
The Raspberry Pi distribution is currently the only state-sponsored programme of its kind in the world. It is being implemented by the Technopark Technology Business Incubator (T-TBI) in association with Kerala’s IT@School project and Kochi-based mobile-internet technology incubator Startup Village.
The Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer than can carry out most functions of a regular desktop besides allowing users to learn programming languages such as Scratch and Python.
The selected students will first be given basic training and encouraged to experiment with the Pi by trained faculty from IT@School. Focused coding sessions will start after the examinations in March. Starting April, each student will be assigned a mentor to guide them through the learning process.
The concept of the ‘Learn to Code’ was first introduced by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, a very strong supporter of Kerala’s technology initiatives, and taken up enthusiastically by the government.
Mr Gopalakrishnan, who was present at the inaugural function, announced a programming competition for the schoolchildren who received the Raspberry Pi kits.
He said the contest would start in April-May and will require the students to develop a programme or a computer game. These will be demonstrated at the Startup Village between May 21 and 30. The best programmer from each district will get a cash prize of Rs 20,000 and the state-level winner will take home Rs 2,00,000.
Shri P H Kurian, Principal Secretary, IT and Industries, said the government intends to run a similar programme to introduce children to electronics and equip them to make products in the future.
“The gadgets and appliances we use in daily life are increasingly coming with embedded software. The world will need large numbers of skilled people to develop these systems. The employment and entrepreneurship opportunities are massive,” he said.
Startup Village Chairman Sanjay Vijayakumar said Kerala’s youth today have opportunities that were never available to the previous generations who were forced to look for employment outside the state. “Kerala has some of the smartest brains in the country. If we teach our children about the opportunities they have from the age of 14-15, we will have them building world-class companies right here.”
Adv V D Satheesan, MLA; Municipal Chairperson Smt Valsala Prasannakumar, T-TBI CEO Dr Jayasankar Prasad and Shri K P Noufal, Executive Director, IT@School were present at the state-level function. A host of other dignitaries including Youth Affairs Minister Smt P K Jayalakshmi, MPs and MLAs led the district level programmes.
Each kit consists of a Raspberry Pi B+ board, Enclosure, 8 GB SD card, HDMI cable, HDMI to VGA cable, USB keyboard and USB Mouse.
The Government plans, under the scheme, to distribute 10,000 kits annually to students, primarily in 8th Standard, and follow it up with focused training/mentoring sessions and competitions.