DIKSHA’s had a stellar few months. In February 2021, the Indian government’s edtech app hit 10 million installs. That traction helped it break into the top 5 education apps being downloaded on the Google Playstore. That kind of growth—just three years removed from its launch in 2017—would make any private edtech app green with envy. Unlike its for-profit peers, though, DIKSHA is 100% free to use, and owned and operated by the Ministry of Education (MoE).

A screen shot from Google Playstore app rankings, taken on 5 February, 2021 (Source: Similar Web)

DIKSHA, or Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing, isn’t just an app though. It’s an entire platform with a slew of functions. When it launched, it came sandwiched between a whole set of digital education tools backed by the government, as part of its “one nation, one platform” approach. The idea was to create and push out platforms that could help all students and teachers access better content, and better learning outcomes. 

It was slow to pick up at first. “No state government wants to adopt what the centre is pushing. They have their own programmes,” says a state-level functionary who wished not to be named as she’s not authorised to speak with the media. 

The pandemic changed that.

Source: Google Trends


When government schools shuttered, forcing 156 million students and 9 million teachers to stay home, it became an unlikely lifeline. Through the platform—an app as well as a web portal—state governments were able to push out content links, teacher training modules, and assessments en masse. The MoE even ran a pan-India training programme called NISHTHA for all government teachers, for a quarter of what it would cost the government to run them physically. 

“There was a mad scramble to get teachers to upload local content when the pandemic struck. Each state team was given quotas of 200 pieces of content. The teachers had no idea how to do this,” says a private sector consultant who’s been involved with state-level education projects. As a result of frequent “nudges” by the MoE to state education departments, DIKSHA’s usage skyrocketed. It now boasts impressive, even if opaque, statistics—15.9 billion learning minutes and 1.8 billion learning sessions completed.

From the outside, DIKSHA’s a super-platform. It can carry content. It can train. It can even generate useful data for states to use for policy making. DIKSHA also has a plug-and-play feature called “energised textbooks”, which links a scannable QR code, found in physical textbooks, to a video online. Its stock also rose within the government because it has found utility as a potent “soft power” tool. In December 2020, the MoE presented DIKSHA to 10-12 African nations as the “world’s largest, most diverse school education platform”.

AUTHOR

Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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