The University Grants Commission (UGC) is planning to launch (pdf) Bharatvani Project, with the objective of delivering content in all Indian languages through the online portal. The portal will feature content from Indian writers, government and non-government organizations, boards of education, textbook corporations, universities, publication houses and academies etc. This was first reported by ET.
The UGC is currently looking for institutions which can provide digitized and non-digitized books and materials already available in different Indian languages. It is also looking for individuals and institutions that wish to donate literature in various languages. Institutions and individuals willing to contribute have till the 30th of November to inform the UGC of what they can make available, and till the 7th of December to submit these materials.
Note that the UGC specifically requests for books in the available 22 scheduled Indian languages. According to the Census of India, there are 122 scheduled + non-scheduled languages and 234 mother tongues spoken in the country. So while this initiative is a start, the UGC has a lot more languages to cover before it’s anywhere close to covering all the languages in the country.
Another issue is that of IP rights. While there will be many books, texts and other content that can be freely published under Creative Commons, we wonder how the UGC will work around these issues. School textbooks, guide books, research theses etc., are all copyrightable in India. Translations of existing works are also entitled for copyright protection.
NCERT & Sakshat: Interestingly, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) currently offers copyrighted textbooks online, covering all textbooks published by the agency including for classes I to XII in Hindi, English and Urdu. There is also Sakshat, an initiative which aims to develop a variety of content like e-content for botany, commerce, history, economics etc., and an online joint entrance examination (JEE) item bank to help candidates prepare.
Online student grievance portal: In July last year, the UGC said it would launch an ‘Online students grievance redressal portal’ that would let students and the universities along with their affiliated colleges report their grievances related to unfair practices, admissions and other issues to the UGC. The portal was finally launched in March this year.
MediaNama’s take: Given the IP issues, the UGC is likely to limit itself to content under the CC license, limiting the availability of regional textbooks and other educational materials on the platform. However, even with limited content and the portal should help make content from Indic languages reach a certain level of ubiquity, enabling students and vernacular speakers to access native content easily. Additionally, if UGC can manage to convince publishers and other educational boards to follow NCERT’s example, it could really be a comprehensive portal for students to find basic educational material. Note that it’s not clear when the Bharatvani portal is expected to launch.
Image source: Flickr user simonbooth