IGNOUThe Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), in partnership with the Communication and Manufacturing Association of India (CMAI), has launched an initiative to deliver educational content via the mobile phone. Content will be delivered through text and audio and video, to students who register for the courses. What’s rather odd, is that they’re also planning to experiment with conducting exams via mobiles…this, in a country where students aren’t allowed to carry mobile phones to their exams.

They’re setting themselves some rather high, obscene targets – they’ve given themselves six months to create mobile-compatible content, and another year for starting the mobile exams project; unviable targets – 25 million mobile education students by 2009, and 50 million by 2010.

There are no inputs on how much the content will cost to consumers, but like most other content, the CMAI is hoping that Advertising will play a key part. I guess that’s the long term plan, since we’ve heard that online advertising has more or less dried up. However, there are few key challenge:
Distribution of this content: SMS text isn’t enough for “education”, GPRS/EDGE networks don’t have enough bandwidth for video content that will be long enough. and the in taking care of the distribution of the content – the wireless connection is hardly enough for distribution.
Handsets: If the distribution of video content will be via 3G, the price of 3G handsets is key. The indication from the Bharti Airtel earnings call was that there’s no way operators will subsidise 3G handsets.
Usability: Mobile handsets are not ideal for video content – screen sizes are small, and though handsets with adequate resolution are getting becoming cheaper. Ever tried watching a 3 hour film on a handset?

So while the parternship has been announced, I do believe that they won’t reach 25 million by 2009, and 50 million by 2010. That’s a pipe-dream.

P.s.: I haven’t heard of the CMAI before, but according to Cellebrum CEO Saket Agarwals blog, it’s an association that includes a large number of mobile VAS companies – ACL Wireless, Active Media, Air2Web, AOL Mobile, Cellebrum, Cellnext, HungamaMobile, IMIMobile, Indistimes Mobile, Jataayu, Mauj, Mobile365, One97, OnMobile, Phoneytunes, Roamware.