After weeks of struggle amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sangeetha, an auto driver's daughter pursuing B.Com in Chennai, is able to attend her online classes using her own new tablet she received as a gift. Over the last few weeks, she has been using her cousin's device to attend her classes. It was then help came from Gunisha Aggarwal, a Class 12 student who is reaching out to needy students with used smartphones and laptops to bridge the digital divide.
"The tablet is so useful. The free laptop given by the government last year crashed. I want to become a banker. The tablet will also help me to prepare for it," says Sangeetha.
In another part of Chennai, a restaurant waiter's class X daughter is a relieved lot, thanks to the efforts by Gunisha.
Gunisha, the daughter of Chennai police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal was moved seeing her mother give a used laptop to a domestic help's daughter, so she could join online classes. Soon, she set up a website www.helpchennai.org to help students in need of a laptop or smartphones.
Thinkinfinity & Consulting, an IT company, chipped in and built the Rs 50,000 worth website free of cost to help donors to give used or new devices and those in need to approach them. It also brought together technical experts who could check the used laptops and smartphones and get make the devices e-learning ready.
Balasubramanian, an IT adviser who facilitated this said "I felt bad that despite in IT space we had not thought about a platform like this and we were happy to join hands".
So far Gunisha has given devices to four students and has collected 25 devices including 20 used laptops. Around 15 students have so far applied for devices which she would hand them over this week.
"The pandemic has turned many jobless. While we have so many devices at home many children don't have even one. Siblings share the only device they have. Its our moral responsibility to bridge this digital divide," Gunisha, who aspires to pursue economics or law, told NDTV.
Her efforts are opening new avenues to help more students.
R Anandakrishnan, Director of Mark Metro advertising is contributing 100 tablets and donating around Rs 12 lakh through his Rotary club of Chennai Towers.
"Even if we want to help we can't identify 100 students in need of these devices. By supporting this way we are sure these go to the needy. I didn't know she's the Police Commissioner's daughter," he says.
Balancing time for her online classes and this novel service, Gunisha, who has even helped many needy with food packets during Covid-induced lockdown, now wants to partner with any non profit organisations to help more students in distress due to the digital divide.