Big Tech offers free training courses on India's new digital skills platform

Mobile-first service aims to bring e-learning to the masses, covering tech and plenty more

India on Wednesday launched a government-supported e-learning and job posting service, Skill India Digital (SID), that includes free courses from the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, and Google.

Officials pitched the mobile-first service as an effort to help more Indians acquire professional credentials, and by doing so advance India to the status of developed nation by the year 2047.

Speaking at the launch, [VIDEO] an official declared: "There is a very high percentage of mobiles and high speed internet and there is a good opportunity for us to use digital platforms for quantum improvement in access to relevant and quality reskilling," adding that SDI would "drive nonlinear growth of upskilling."

DSI offers hundreds of courses, plenty related to business IT. We found a Cisco cyber threat management course, an intro to AI in Google Cloud and a guide to implementing Azure in the public sector.

Those are just some of the 264 skilling courses offered at launch.

Users build credentials within the app and can generate digitally verified CVs to satisfy employers they have completed courses offered on the platform.

India's Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship claims the service boasts scalability, is built on open standards, and has convergence outside the ecosystem – it is linked with the Udyam portal for registration of small to medium enterprises, the eShram portal with creates a database of unorganized workers and the ASEEM job directory.

From the talent supply side, it can aggregate demand by counting how many people are looking for certain jobs.

It was built on India Stack – the country's national identification and digital payments infrastructure – which is based on a set of open APIs, incorporates biometric data, and has been lauded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as bringing financial access to the country's unbanked population.

India lacks neither tech talent nor upskilling initiatives. The government's Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) program launched in 2015 rewards completed training with monetary incentives, a system designed to increase skills and worker efficiency while boosting income. That program did come with its own hiccups, though – including allegations of fraud and training vendor incompetence.

There are plenty of non-government initiatives as well, like the popular and long-running non-profit Khan Academy, funded mostly by donations from philanthropic organizations to provide free education, originally focused on STEM subjects.

India is currently considered a lower-middle income country according to the World Bank's gross national income per-capita-based classifications.

Last month, prime minister Narendra Modi declared that the next five years are a "golden opportunity" to become a developed nation by 2047 – the centenary of independence from the British Empire.

Modi cited corruption, dynasty politics and appeasement as factors preventing India from realizing its true potential. But according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the goal of developed nation status is very achievable.

The consulting firm projects that India could become the world's third biggest economy as early as 2030, noting that it has already achieved one of the world's highest growth rates in the past two decades.

"To realize its future ambitions, however, India must transition from a largely agrarian, informal economy to a services, advanced manufacturing, and knowledge-led hub, positioning itself to take full advantage of the world's increasing technological sophistication and drive for sustainability," argued PWC.

The country has made a push over the past few years to grow its tech manufacturing industry, with a "Made In India" slogan describing its ambitions. It set a goal last year to quadruple electronics manufacturing in just four years, and has offered up billions in subsidy programs – like the $10 billion Production Linked Incentive scheme to attractor semiconductor firm.

While some of its policies have seemed rash – for instance imposing a requirement on manufacturers of many types of computers to secure an import license to bring their goods into the country without warning – the government has shown itself willing to backtrack and change course. The permit plan was paused after it reportedly led to Samsung and Apple halting shipments. ®

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