Making education accessible for all with cloud-based innovations

On the one hand, India is a hotbed for technological innovations with tech start-ups mushrooming across the country and unicorns such as Flipkart giving a tough battle to global giants like Amazon. On the other, educational institutions, barring a few elite and premier ones, are still struggling to make their presence felt online.

Indian education institutions are constrained by resources, in terms of technology, skilled personnel and funds. There is also a general lack of awareness of sta-ndards and technological possibilities. However, institutes in the US and Europe demand qua-lity and standards, and are willing to spend plenty of money.

After finding that Indian college/university websites were not accessibility compliant,GreenClouds offered a solution. Photo: Mint

These were some of the lessons for Nicholas George, promoter and CEO of GreenClouds, which develops cloud-based solutions for the education and employment markets, over his 20-year tenure servicing businesses which included customers from publishing, certification providers, universities, state bodies and Fortune 100 companies.

“I found that despite the huge leaps we as a country were making in adoption of technology and mobile, the benefits of it were not being seen in terms of access to opportunities for education,” said George.

With the mission of “putting education on the cloud and making opportunities for education accessible to all”, George and his wife, Celine, started GreenClouds in 2010. The couple started the venture with their personal savings, and later a few friends pitched in.

“In many ways, this is what drives the way we do things. We believe that browser advancements, device proliferation and cloud computing open up immense possibilities for the education sector. Our ambition is to leverage these advancements to make education relevant, inclusive, accessible and affordable,” said George.

GreenClouds won a mBillionth award in 2015 for WizcheQ, a web quality validator tool started as an internal project to ensure that websites built for clients met Web quality and accessibility standards.

With information and communications technology becoming increasingly integrated and embedded in the way education is accessed and delivered, George believed it became important to ensure that persons with disabilities and limited access to bandwidth should be able to access technologies easily without a dilution in experience. Websites and applications that are not designed with Web-accessibility in mind not only create barriers for those with disabilities, but also compromise on the usability of the site or app by all users in general.

“We conducted a dipstick study on accessibility compliance of websites of Indian universities, IITs, IIMs and Delhi University colleges and found that most of the institution websites were not accessibility compliant. On further study, we found that a vast majority of the accessibility obstacles are the result of ignorance, oversight or negligence,” he said.

It became evident that a greater awareness of accessibility requirements, guidelines and support on what needs to be done to become accessibility compliant may encourage such institutions to take proactive steps to become Web-accessible and standards conscious.