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Friday, May 20 2022
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JumpToPC: Making online education easy and affordable for all

 

It is widely known that the Covid-19 pandemic and its preventive measures—Lockdowns, and Safety guidelines on reopening—-have prompted a quantum leap in the use of online methods of communication and education. 

However, this kind of education is out of the reach of many as they have very limited computing resources to partake of it, prompting some to discontinue for a year till the situation improves – but the question on everyone’s lips is, will it? 

JumpToPC, a social enterprise, co-founded by Sucheta Baliga and Dan Sweeney, has stepped into this burgeoning space to create affordable computing and browsing resources that adapt to existing and available technologies to make online education accessible to all, even the less privileged sections of the society.  

For many sections of society, Wi-Fi is still a costly privilege and buying a complete computer set is beyond their means. JumpToPC is a simple yet innovative tool that enables users to transform their smartphone into a PC.

“I used to watch people make and edit Tik-Tok videos but they would not know how to write a proper resume” remembers co-founder, CEO Sucheta Baliga.

The smartphone industry is a growing industry and has provided users with the processing power and memory capacity that previously came only with a computer. But, at the same time, a smartphone is more often used as a tool for entertainment than as a medium to perform work-related tasks or educating oneself.

JumpToPC converts your smartphone and TV into a PC

JumpToPC converts your smartphone into a PC using their casting (they refer to it as the jumping device) device that is connected to a TV. At the touch of a button, on the mobile app, the Wireless Display Adaptor (casting equipment) automatically pairs your phone with the TV and casts your phone. The package also comes with a Bluetooth keyboard with a touchpad or a Mouse to encourage users to perform more strenuous tasks like data-entry and interactive online classes.

The estimated cost of the full-package product is MRP ?3200-?3500 including all its accessories, but the cost could vary depending upon the location and distribution methods. 

At present, the company does not have any tie-up with any smartphone manufacturer but is looking in that direction to expand its horizons. The product is compatible with all android UIs available in the market except for Apple products. The product was not intended to be compatible with Apple products as these products are mostly owned by a small and affluent section of the society; an audience the company does not attempt to reach.

 

To aid potential users who might not be able to afford the product upfront, the company also has partnerships with micro-finance companies like Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKRDP) in Karnataka, Shramik Bharti in Uttar Pradesh and several other self-help groups to enable these users to purchase these products in instalments.

JumpToPC: The Inspiration and its transformation into reality

Sucheta Baliga was inspired to give back to society after she joined her previous job at Greenway Appliances. Greenway Appliances is an Ashden (2014) and TIME Sustainability (2017) Award-winning social enterprise focused on designing, manufacturing, and distributing sustainable products for the masses, and is the largest manufacturer of clean cookstoves in India.

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As the head of marketing for Greenway Appliances, it was customary for Ms Baliga to head out to rural areas quite often where she observed that—after the rise of Jio and the mass availability of cheaper phones — four to five people would huddle over a smartphone to watch YouTube videos and she would wonder why they weren’t watching the content on a larger screen like a TV.

She realised they did not have the means to do that. That is when the thought came to her and the quite appropriately christened, JumpStream Technologies was born in April 2019. 

Sucheta Baliga co-founded JumpToPC with a Research scientist at MIT, Massachusetts, Dan Sweeney and strived to fulfil the need to develop a simple and scalable technology that could use the phone and its internet connection to cast its content on to a TV Screen.

Co-founders of JumpToPC: Sucheta Baliga and Dan Sweeney

The company piloted the product with a demo in Udupi in December 2019 and then, set up a couple of units in schools in the month of February in collaboration with an NGO called Shramik Bharti. 

JumpToPC is still in its infancy and naturally, does not manufacture all its parts in their own production plants. It has a tie-up with Greenway Appliances, to manufacture and assemble at their Baroda factory.

The company initially started out as a means to simply connect the ubiquitous phone to a larger screen like the TV but has grown into a much more significant technology that is serving the cause of dissemination of online education.

JumpToPC: A boon for online education 

Online education was a growing market in the pre-COVID-19 days, but the pandemic and its aftermath—making social distancing mandatory and gatherings in schools near-impossible—has galloped this growth, creating a vast market for Edu-tech and related services.

 “We noticed that during the pandemic, people went beyond the use of their phones for entertainment to using it for education – attending webinars, online classes and the like,” said Baliga. As online education suddenly became the norm in Indian households, many households and their occupants struggled to cope with this necessity; for one there was inadequate bandwidth, typing on the tiny keyboard was a distressing experience, using the phone for long hours was a health concern, and solving math problems or for that matter writing assignments was an extremely difficult task.”

“Online education also threw up a new challenge – online safety. After all, most of those who were required to use the facility to keep up with their academics were at an impressionable age. “Several moms raised concerns about the safety of their children while accessing the internet on the smartphone. They said it would be helpful if the content could be cast on the TV; this would provide for a better platform to monitor,” said Sucheta.  

JumpToPC to propel education of girls in rural India

JumpToPC is not just a business venture, it is a social enterprise that aims to aid the education of the girl child in rural areas. Sucheta says that the number of dropouts by the age of 10-11 are staggering and they hope to make a difference. “Especially in rural areas, boys have a much greater advantage – there is widespread support, their parents and elders don’t worry too much about their safety or hygiene and they have access to internet cafes which have emerged as centres of learning during the lockdown.”  

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JumpToPC told NewsKarnataka.com that most of these families are not averse to girl children being educated but are concerned about their security and problems with menstrual hygiene. Most rural schools are located away from the dwellings of the students and the children must walk quite a distance to schools. Another problem often faced by them is the inadequacy of menstrual hygiene resources in schools. Online education in these circumstances would be an alternative way to enable girl children to continue their education. 

Sucheta believes that JumpToPC can prove to be an essential tool in helping these girl children receive an education despite the various challenges they face because of their gender. 

JumpToPC sees new opportunities in urban areas, post-Covid

Post-Covid, the company realised that the urban middle-class faces similar issues—access, affordability, and safety—in the continuance of the education of their children. This, the company realized was an opportunity to enhance and expand their base.

Sometimes it is more than that. A family in the urban setting which has two laptops but needs an additional unit for online education can use this product very effectively. Several schools from urban areas have reached out to the company to purchase their product to make a shift from the smartphone-learning model. 

JumpToPC: the future

The product was initially intended to be launched in April but due to Covid-19 restrictions hindering the manufacturing process, the company decided to postpone its launch to October. They have already received pre-orders from across the board, from NGOs and foundations based in rural India to private orders from cities.

JumpToPC does not intend to get into the content game but rather wants to continue making online content more accessible. “We are curating a database with all available free content on our app and will categorize it by course and grade,” the co-founder of JumpToPC told Newskarnataka.com.

“After logging in into the JumpToPC application, they can browse through this content. The database facilitates courses from several Edu-tech companies, like Khan Academy, MIT (open-courses), Girlswhocode, etc. Besides, users also have the freedom to install or learn from any other open or premium content-providing platforms like Byjus, Udemy or Coursera. 

The pandemic has thrown up several challenges, and people around the globe have provided several solutions to those challenges as well. Human ingenuity and the concern for fellow beings is the key factor driving these innovations. And JumpToPC is the epitome of this.

Indeed, JumpToPC was one among the 15 finalists at the MIT Solve, an initiative by MIT to solve world challenges and create a marketplace for social impact innovation. 

In the long run, the company hopes to find investors willing to invest in their socially beneficial enterprise and take it to the next level for the benefit of society.

 

Melvin Mathew

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