ShikshaLokam: A Societal Platform
Serving public for the societal good
Ever booked a cab using Uber, or placed an order through Amazon, connected with your colleague over Zoom, or maybe shared the highlights of your latest hobby over some social media platform? Each of these platforms makes our lives a little easier by connecting us with people, services, and products that we need in our day to day lives.
Such Platforms are operating models that create value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups, usually consumers and producers. In order to make these exchanges happen, platforms build and harness large, scalable networks of users and resources that can be accessed on-demand, thus meeting our needs of entertainment, healthcare, logistics, and beyond.
But not all platforms are the same, they also differ on the basis of how they empower their users by sharing data with them and by providing services that can enable agency of different stakeholders. Along these lines, platforms can be of two types: Private Platforms and Platforms for public service. The major difference that lies between the two is – Intent. For example, a platform that provides access to knowledge or process resources or tools to create the different types of resources without subscription barriers etc. can be considered a platform for public use, whereas platforms where barriers to access, such as paywalls, exist, are private platforms. Let’s understand how each kind of platform works.
First, there are Private Platforms that facilitate development, deployment, and operations on privately owned infrastructure or behind a protected firewall. These platforms provide many interactions among consumers and providers that allow them to get services/ products in exchange for money or access to their data. Private platforms include the likes of Google, Uber, Zomato, Tinder, etc. where these platforms also allow users to access a substantial amount of their own data but at the same time, manage the interactions in the ecosystem through the insights that the user behavior data provide.
For example, Uber is a ride-hailing platform that provides on-demand cab services. It is virtually a free service that connects passengers to drivers. However, in the course of providing this service, the platform requests for and gains access to our personal information such as email IDs, location, preferable modes of payment, etc, which they eventually use to design customised ad experiences for every individual user, as per the company policies. The customer-behaviour data also feeds into other initiatives that the company can design to provide other services such as food delivery, package delivery, etc.
Secondly, we have the other type of platforms: Platforms for public service also called Societal Platforms. Societal Platforms are created with the intention of serving the public for societal good with the focus of ownership by the different key actors in the ecosystem rather than one company/ corporation. These platforms can be publicly owned by NGOs or government institutions to address various societal challenges and they empower their users with data, nurture development within their ecosystem and connect problem solvers to each other. Societal platforms address issues in a not for profit manner purely for the benefit of the society rather than focusing on increasing profit margins.
Table 1: Differences between Private and Societal Platforms across different parameters
If one is designing a tool with a societal outcome in mind, such as, dignity, choice, and agency for the most underserved people, the interplay between government (sarkaar) , civil society (samaaj), and markets (bazaar) and the unique roles that they play become very evident. This is where societal platforms come into the picture where the interactions are designed such that it enables collaboration, co-creation, and approach to scale between each of the actors.
Both kinds of platforms hold importance in our society and cater to different end goals, however, they operate with different value systems. The values with which the Societal Platforms operate can be broadly termed as Societal Platform Core Values. The Societal Platform Core Values are:
How is ShikshaLokam a Societal Platform?
ShikshaLokam is an education leadership platform that aims to enable and amplify leadership development opportunities for individuals and institutions engaged in K-12 education systems. ShikshaLokam connects different stakeholders in the education system with a mission of transforming school leadership including civil society organisations, government institutions and changemakers in the education sector to co-create solutions to complex societal problems at scale.
- ShikshaLokam aspires to restore the agency of the first-mile users: the education leaders, by making solutions accessible to them and by providing them access to their own data. The platform is not for profit-making. All the resources and capabilities of Bodh – To Learn, Samiksha – To sense and make sense, and Unnati -To Improve, available on the platform are open-source and are available free of cost.
- To amplify leadership development opportunities for individuals and institutions engaged in education systems, ShikshaLokam connects different actors working towards this cause to co-create solutions and implement them. This is done by enabling NGOs, CSOs, government officials to imagine and implement their programs at scale. ShikshaLokam works in close partnership with its key partners to co-create solutions on the platform for different needs of the first-mile users. All the partner organisations, institutions and State Education Departments that run their programs through ShikshaLokam get access to relevant data and key insights of their initiatives in order to make informed decisions and measure the impact of their programs. These data insights empower partners to be better informed about the complexity of the problem that they are dealing with and come up with efficient solutions accordingly.
- Ecosystem partners are highly encouraged to reuse existing solutions on the ShikshaLokam platform as part of their programs. Various organisations also co-create programs and the related solutions and assets together on the ShikshaLokam platform. The School Leadership Development Program (SLDP) in the State of Uttar Pradesh is an example of a program co-created with the UP state officials in collaboration with partner organisations.
- Along with that, the technology on which the infrastructure is built is also open source. This allows for people to take the code pieces developed through the platform creation journey and create further sophisticated tech-based solutions on top of the Platform as per the context and need. ShikshaLokam was built on top of the open-source infrastructure called Sunbird, and now ShikshaLokam has extended and built newer capabilities and has contributed them back to Sunbird. Diksha – a national education platform by MoE is also able to leverage these new capabilities at a national scale.
- ShikshaLokam keeps the Societal Platform Model at the core of its operation. The attempt is always to design the assets in form of knowledge, processes, technology, connections and data in a manner that makes them reusable, interoperable and generic. This ensures that assets can be easily dispersed to more actors and organisations that feel the need for it.
Societal platforms such as Shikshalokam, enable co-creation of solutions, opportunities for collaboration and most importantly access to data that the entire system and government and civil society benefit from. ShikshaLokam is a platform that anyone working in the space of education leadership can work with, is completely free, and is legally available to all, and hence promotes and encourages public goods creation, co-creation and collaboration to achieve scale at speed.