Since 1990s, India has witnessed significant economic reforms. There has been paradigm shift in its national development strategies, moving from protectionism, self- reliance and central planning to policies emphasizing liberalization, global integration and market driven growth. Restructuring initiatives in telecommunications, informatics and broadcasting are also part of these socio-economic reforms. The recent policy initiatives are directed towards developing the country's National Information Infrastructure.
Information technology revolution has already taken its root in India and this has profound implication for the information professionals. In the context of the emerging Information Society, information organization, dissemination and management is getting more emphasis. The developments in the Internet, multimedia technology, web etc., have changed the whole scenario of information management. Adoption of wide range of information technologies for information related work calls for redefinition of services, roles and responsibilities of the information professionals. As a result, there is a rising demand for a new kind of information workers accomplished with the skills of various professions. How to generate appropriate manpower for the National Information Infrastructure is the major issue confronting the information profession today. Keeping in view the changes taking place in the society, there is a strong need to develop adequate number of trained information professionals with specialized skills for the emerging market.
Most of the LIS schools in India follow traditional curriculum, which are inadequate to meet the demand of the emerging market. This calls for reassessment of strategies for developing competent manpower. The paper looks into the various challenges faced by the professional courses in India and suggests strategies to cater to the education and training needs of information professionals in the context of National Information Infrastructure.
IT revolution has already taken its root in India creating a heavy demand for the information professionals in the country. With information and communication technologies becoming useful in all areas of human activity, the information handling and retrieval skills are becoming more desirable across the whole spectrum of workforce. However, in the present set up, the LIS courses offered by the universities and other institutions are not properly geared for the emerging market. It has, therefore, become imperative to reassess the market for the information professionals and device strategies to meet the current need. The paper looks into the various challenges faced by the professional courses in India and suggests strategies to cater to the education and training needs of information professionals in the context of National Information Infrastructure.
Since 1990s, India has witnessed significant economic reforms. There has been paradigm shift in its national development strategies, moving from protectionism, self-reliance and central planning to policies emphasizing liberalization, global integration and market driven growth. Restructuring initiatives in telecommunications, informatics and broadcasting are also part of these socio-economic reforms. The recent policy initiatives are directed towards developing the country's National Information Infrastructure. In the recent years there has been interesting developments in the telecom and broadcasting sectors. As per the National Telecom Policy, all of India's 600,000 villages are expected to be provided with telephone exchanges by the year 1997. From the current level of 12 million lines, over 30 million telephone lines are expected by the year 2000.The cellular services are currently available in major cities which is to be extended to the other cities by the end of this year. Around 2.5 million cellular phones are expected by the year 2000 . Major developments were also witnessed in the broadcasting and satellite communication sector. Until the early 1990s broadcasting was a state monopoly in India. With the Supreme Court ruling in February 1995, airwaves were declared public allowing private companies to broadcast radio and television signals either through terrestrial means or through satellites. As a result there has been a boom both in the number of viewership and the number of broadcasters. It is expected that by the year 2000 there will be around hundred television channels. In the networking front, Internet is being adopted in a big way throughout the country. Though currently there are around 16,000 Net users, the number is quite insignificant as compared to the population of around 950 million. However, by the end of this year the total number of connectivity is expected to be around 100,000. It is expected that apart from the commercial users, the educational institutions, universities, and government organizations will come forward to rapidly expand and fully exploit the usage of the Internet.
All these developments have direct implication for the information professionals, and they need to be geared up for the current market requirement.
Most of the LIS schools in India follow traditional curriculum, which are inadequate to meet the demand of the emerging market. This calls for reassessment of strategies for developing competent manpower. The existing curriculum of most of the universities are based on the recommendation of the Ranganathan Committee and the Committee set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 1978. The recommendations made by these committees where mainly for the Bachelors level courses which are quite outdated and irrelevant in the present day context. In order to restructure the curriculum and bring about a uniform national pattern of LIS education in India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) appointed the Curriculum Development Committee(CDC) in 1990.The Report brought out by the CDC was however found to be unsatisfactory and was not adopted by most of the universities. In view of the latest developments in the information technology and rising demand for the information professionals, there is an urgent need to develop strategies conducive for the National Information Infrastructure.
With information work becoming multifunctional in nature, it has become essential to incorporate changes in the curriculum by adopting multi-disciplinary approach. The greatest challenge for the professional courses is to bring together the skills of the librarians, computer scientists, and subject specialists. There is also an urgent need to attract more number of persons to the profession. Unless immediate steps are taken to develop adequate number of modern information professionals, chances are there that persons from the other professions will have an upper hand in the information related work and the LIS professionals will be left with the traditional roles of managing libraries. This will restrict the development of the profession and create a glut in the market for the LIS professionals. Thus, redesigning and restructuring the curriculum for the LIS courses, has become the foremost task of the profession and special attention is needed in this direction.
The foremost task of the LIS schools should be to develop professionals specializing in handling of the new information technology. Special emphasis should be given to impart skills and training in handling of latest technological innovations. The curriculum should be flexible enough to adopt changes as and when required.
The curriculum should try to integrate the information technology aspects with the general curriculum. Traditional skills of librarianship in information handling is important and hence it should not be sidelined. The traditional skills of information processing, retrieval and dissemination are to be reoriented with the new information technology to suit the present day situation. The curriculum should therefore incorporate the traditional skills with new approach, merging the content with the new information technology.
In a fast changing society, it may not be possible for any generalistic curriculum to take care of all the aspects of information work. It is therefore imperative to develop curriculum at different levels. The courses should be developed in three levels: generic, specialized and advanced levels . The generic courses should provide knowledge and experience in information processing, resources and services. The specialized courses should provide extensive experience and skills in the new information technology at technical and operational level. The advanced level courses should be mainly for developing professional expertetize. These courses should be providing high level of skills in handling different information technologies.
While restructuring the curriculum to suit the current needs of information infrastructure, special attention is also required to develop sufficient number of qualified faculty. Well-trained faculty is the most crucial requirement for implementing changes in the curriculum. It is therefore important to reorient and reeducate the faculty from time to time to keep them abreast of the latest developments in the profession. Moreover, the multidisciplinary approach of the curriculum will require cooperation from other disciplines. The faculty could comprise of two categories: the generic and the specialist. While the generic faculty would be providing knowledge and training in information handling procedures, the specialist would impart skills and training in handling of various information and communication technologies, management techniques etc.
The strategies mentioned above could be only fruitful if proper infrastructural facilities are available with the institutions imparting education and training to the information professionals. It is therefore essential for the institutions to have adequate infrastructure in terms of computer and communication technologies- both hardware and software, sufficient access to multimedia learning resources, and well trained staff to handle and maintain the resources.
India gears up for the future. Times of India, New Delhi December 9, 1996, P 15.
Kanjilal, Uma (1996) Human Resource Development in Library and Information Science through Distance mode: Prospects for India. Paper presented at the 48th FID Conference and Congress at Graz, Austria, October 22-25, 1996.
Hayes, Robert M. (1995) An educational component for the Global Information Infrastructure, in Planning Global Information Infrastructure/edited by Ching-Chih Chen. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. Pp. 207-231.