Thursday, January 31, 2013

Technology- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle

Training- Keep it Simple

When I started with learning computer usage, the computers were big boxes which needed to be programmed and printers were another big clunky box. DOS was the in thing and windows meant those in a house. People never thought this thing called computer was amounting to anything. Some thought their children were just wasting time and money nothing else. Only a few understood the power of being able to program a machine to do things we wanted them to do. Wind the clock to 1986, I saw my first PC. Hey it had floppy disks which were 5.5 inch things and we could write in Dos and make it do things. It held such low amounts of data it was funny.

Fast forward 2013. Today everyone uses a computer in one form or the other as a PC, a Laptop, a Tablet, a smart phone, smart TV etc. The computer invasion into our lives is so encompassing that offices stop if there is a power failure or a virus on a computer. No one knows what to do if all computers fail in the world for some unknown reason. When computer usage is so pervasive and its existence is impossible to miss why is that training is done using old technology which can daunt many who are afraid of technology? The article below clearly illustrates my point. When I learnt project management a popular saying was Keep It Simple Stupid ie KISS principle. What that meant was you the trainer is very stupid if you can not keep it simple and convey the message to the audience in a simple easy manner. Over and over again I have to emphasise to any one teaches anything, the only principle is to give your message out to people in a simple clear concise manner to your audience if that audience is non academic and are beginners in anything. Otherwise you are the Stupid one not them. This principle seems to be completely ignored by the IT sector employees or the those who train people in computer usage. When computer industry has been time again shown that when hardware and software become complicated then immediately the usage declines even among the educated populations.

Let us take the example of a McDonald's Point of Sell (POS) machine. The whole equipment is designed towards efficient customer service in minutes. It is not designed to show how clever McDonald's IT engineers are but to show how good the MMcDonald's products are and how fast can the checkout person sell it. The face of the POS has only apps with pictures of the items linked to prices which the checkout person can click. It adds up the total and service is sent to the cooks and delivery is brought out and service in done in minutes. No need to look at an Excel or any other spreadsheets, no need to stand there and hunt for the product item and waste every ones time. It does not expect the checkout person to be an IT expert. Just click and serve.

POS Machine

Here in the example below the trainer is trying to show a group of farmers a keyboard and trying to instill enthusiasm in them. Imagine this scenario where the trainer was standing trying to use an app that the farmer can click with one finger -no need to learn complicated key boarding he/she need not have to go to typing exam. The information re weather rainfall soil etc pops out and farmer gets the information he/she needs without worrying about how they will learn to use this thing called computer. No stress but lot of learning.

Why is this so hard to conceive among trainers? Is it the lack of thinking? It is the fear that they could be made irrelevant if things become too simple? or is it the thinking in a box mentality?

Over and again I see teachers, trainers making things so complicated that one needs to get a PhD to blow their nose. In my opinion any one who trains others in technology needs to find a simpler easier way. Learning technology should not be a fear ridden experience it should be a joyous necessity. If technology has to encompass the lives of rural India apart from infrastructure needs one needs to make it SIMPLE. NO complicated web pages, no complicated URLs, no complicated layers of slow loading pages nothing. Simple web pages preferably as apps which a farmer can access to get information they need to do what they do best ie farming. It is the job of every good IT coder to think about the simplest form of user friendly software not IT friendly ones. If IT sector cant distill complicated technology to a simple one and enable users to adopt it as fast as they did mobile phones, it will take decades for information to penetrate the rural sector enmasse'.

Everyone who trains others especially for money should note It is not about your brilliance. It is about their learning. Your intent may be good but if your communication method is complicated people will shun it no matter how important the message is. So the GAP will remain a GAAAAAAAAP.

IT people should focus on Indianization of IT and allow local language content to be used in mobile phones,Tablets, PCs, Laptops etc. not through transliteration but though innovative coding. In Karnataka the computer when a farmer opens it should start in Kannada and end in it. People should develop e-books eflyers etc in Kannada and upload it. Demonstration of agriculture technology in the local language should be uploaded on it YouTube to encourage farmers to learn new technology, Webnairs should be conducted for training many more farmers who can not travel. The mindset of the trainers and IT technologists has to change if Indian broadband penetration has to move from 150 million to meet at least Chinese level of 630 million.

Technology can do wonders only when people using them can be comfortable with them to learn new things and not fearful to do so.

A portal in which the A to Z of farming is just a click away
The Hindu article published 31-01-13

M. J. Prabu

Breaking the communication barrier and knowledge gap is a must today

The science of communication is getting more advanced everyday. From desktop computers/laptops and ipads to smartphones, information is just a click away. “What our farmers need today for successful farming is the right information that can be made available to them easily. Breaking the communication barrier and knowledge gap that exists today becomes imperative.

Three centres

“From our side we have initiated the e-Extension Centre putting to optimum use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and created a website called Agritech portal” ( which gives an exhaustive A-Z list of of agriculture,” says Dr. S. Haripriya, Assistant Professor (Horticulture), TNAU, Vridachalam. “Our Vriddhachalam Kendra has devised a three-day training programme to farmers of Cuddalore district with minimum educational qualification of 10th standard to make them aware about how to use a computer and browse the Internet for gathering information related to their fields,” she says. Interested farmers in the region are asked to pre-register for this training at this Kendra. Based on the responses from them we plan to select about 10 farmers per batch usually on first-come-first-served basis. Five desktop computers with internet connection are being used to impart the training. During the training, basic theoretical information and hands-on training regarding what is a computer, how to operate it, browsing the Internet to get agriculture related information etc are scheduled to be imparted. In the last two years about 200 farmers have been trained in similar programmes.


“We kept a record on the farmers who underwent the training and were able to find that an average of five farmers accessed agricultural information using the net in a week using the computer hub in this Kendra. Around one percent of them started using computers in their households,” she says. Recently, the farmers started gathering new information from the portal approached the specialist of this Kendra for further action oriented queries. On knowing about the prevailing weather conditions in the State from the weather network page they started to pre-plan the cultural operations, harvesting and drying of the harvested produce. Some proactive farmers have also used the portal to choose major markets in South based on the produce price data available on the dynamic market information page.

When the State is facing a power crisis for nearly 10 to 12 hours daily how can farmers be expected to use computers?

No excuse

“Presently the power cut is for 12 hours in all districts. But there is some supply for the remaining hours. And many farmers use the supply time to charge their mobiles. Wi-fi and data card for net browsing are becoming a common facility on mobiles these days. If one person in the family (college going student) has a good handset then the farmer can easily get information from it. “Take the case of Kissan mobile services. Several farmers use the facility as and when required. And today almost all high school students have laptops provided by the government. Such computers have battery back up for nearly 4-5 hours so this is not really a problem for interested farmers. All one needs is the attitude,” she says categorically.

Both English and Tamil

The web portal has both Tamil and English versions, the regional version prepared by specialists from this Kendra. Both the manuals are designed in an illustrative format to facilitate quick and easy viewing. More emphasis has been given on teaching methodology, particularly communicating the contents in a simple and understandable way to the farmers. In this emerging era of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), there is a necessity to bridge the digital divide currently prevailing among the farmers, according to her.

For more information, contact Dr.S.Haripriya, Assistant Professor (Horticulture), email id: , phone: 04143-238353, mobile: 9952342287.

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