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Communications of the ACM

India Region Special Section: Big Trends

National Digital Library of India: Democratizing Education in India

hand holds a smartphone displaying the NPLI logo


India boasts of one of the youngest populations globally with an average age of 29.a A report published by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2013 estimated that to train this large young population, the country must build six new universities and 270 new colleges every month in the next 20 years.7 It was an impossible target! Or so it seemed until 2014 when IIT Kharagpur conceptualized the National Digital Library of India (NDLI; with an aim to bring equity of access to educational resources for every Indian through a single window access mechanism. NDLI, a project funded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, is a meta-library—a portal that connects users to hundreds of libraries in India and abroad and provides more than 81 million forms of educational content, including books, lecture videos, research articles, and more in over 100 languages, including several vernaculars used throughout the country.

In pre-NDLI era, there were many isolated initiatives on digital education in the country, including the growing number of institutional repositories with their disparate metadata schema, archives of video lectures such as NPTEL,b and national thesis repositories like Sodhganga.c NDLI provided the long-awaited integration among them by becoming the common portal through which each of them is seamlessly accessible.


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