Establishing Information Symmetry in the Age of the Attention Economy

  Urvashi Chopra

The reality each one of us experiences is undoubtedly a mediated one. As a participant situated at the cross-section of cyber culture and the attention economy, the state of our physical and mental space is determined by easy access to information, and by that which reaches our eyes and ears the fastest. Thus, an objective definition of reality seems difficult in a world where fact is dictated by the dominant narrative of those who hold power. Further, with the coming of Web 2.0, the wielders of power stand amongst us as those with mastery over the complex network i.e. the world wide web, and the entire gamut of tools enabled therein.

It seems only logical then, that tech tools containing user-generated content enabled by Web 2.0 should be leveraged to solve existing gaps in information, that plague skill development. The skilling ecosystem faces several forms of information asymmetries, a market failure which postulates that an imbalance of information between buyers and sellers may lead to inefficient outcomes. Adverse selection and monopolies of knowledge are by-products of this information asymmetry evident within the Indian ecosystem – with training providers (TPs) holding monopoly over sectoral information and industry-relevant opportunities. This is heightened by the fact that TPs tend to be the first point of contact for candidates hoping to gain an in-depth understanding of all that the scheme, PMKVY entails. Despite actively gauging market demand in their locality, conducting several skill gap studies and prioritising counselling practices – TPs on average, are limited by their physical and geographical proximity to one set of candidates over the other; and are unable to effectively disseminate information to the population that consists of their target audience.

NSDC as an Innovation Partner

This is where the National Skill Development Corporation has stepped in. The organisation collaborates with various stakeholders: training providers, sector skill councils, candidates and employers to effectively disseminate information and conduct counselling. These activities are conducted via formal media sources and widespread implementation of Rozgar or Kaushal Mela’s; in addition, by utilising various technological tools and leveraging a rapidly expanding internet user-base across rural and urban India. Further, use of internet-based counselling tools have enabled access to all districts, even in remote locations where trained counsellors or career-services may not be easily accessible.

In this context, the following tools are being implemented through pilot projects or across the scheme, in a decentralised mode by training providers
  • “Mera Job, Mera Career” (My Job, My Career): A mobile-based information tool developed by Wadhwani Foundation, in collaboration with NSDC. This application provides candidates with information to make a well-informed career decision, discover appropriate training courses, align on-the-job expectations and seek out available opportunities, post training – through free access to sectoral information. It may be downloaded from the Google Play Store:
  • Informational Posters: Implementation of informational posters at every training centre, to ensure candidates make informed career decisions, post training. Posters across a range of topics, such as: Job Role Overview, Career Map, Placement Opportunities, Benefits for PwD (Person with Disabilities) candidates, Equipment, Interview Etiquette – have been implemented to establish information symmetry
  • “KnackApp”: A mobile-based counselling tool developed by Corporation. The tool is an AI-driven counselling platform which may be used to discover, evaluate and match talent of participants for skilling programs and jobs. The pilot was implemented among approximately 9,000 candidates enrolled under PMKVY-STT – to gauge candidate potential for job roles under the scheme.

Parallelly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has established in a report that comparisons may be drawn between the “importance that well-organised systems of information and advice play in improving the efficiency of education systems and labour markets, and the role that they play in improving the efficiency of financial or other markets.” Effectively matching learning choices to individuals’ interests and aptitude can “improve flows between different levels of education, thus raising national levels of education attainment”. Thus, improving the transition from vocational training to entry into the labour market.

Effectively, investing in counselling/information dissemination tools lends itself to the improvement of the quality of training outcomes and leads to a better usage of resources, in an economy where attention may also be viewed as a scarce commodity. In essence, it is a step toward solving the issue of information asymmetry within the skilling ecosystem.

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