IGNOU was established by an act of parliament in 1985. Since then it has been contributing significantly to the development of higher education in the country through the Open and Distance Learning system. It plays the role of the apex body in respect of promotion, coordination and maintenance of standards in open and distance education through continuous assessment and accreditation of ODL based institutions. It has on offer 416 Academic Programmes and a cumulative strength of over 30 lakh students. Flexibility is the most significant feature of its teaching-learning transaction and it has been able to offer many need based academic programmes which generally do not have parallel in the conventional system. These programmes are from diverse areas such as physical and natural sciences, health, engineering and technology, computers, library and information sciences, agriculture, mass communication, law, etc.
The University has established a network of 57 Regional Centres and more than 3000 Learner Support Centres (LSCs) all over the country. These LSCs act as the main interface between the learners and the University. Apart from the LSCs, there are partner institutions, institutional collaborators and centres under the convergence scheme. IGNOU has presence oversees also at 50 countries through 97 partner institutions.
Community Colleges of IGNOU are an alternative system of education which aims to empower individuals through appropriate skill development leading to gainful employment in collaboration with the local industry and community. They offer the advantage of tailoring programmes to local needs and state-based requirements by using approaches that will be most acceptable to workers in the given community. These colleges are a source of economic growth because they provide an educated and skilled workforce that improves the quality of life for individual students, communities, and the nation.
Large section of population in India needs access to information such as market prices of goods they produce, about health services, about the structure and services of public visibility for improving the quality of their lives and livelihood, etc. Information Technology could provide access to knowledge, education and skills development. It can also contribute towards universal access to education, equity in education, delivery of quality learning and teaching and more efficient education management, governance and administration. It is with this background IGNOU has tied up with Microsoft for empowering everyone with basic IT literacy skills (Digital Literacy Curriculum) so that they are able to reap the benefits of spread of Information Technology. The IT Literacy would act as a vehicle for improved quality of life, accessibility to information, transparency in governance and overall socio-economic growth.