Bringing Education to Rural India Through Technology

by Julie Clugage, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Team4Tech
Nov 13, 2017 9:45 AM ET

Inspiring Progress

In September, 8 Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) employee volunteers traveled to Pune, India, as part of the HPE Leadership Through Service program. Their mission: to enhance a digital platform that will improve provide educational opportunities to 6 million underprivileged children.

The volunteers were selected from a wide applicant pool for thoughtfully demonstrating a commitment to leveraging their technical skills to make an impact in education. In exchange for delivering pro bono services to a deserving non-profit, the volunteers would receive leadership training and professional development opportunities in an intense, experiential learning engagement. The program is a collaboration between HPE and Team4Tech, a non-profit that creates and delivers just such experiences for HPE and other companies.

The employees were matched with Pratham Foundation, a nationally recognized nonprofit that provides a variety of education-related programs and services to underprivileged youth across India. The volunteers spent six weeks preparing for their time in Pune by learning about Pratham’s needs and the context of their work, and by creating workshops and deliverables for Pratham’s fast-growing engineering team. Our goal was to help Pratham prepare for the exponential growth in usage that the “PraDigi” (Pratham Digital) platform is expected to experience in the near future.

The volunteers were divided into three teams in order to focus on key areas of the PraDigi platform: improving database efficiency and reliability, providing data analysis and better insights on user behavior, and enhancing the user experience through design. The teams designed deliverables that would serve Pratham long after HPE left Pune, such as a detailed report with suggestions for improvements on the database architecture to increase query efficiency and prevent duplication; new dashboards and indices that can accommodate complex data associations and provide more nuanced insight into user behavior; and wireframes and a design toolkit for a new and improved user interface.

The volunteers worked closely with Pratham staff in Pune to ensure that their deliverables were practical, accurate, and relevant. At the end of the week, the volunteers presented their work to Nishant Baghel, Pratham’s Technology Director, and his leadership staff, who were extremely grateful and impressed by the HPE team. “The entire week, the office was bustling and the entire team was eager and happy to work. Everyone being there...was very motivating,” Nishant said. “The deliverables and the project overall was a great success.” Nishant has since reported that the database changes have already been implemented, the new dashboards and indices are being used by Pratham’s data analyst, and the other suggested improvements are in the pipeline to be implemented in the next few months.

The volunteers, too, benefitted from the project. One volunteer reports, “It helped me improve my communication skills, problem solving skills and to explore my true potential.” Another wrote, “I see myself more confident and with [more of a] growth mindset. This is helping me both personally as well as professionally.” The volunteers also got to see the PraDigi app in action, when the team visited kids living in a slum area in Pune who were enrolled in Pratham’s Hybrid Learning program. The kids’ energy and motivation to learn was incredibly inspiring.

Each of the volunteers reported feeling more engaged in the company after the project, and that the program was “more” or “much more” effective at developing leadership skills than programs they had participated in previously. This, we feel, is the power of intensive, immersive service learning. The impact is immediate, deeply felt, and long-lasting.

Ultimately, the HPE volunteers donated 580 hours of skilled labor, and the equivalent of $74,400 in pro bono services. One volunteer sums it up perfectly: “Working with the Pratham team helped me understand how much more we can do when we step out of our comfort zone”. HPE has helped Pratham establish a more efficient software development cycle and higher quality standards, which will enable them to scale their apps to reach an expected 6 million children in the near future. Congratulations, and a sincere thank you, to the volunteers and HPE employees who helped make this project a huge success!

Julie Clugage is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Team4Tech, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of education in developing countries by connecting technology professionals, solutions and resources with impactful local projects. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the world of education, technology and economic development.