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Alok Ohrie, President & MD of Dell Technologies, India, recently discussed the company's education investment plan at our digital convening – Transforming Tomorrow: Skilling Today's Youth With Technology for Workforce 2030. Mr. Ramanan Ramanathan, Mission Director - Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Additional Secretary NITI Aayog, joined him. Dell has partnered with AIM, a flagship initiative led by the Government of India to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.

Education is one of the areas which will have maximum impact by bringing in technology, and so it is a natural focus area for us in India.

Mr. Ohrie expressed his belief that the primary objective of education was to convert curiosity into creativity and blend that with teamwork for the best possible outcomes. Dell's plan is centered on equipping India's students with quality education delivered via eLearning and providing the latest technology to schools. They aim to encourage students to innovate and create, rather than learn and follow.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down, virtual education platforms had gained immense popularity in the country. They connected students and gave them easy access to a plethora of courses and learning modules. However, with the pandemic-induced lockdown, online learning has become more than just a "need of the hour." It has developed into the future model of imparting education. Mr. Ramanathan complimented this discussion with the argument that artificial intelligence (AI) powered solutions will play a significant role in the future. Furthermore, he finds the current global scenario an excellent opportunity for EdTech startups to establish themselves as essential education facilitators.

Mr. Ohrie was confident that with Dell's technological support, schools would be able to reach out to more students with quality education. Dell also plans to address the scarcity of teachers in approximately 1.5 million institutes across India. The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced Dell and AIM's shared belief in the public-private partnership model.

Partnering up for a Better Tomorrow

We have 100 plus learning centers across the country… The scale and the size of the country demand collaboration.

Mr. Ohrie elaborated that Dell's collaboration with AIM has already resulted in youth learning programs being adopted by over 60,000 students across 2800 schools. He indicated that this rollout would expand over time.

Mr. Ramanathan conceded that although India is still grappling with core economic and social issues, there is unlimited potential in Indian youth. However, a supportive environment to nurture their talents and an ecosystem of entrepreneurship were missing. And this is precisely what AIM will provide.

This crisis… is going to be a watershed moment for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mr. Ramanathan recognized that only as an innovative entrepreneurial nation would there be a systemic shift from being job-seekers to job-creators. Hence, he stressed the impact that the collaboration would have on the 150 million students entering the workforce over the next decade. Mr. Ramanathan strongly believes "this demographic dividend is the envy of the entire world."

Tinkering Towards Success

A visible outcome of the successful collaboration has been Dell's technological support towards the setting up of Atal Tinkering Labs, which are spaces to enable the growth of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship among students.

Its first Tinkering Lab, set up in Mumbai, is aimed at training 7000 students in innovation and programming. The labs provide students with the necessary infrastructure to channel their creativity towards community development. The labs also focus on hydroponics and prototype designing to solve real-time problems.

"Entrepreneur(ial) success needs innovations that cater to and benefit the community at large," Mr. Ohrie said.

Dell Technologies and NITI Aayog both aim to inculcate entrepreneurial values with social upliftment. While elaborating on the skills required to be an entrepreneur, Mr. Ramanathan pointed out that, "An entrepreneur’s success is totally aligned with the success of some aspect of society benefitting from it." Technological innovations must have a social impact to truly develop India.

Game Makers of the Future

Can we convert our young students from game players to game makers?

Mr. Ramanathan elaborated on how the online game designing module for children will give them the technical know-how needed in an easy to understand and comprehensive manner. He also indicated that the inclusion of the latest technology, like the Internet of Things, is going to be very helpful in building the right skill set for children. This module is presently available in two variants: basic, teaching children how to use Scratch, and intermediate for more advanced programming skills.

Interning Towards Leadership

Dell gives back to communities wherever we live and work.

Mr. Ohrie also shared that Dell has expanded its student entrepreneurship programs to include internship programs. This allows students from classes 6 to 12 to intern with them for ten months. It will give students direct exposure to the company's work environment, enabling them to gather experience and hone their creativity. AIM also recognized this gap and has established the Mentor India initiative to engage volunteer leaders to be mentors across the 900+ Atal Tinkering Labs. Mr. Ramanathan concluded with, "Mentorship is very important. They (mentors) are bringing to the table the ability to be a friend and a guide."

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