This post was guest-written by Dipak Basu, CEO of the Anudip Foundation, a social entrepreneur who has spent over 30 years employing technology in humanitarian missions worldwide.

Anudip Foundation is a nonprofit company working for the economic empowerment of at-risk youth. We believe the key to human progress and sustainability is skill development and financial stability.

Anudip operates in India, where half the country’s population of 1.25 billion people is under 25 years of age, and 68 percent of its population depends on agriculture. Unfortunately, cultivable land is limited in supply and can no longer support this population. As a result, high unemployment prevails, especially affecting educated rural youth, of whom 100 million are jobless or underemployed.

Meanwhile, according to NASSCOM, the information technology industry in India has created direct employment for 2.2 million people and indirect employment of 8 million people. By 2020, the figures are expected to rise to 10 million and 20 million respectively. Anudip is dedicated to capitalizing on this opportunity. We do so by enabling rural and semi-urban youth to develop skills for secure employment in the IT and internet services sector.

Since its inception in 2007, Anudip has trained over 60,000 youth at more than 150 training centers across India. This, combined with our relationships with 300+ employers, has resulted in a 75 percent job placement rate. Anudip’s beneficiary base includes high-need and marginalized communities such as ethnic and religious minorities, tribal populations, political refugees, and people with disabilities.

One of those beneficiaries is Kunal Bhattacharya. Kunal works at Wishnet in Kolkata, India as a Technical Support Officer. He earns INR₹8000 (US$120) per month and says his income has resulted in financial stability for him and his family. “Earlier, my family income was approximately 900 rupee (US$14) per month,” Kunal says. “At that time, my father, a small businessman, was the sole earning member. He had to work extremely hard, but made sure that I completed my schooling.”

Kunal wanted to help his father by contributing to the family income and was determined to get a job. Through friends, he learned about Anudip Foundation and its Digital Academy program, which provides technical training and job placement.

“The prospect of receiving high-level technical training as well as securing a stable job drew me toward the program,” Kunal says. “I worked hard during the training process, learned as much as I could and did well. I persevered during the placement process and this helped me prepare thoroughly for my job interviews. My hard work along with the continued support I received from Anudip staff was crucial in enabling me to secure my present position.”

Digital Jobs Transform Families and Communities

More than 45,000 students like Kunal have been placed in new economy jobs, helping to increase financial stability for their families. An average three-fold increase in family income on account of our intervention allows access to basic facilities such as health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation, housing, and energy. This empowerment improves the purchasing power of a family, its standard of living, and brings change in its social standing within the community.

Our work also has an indirect but noteworthy impact in the socio-economic development of the community. A growing percentage (now 45%) of women are taking part in our training programs to start up a business or work in jobs. They now have a voice in their own lives, leading to avoidance of early marriage and marriage for convenience, and can send their children and siblings to better schools.

India has the world’s largest population of people with disabilities, but no facilities for them. A large number of people with disabilities who have gone through our Specially-Abled Vocational Education (SAVE) program for digital employment credit Anudip with giving them “confidence” or “courage” to break out of a vicious cycle of intolerance and poverty and enter the workforce as respected citizens.

Growing with Minimal Spending

Anudip has embarked on a three-year strategic initiative, supported by Cisco, called Digital Inclusion of Young Aspirants, or DIYA, meaning “lamp” in Sanskrit. This effort is projected to increase our training capacity 8 times, to 100,000 students per year by 2020, with no more than 3 times growth in operational expenses. The DIYA initiative includes full digitization of curriculum with customized content, interactive multimedia and games, thus making it compelling for remote and rural students in a blended learning environment.

To support DIYA, we are developing a new student lifecycle management system with extensive analytics for improvement of services for a much larger student base. There will be enriched branding to attract more aspirants, as well as employers from India’s burgeoning e-commerce, logistics, retail, and mobile payments sectors so that the enhanced capacity is efficiently utilized.

Financially, the 8x/3x combination will significantly improve company sustainability so the need for institutional grants in 2020-21 will remain at today’s levels. A DIYA pilot is underway at 12 Anudip training centers.

If successful, DIYA can be a disruptive and breakthrough model for economic empowerment in the developing world.

Cisco and Anudip

Cisco has provided seed funding to support the DIYA program, which has resulted in the first versions of our digitized curricula, its supporting platform, and the training (now underway) of 300 students in 12 rural and semi-urban centers.

Cisco has also sponsored research for our 3D for Development (3D4D) program, which offers 3D printed prosthetics for poor amputees, as well as training in 3D modeling and business mentorship for rural entrepreneurs to create locally customized 3D-printed products. We believe 3D4D is the first initiative of its kind globally.

Cisco’s early sponsorship of 3D4D enabled us to trial designs of our prosthetic arms on patients and receive their feedback, which in turn allowed us to evolve the design for better usability. Cisco’s support moved the DIYA program from development to pilot stage to test the ability of rural youth to self-learn – a critical factor for growing our capacity and improving our sustainability. In 2017-18, learnings from the pilot will be incorporated in a full-scale rollout of DIYA.

Finally, Anudip Foundation is proud to participate in the Cisco Networking Academy program by offering courses that prepare people for Cisco CCNA and other certifications for over a year. Since we also have Person VUE testing centers, Anudip and non-Anudip students can appear for Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, and other certifications at our premises.

Our support of Anudip is one example of how Cisco is harnessing the power of the digital revolution to accelerate global problem solving, enabling people and societies to thrive in the digital economy. Our goal is to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025.

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Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco