150th Issue Articles

Building An Innovation-Ready India – Kishore Balaji

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Intel is helping bridge the gap among education, industry and communities through hands-on technology-focused education for innovation.

The future is upon us. Blurring distinctions between the physical and the virtual, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking globalisation to an unprecedented level, knitting the world together in a way we have never experienced.

This phenomenon promises to completely transform economic, socio-cultural and political structures, bringing a tectonic shift in the way we work, communicate and relate. How exactly this transformation is going to play out, only time will tell.

What we do know is that it will leave no area untouched. Only the ability to innovate and adapt will give industry and society the resilience to take this revolution by its horns and ride it to an exciting future of unimagined possibilities.

Thirty-eight kilometers from New Delhi, residents in the semi-urban sprawl of Bawana had long reconciled themselves to the scarcity of safe drinking water. Water-borne illnesses were rife, but in a community beset with a host of socioeconomic challenges, life went on as usual.

At a training camp conducted by Intel as part of its Tech Challenge Programme, introducing exciting new technologies like sensors and microcontrollers to students of a local school, a group of bright youngsters seized the opportunity to effect impactful change.

With the help of their mentor and within the space of one week, Rosy, Khushi and Rani Kumari had created a simple, portable device to test water purity and ensure safe drinking water for their community.

All it took to ignite this spark of innovation was a timely intervention that connected bright, enterprising minds with the technological tools they needed to bring their ideas to life. In the absence of such interventions, this innate spirit of innovation may remain latent and fail to see the light of day.

Today, across sectors, employers are struggling to access talent of the calibre necessary to push their enterprises forward in this technology-driven scenario. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and robotics have already brought about a shift in the recruitment landscape, resulting in an evident skill gap.

Abilities such as critical thinking, creativity, complex problem solving and inter-personal skills are now being prioritised over technical skills. Foremost is the need for an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to innovate – qualities that the conventional academic curriculum is ill-equipped to nurture.

This situation takes on a particularly critical dimension in developing nations like India where the failure to wholeheartedly embrace new-age technologies can result in amplifying existing socio-economic divides to a dangerous tipping point. The key challenge, then, involves ensuring inclusivity and equal access to opportunity in this shifting landscape and to do this in a self-sustaining manner.

As a young nation, boasting of a vibrant startup culture, highly skilled workforce, and reputed institutes that deliver quality education, India is uniquely poised to take its place at forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

That is, provided its formal educational system is decisively reoriented to focus squarely on technology.

As the example of Bawana illustrates, the youths need the education that encourages fresh ideas and imparts the confidence to turn these ideas into reality so that innovation becomes embedded in their very DNA.

What India needs is education that’s nimble enough to adapt itself to changing needs and agile enough to think ahead of the curve. In other words, India’s youth must connect with technology to be able to connect to the future.

Intel is a firm believer in the power of public-private partnerships to drive impactful change at the grassroots – change that can then be accelerated to transform communities, enterprises and industry, locally as well as globally. It was natural, therefore, for Intel to extend its hand in partnership to the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), an ambitious government-led initiative to revolutionise education in India by introducing a more technology-centric curriculum in schools.

AIM is the brainchild of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the premier government think-tank. Together with Intel, NITI believes that by exposing students to the latest technologies at a young age, it will be possible to accelerate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country, giving youth the confidence to solve problems and actively carve a brighter future.

To this visionary programme, Intel has lent its expertise in youth empowerment for workforce development. Through its future skills programme, Intel is helping schools across the country to set up Atal tinkering labs to facilitate hands-on engagement with the latest technologies.

Outfitted with 3D printers, robotics kits, open-source microcontroller boards, and more, these Labs are designed to encourage students to innovate using technology.

Theoretical concepts learned in class will be brought to life in the form of live projects that students themselves will design in order to solve real-world problems. These laboratories will welcome aspiring young innovators from surrounding communities and institutes as well, serving as vibrant local hubs of innovation – fostering the exchange of ideas and collaborative learning.

The idea is not only to nurture a sense of curiosity towards technology and address the widening skill- gap in the industry. This program has a more far-reaching goal – to create technological solutions to uplift communities through socially sensitive innovation driven by proactive citizens themselves. Intel is proud to be a part of this initiative and actively leveraging this opportunity to empower youth to construct a better tomorrow from the ground up.

When entire communities participate and collectively experience the benefits, innovation becomes a cultural trait. It will no longer need external support to sustain itself.

For society, this means new avenues to connect people and communities with resources. For industry, this means that silos will soon become a relic of the past, unlocking talent and potential to its fullest.

And as citizens turn into innovators and leaders of positive change, India will step confidently into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18 th century) and lead the way for others to follow.

By: Kishore Balaji, Director – Corporate Affairs, South Asia, Intel

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