Intel Outside

Filed under: Interviews |

Name: Ashutosh Chadha
Publish Date: 01 June 2010
Designation & Organisation: Asia Pacific region

With over 20 years of experience in the education sphere, Ashutosh Chadha has been managing programmes around ICT enabled education and building effective business models at international level. Currently, he is leading Intel Education Initiative as part of the Corporate Affairs Group across 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region. In this role, Ashutosh drives Intel’s relationship with Governments and multilateral bodies throughout the Asia Pacific region to support the development of appropriate policies and processes for educational transformation. His focus on leveraging the power of technology to help achieve greater goals in addressing educational challenges as well as improving quality of life of the under-served has baeen a constant throughout his career. In a Face2Face with telecentre magazine, he talks about Intel’s engagement in the shared access space.

Intel’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are geared towards achieving e-Inclusion for all through ‘shared access centres’. As the Head of Intel’s Strategic Education Initiatives in the Asia Pacific region, could you elaborate on the programmes that are channeled through these ‘shared access centres’ or telecentres and also support them.

Intel has actually been working in the shared access space and with telecentres for quite some time. For example, Intel’s programmes have been running in the Akshaya centres in Kerala, India for the last five years. We also have engagements with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation Village Knowledge Centres in India for the past three years and a project with a Telecom supporting community centres across Malaysia.

Intel Education Initiative works primarily in three areas: the K-12 space, higher education, and community based learning. The objective of all our programmes is to help support the goals of local governments in driving education transformation by focusing on the effective integration of ICT into the teaching and learning processes and providing opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills.
In the community education space, we have a very strong programme called Intel Learn Programme. The objective of this programme is to provide under-served children in the 8-16 years age group with opportunities to develop 21st century skills and digital literacy by using examples that are relevant in the community and the work environment. Thus, we are enabling these learners to utilise the shared access centres or telecentres to develop skills, which are required for employability in the 21st century. Intel Learn Programme currently has two main offerings, “Technology at Work” and “Technology and Community”. We are developing a new offering called “Technology for Entrepreneurship”, which will provide training on how to use technological skills in managing a small business.

So while we build capacity in the content area, we also understand that a number of  entrepreneurs require support in terms of effectively running their centres and marketing the programme. Thus, an additional area of intervention is providing guidance to the entrepreneurs about how to evangelise the programme to the target population and get people into the centre

At the same time, we also realised that it is extremely important to build the capacity of the organisations, and individuals who run these centres, to make them self sustainable. As a result, for the last four or five years, we have been carrying out these capacity building activities in the Kerala Akshaya Centres. Intel’s efforts support the state government objectives, which  in turn, empowers the local entrepreneurs, who are actually reaching out to the children and the local populace and building their skills. These local entrepreneurs, in some cases, charge a small fee from their end customers to ensure sustainability of their centres. So while we build capacity in the content area, we also understand that a number of  entrepreneurs require support in terms of effectively running their centres and marketing the programme. Thus, an additional area of intervention is providing guidance to the entrepreneurs about how to evangelise the programme to the target population and get people into the centre. Intel believes that the important issue in the telecentre context is not just the creation of the infrastructure, but how we utilise the infrastructure, and also how we enable the owner/operator to build a sustainable business model that can scale to meet the needs of the community.

The implementation model for these programmes keeps a sharp focus on sustainability, scale and impact. We have entrepreneurs at the grassroots level, who deliver the services, partners who provide the finance and infrastructure facilities; and organisations, such as  Intel, who provide the content and services. In addition to these programmes, we also look at technological solutions to help support the Shared Access opportunities including research, development and deployment of low cost, low power and highly efficient devices like the netbooks or Classmate PC’s (CMPC), which are portable and rugged. At the same time we are exploring the usage of these devices using solar power and in different mobility scenarios like on cycles, boats etc. Another area that Intel is working on that is very relevant to the telecentre domain is how technology can be used in the area of health. For example, Intel is exploring how we can use technology for remote medical diagnostics, tele-medicine, or even for training the paramedical staff in villages and remote areas. This not only provides another usage model for the shared access centres, but also addresses a very key social need.

In addition to these programmes, we also look at technological solutions to help support the Shared Access opportunities including research, development and deployment of low cost, low power and highly efficient devices, like the netbooks or Classmate PC’s (CMPC), which are portable and rugged

We have recently done a preliminary study on the issue of sustainability in shared access centres based on the experience gained in the Akshaya centres across Kerala, India. The objective of the study was to help us understand the issues which contribute to the sustainability of the centre. Initial findings show that it is not just financial viability, which needs to be measured. In addition to the finances, there are other important criteria to be considered including availability of localised services, value added services and social acceptance, which also contribute to sustainability. We anticipate that this study will illustrate other important areas for us to consider with respect to sustainability.

Please describe the areas where Intel and Foundation could support each other or add value to their respective programmes?

During our meeting, Shaddy (Basheerhamad Shadrach, Executive Director, Foundation) mentioned four key focus areas of Foundation. These are: knowledge exchange, capacity building, networking and content and services. Basically Foundation is trying to empower the people running telecentres with the skills that they need to succeed. In this context, I see a synergy between Intel’s education activities (as mentioned above) and Foundation’s area of work. I believe that Intel and the Foundation have very strongly aligned objectives in this space and the organisations have complementary skill sets and content that can make a very successful relationship to deliver the benefits of ICT to the deprived communities.

From your perspective, what are the major advantages of working closely with a global telecentre network like Foundation?

In general, the advantage of this kind of partnership is that it brings together organisations with complementary skill sets that share a common passion and objective of bringing ICT and PC literacy to under-served populations around the world in order to benefit their individual lives as well as their local communities. It would be noteworthy to say that both Intel and Foundation have extensive networks and programmes that can be maximised, so that we can reach and help more people.

Please tell us about Intel partnership with the Kerala IT Mission where you are delivering Intel Education Initiative through the Akshaya Centres. How far has it been successful in adding value to their ongoing programmes?

Intel and the Kerala IT Mission work together towards building Kerala as a knowledge-based state through the Akshaya Centres. The Intel Learn Programme has successfully contributed to the success of the AKSHAYA project in Malappuram and other districts of Kerala. Following a structured sequence of prescribed learning activities, learners in Kerala have explored software applications, arrived at decisions about what they would like to do, and have successfully related their learning to issues in their everyday lives. Children in Malappuram have been able to access the opportunity to design, create, and solve problems in collaboration with their peers. With the structure, tools and adult guidance, the learners have been able to gain new knowledge, arrive at standard solutions, and become proficient in basic skills.

Based on the experience gained through Intel partnership with the Kerala IT Mission, please tell us about the challenges, if any, encountered during its implementation?

Like any new programme being implemented at the grassroots level, the Intel Learn Programme also faced a number of challenges in Kerala. Some of the most prominent ones were:

a)    Changing the attitude of people and all stakeholders toward external interventions like Intel Learn Programme and getting them to see the programme benefits.
b)    Addressing initial coordinating aspects of the programme and ensuring that all stake holders were aligned.
c)    Staff attrition and turn-over – when trained staff members leave Akshaya centres for other opportunities.
d)    Local geo-political dynamics, diversities of different districts, etc affecting programme implementation.

However, by having a collaborative engagement with all stakeholders (Akshaya owners, community leaders, religious leaders, parents, the offices of the Department of IT), believing in a  common goal and clear and consistent communication, we were able to address these challenges. One very popular component for building trust in the community was sharing of learner success stories by the learners themselves.

According to you, what are the major challenges of the global skill market in the 21st century? Do you think that the current education system in the region is actually addressing or is capable of addressing these challenges?

One of the major challenges that companies in many countries continue to address is the unavailability of competent knowledge workers. To meet the needs of these employers, we need to ensure that students receive a solid math and science foundation, coupled with skills like critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving, so that they are prepared to compete in the 21st century economy as the next generation knowledge workers.

I think, PC literacy is only one piece of the puzzle in preparing students to meet the needs of the 21st century workplace. ICT is one of the most powerful tools in developing 21st century skills. Therefore, it must be integrated into the educational system in order to most effectively promote and develop such skills. In addition to technology literacy, students need to be trained in effective communication, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration in order to have the tools necessary to succeed in the modern workplace. Intel has focused on programmes that help teachers develop projects that teach these fundamental skills to the students. Simply placing PCs in the classroom, without changing the teaching methodology, or integrating the ICT tools into the curriculum, has limited benefit.We and Governments strongly believe that what is needed is a holistic approach, which involves a combination of policy reform driving curriculum standards and assessment practices, sustained professional development, information and communications technology, and effectively applying research and evaluation to drive continuous improvement. Thus, when you deliver a holistic programme that allows the students to use ICT to take ownership in their own education, amazing things happen.

Concluding the interview, please tell the readers of the telecentre magazine about Intel Education Initiative to support 21st century skill requirements. What are the major initiatives under this programme?

The Intel Education Initiative aims to inspire future innovators to help drive sustainable growth and development of knowledge economies. Through this initiative, Intel gets directly involved today in education programmes, advocacy, and technology access to prepare the next generation with the skill requirements of the 21st century workplace.

Intel has invested over $1 billion and Intel employees have donated over 3 million hours in the past decade toward improving education in over 60 countries. The Intel Education Initiative includes multiple successful education programmes, such as :

The Intel Teach Programme, which offers teachers proven professional development supporting 21st century?skills.?Intel?Teach Programme courses promote student-centered approaches and help teachers?engage students in deeply relevant ways, with appropriate?use of?technology for learning, creativity, and communication. Intel Teach Programme is the largest, most successful programme of its kind. Intel has trained more than 7 million teachers in over 60 countries, and is committed to train millions more.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a programme of Society for Science and the Public, is the world’s largest pre-college science competition, bringing together hundreds of young scientists to share ideas, showcase cutting-edge science, and compete for scholarships. The competition encourages students to solve problems and tackle challenging scientific questions through authentic research. The 2010 fair drew over 1600 young scientists from 59 countries, regions, and territories to compete for more than $4 million in scholarships and awards. Intel assumed sponsorship of Intel ISEF in 1996, and in October 2008 extended its commitment to the programme through 2019.

The Intel Higher Education Programme brings cutting-edge technology expertise to universities, encourages students to pursue technical degrees, and helps move technology out of university labs and into local communities. The programme includes research grants, technology entrepreneurship forums and competitions, and mentoring by Intel technologists. In 2008, Intel awarded grants totaling over $21million, enabling research conducted by leading universities around the world.
The Intel Computer Clubhouse Network is an after-school, community-based learning programme that enables youth in under-served areas to access cutting-edge technology and become self-confident, motivated learners. The network is based on a learning model created by the Boston Museum of Science in collaboration with the MIT Media Labs.

The Intel Learn Programme, delivered in informal education settings, provides opportunities for young learners in developing countries to learn key skills needed for tomorrow’s success, with a focus on technology literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration.

The skoool learning and teaching programme provides teachers and students online access to science and mathematics resources and tools set in an engaging, multimedia environment to help improve learning.

The Intel Learning Series is a complete education solution that includes: hardware, specialised education software, localised content, infrastructure, IT services, training that are ethnographic research based and localised to meet specific needs, delivered through education specific ecosystem to students, governments and businesses.

 Andrew MacDonald Jersey

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