Ensuring education in the farthest corner of India

Contributed by team 4 SL Box – Top 10 Innovator

Our lives over the last few months have been absolutely stimulating, with so much happening all at once! It’s practically been a juggernaut, because the idea and the innovation that we set out with have both undergone a change, both in terms of direction and reach. When we began our journey, not for a moment did we imagine that marvels like this could ever happen to us…

We know now what it means to become a celebrity all of a sudden, to be thrown into the lime light, to meet VIPs like the President of India, the MD and the VP of Intel, and to be interviewed by NDTV! Add to that practical strangers from around the world posting messages and tweets congratulating and motivating us!

Let’s take you back to the beginning…

The state of education in India

In India, 73% of children in the age group 6-14—as many as 17 crores of them—live in rural areas. As the economy grows at a rapid pace, it is important that these children are not left behind. There are over 6 crore children studying in government schools in Indian villages. What’s more, almost 1.5 crore of these children drop out each year without completing Class X. Our target is to introduce these young people to specialised skills so that they can become locally employable.

Innovate For Digital India Challenge & the Accelerator Phase

Six months ago, when we entered the Intel & DST Innovate For Digital India Challenge (IFDIC), we did so with a product called DEAIB or Digital-Education-in-a-Box (later we named it as the 4SL Box). This advanced education platform offers to create digital classrooms anywhere – without the need for buildings or electricity. Our aim was to create wifi-enabled classrooms or spaces in remote and rural areas where students could study with the help of digital content, tablets and tech-aware teachers.

Post our selection to the Top 20, we were invited to attend an Accelerator Program conducted by Intel and CIIE and supported by University of California, Bekeley at Pune. This was an eye-opener! Driven hard by our instructors Andre Marquis and Mark Searle of the Haas School of Business, UCB, we attended webcasts, created and updated the business canvas, and conducted mandatory interviews along with other commitments laid down. We realised after taking various interviews, we had actually begun to figure out what we were supposed to be doing! So, we were off on this fantastic journey of MVPs and product lifecycles.

It was time for excitement galore, but at the same moment we also needed to look at increasing our product’s utility and reach.

Our meetings with Elephant Design and Globant spurred on this thought process. Having been prodded by Elephant Design on the product design issue, we decided to go in for a total overhaul of the box. The result was a much smaller version of the original box, aimed at the semi-urban and semi-rural markets. A mobile trainer can practically carry this digital classroom with preloaded content on his back and set it up as and when required - in a jiffy!

The Intel Edge

Around the same time, we were also introduced to Intel’s Real Sense Camera. At the Jury session at the end of September, we successfully exhibited the 4SL Box using gestures and AR with Intel’s Real Sense Camera. The box could help create the relevant digital infrastructure required to promote skill development training and enhance literacy in remote and rural areas.

4SL team with Andre Marquis from Berkeley

Demonstrating the product to Debjani Ghosh

Recognition and that celebrity feeling

The culmination of the Accelerator was an exciting time as we had made to top 10. The celebrations happened in big way. We were treated like celebrities with Sudhir Shankar interviewing us for an exclusive coffee table book to be presented to the president of India. Another surreal experience was that of NDTV covering our product extensively as part of their Innovate India series.

Photo opportunity with Shri. Ravi Shankar.

With Rajiv Makhani of NTDV.

The Top 10 were together again in Delhi for the big day - the visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was a moment of excitement for all of us. After all, how many people get a chance to address the President? The President expressed his pleasure and surprise that we had managed to achieve what he had thought was impossible – explaining our innovations in 30 seconds each! His speech was motivating and touched a chord with our objectives.

Greg Pearson, SVP, GM Sales & Marketing Group - Intel‎, was impressed by the idea of the 4SL Box too and felt the need to deploy such a product in Africa too!

Making dreams come true

Intel’s IFDIC offered immense validation and recognition to us. Being a part of the Top 10 has provided us with a platform to reach out to many people and help change their lives. Thanks to this validation, several organizations have already expressed their desire to join us in our journey towards a Digital India. Whether it is in the field of education or skill training, we are already leveraging the power of IFDIC!

Every Indian village has children who dream of an education and youth who aspire for sustainable employment. Let this not be a fantasy any more…let’s make their dreams come true!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the participants and do not represent the views of Intel, the Department of Science & Technology and CIIE in any form or matter.