Code Unnati: Raising Digital Skills Training to the Power of People

Through programs like Code Unnati, India’s digital natives are joining together to set off a chain reaction that will reach under-resourced youth and adolescents across the subcontinent.

Whether India succeeds in digitally enabling its population depends on people like Arundhati Kanungo. Both a bridge builder and a multiplier, Arundhati is part of a movement that is helping millions of Indians to achieve computer literacy and a better life — but more on that later.

India is currently struggling with a massive societal transformation into the digital age. Government estimates indicate that around 90 percent of the population is digitally illiterate and that two-thirds live in rural areas with little access to digital infrastructure.

Against the backdrop of a world forging ahead with new technologies, India is under pressure to bridge the gap for as much of its population as possible. According to the EY report, “Future of Jobs in India,” by 2022, almost 10 percent of the India’s workforce will be deployed in professions that do not exist today. More than one-third of future jobs will require a radically changed skills set.

Like Nuclear Fission

This where India’s digital natives like Arundati, a software developer at SAP Labs India in Bangalore, enter the picture. As a volunteer for the Code Unnati initiative, Arundhati has already trained 4,000 Indians in programming and technology so they in turn can train thousands of others. “Code Unnati opens up multiple opportunities to participants,” explains Arundhati.

“It is a little like nuclear fission,” she says, referring to the process in which energy is freed by the collision of subatomic particles, setting off a chain reaction. Arundhati is full of her own energy and passion about everything that connects software and people. That’s a huge asset, because SAP’s efforts to foster science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and digital literacy in India will not happen overnight. It will require a continuous effort by the company, its project partners, and committed volunteers like Arundhati.

Atal Tinkering Labs initiative by SAP & NITI Aayog

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Atal Tinkering Labs initiative by SAP & NITI Aayog

In June, Code Unnati celebrated its second anniversary. The SAP initiative is India’s first-ever corporate-to-citizen, multi-year collaborative digital literacy and software skills development initiative. So far the program has reached more than 1 million people, with training taking place at more than 1,700 schools. More than 40 percent of the trainees now have jobs. And it doesn’t stop there: The next goal is to train 2 million people by the end of 2020.

Do-It-Yourself Digital Inclusion

SAP is also working with the National Institute of Transforming India Commission (NITI Aayog) on the Unbox Tinkering initiative, which aims to equip more than 250 teachers with an understanding of design thinking, programming, and the Internet of Things (IoT), along with teamwork and presentation skills.

“With a huge young population, India is best placed to reap the advantages of the digital intelligence era that we are all poised to enter,” says Dr. Lovneesh Chanana, vice president of Digital Government for SAP APJ. “SAP is indeed proud to work with Indian government ministries through our partnerships for Code Unnati to achieve the vision of a truly digital India.”

“Code Unnati is more than just a coding initiative,” affirms Gunjan Patel, head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for APJ and India at SAP. “The topics are delivered in a do-it-yourself model. Students learn in experiential form how to leverage the power of science and technology for the betterment of society.”

As such, Code Unnati ties into the larger Learning for Life program at SAP and the company’s efforts to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

This is what Arundhati wants to pass on to her students: “Education gives them the power to create their own opportunities. We can do it for them for a while, but the best training result is when they can take over responsibility for themselves.”

Arundhati Kanungo joined SAP in 2016 and is now one of six global volunteer ambassadors in India. She has also already founded two startups and takes part in reverse mentoring, meaning that she provides mentoring to an SAP executive and gets some managerial mentoring back. When Arundhati heard about Code Unnati, she jumped onboard immediately. “Every day, there is something new to do at SAP. I never get tired,” she says. “I always get asked ‘How do you manage so many things?’ But when you love doing something, you don’t need to manage — it just automatically happens.”