The American India Foundation (AIF) celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Digital Equalizer program at the New York Gala, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Over 600 people attended to show their commitment to AIF, and together they raised $2.9 million, including a generous commitment of $ 1 million from Bharat Desai and Neerja Sethi, furthering AIF’s mission to make a difference in the lives of tens of millions of underprivileged women and children in India.
Digital Equalizer is a testament to this mission, bridging India’s educational and digital divide by transforming under-resourced schools into dynamic places to learn, and providing opportunities to millions of children for a better future, according to a press release.
Take 13-year-old Durga for example – one of the four million students who has benefited from the Digital Equalizer program. Every day, Durga works odd jobs early in the morning to help supplement her family income. “My home is just one room. We cook, sleep, eat, and study in the same room. My mother is a tailor and the sole breadwinner for the family. My father does not have a permanent job, and there are days when he brings home no money,” she said.
For Durga, going to school is a chance to improve her family’s circumstances – Durga is now one of the top students in her class, scoring 100% in Math, 95% in Science, and 95% in Social Science.
“I am extremely grateful for your support, which has enabled me to benefit from Digital Equalizer. It has encouraged me to follow my dream of becoming a doctor,” said Durga, speaking at the gala.
Since the program’s launch in 2004, millions of students have been impacted like Durga, showing the program’s tangible impact. Last year there was a 13% increase in learning outcomes and a 30% reduction in absenteeism, and 96% of teachers now use technology in the classroom.
“In the context where only around 40% of government schools have access to computers, Digital Equalizer brings a transformative change both at the student and school level, and also within the entire eco-system. Low income families and children deserve the same access to technology as everyone else. There are barriers to access, and Digital Equalizer is a demonstration of how those can be overcome,” said Nishant Pandey, CEO of the American India Foundation, at the gala.
The gala brought together prominent community members to champion the work of AIF. Ali Velshi, MSNBC Anchor and Business Correspondent for NBC News, was Master of Ceremonies and opened the gala. Rich Rothberg, General Counsel Dell Technologies and Stephen Scherr, Chief Financial Officer Goldman Sachs & Co LLC, were the Gala Chairs.
AIF co-chairs Harit Talwar and Lata Krishnan reiterated AIF’s commitment to making a difference in the lives of millions of underprivileged women and children through a multi-pronged approach, with programs on education, health, and livelihood. In the next five years, AIF aims to reach another five million underserved people. Harit used the occasion to invite prominent guests to join AIF’s NY Tri-State Board.
Additionally, Michael Dell, Chairman & CEO, Dell Technologies, was honored for his philanthropic leadership and dedication to education. Under the leadership of Michael Dell, the organization has extended unflinching support to Digital Equalizer over the last ten years, enabling access to technology for close to a million students and 18,000 teachers in 8,000 public schools across India.
During the event, Aditya Puri, Managing Director of HDFC Bank, was also honored for his corporate and philanthropic leadership with a glowing tribute to him by Ajay Banga, President & CEO Mastercard and Chairman Emeritus of AIF.
He said “Our corporate mantra of parivartan is aimed at transformation and progress for the underserved. I’m truly honored and humbled to receive this award. We are excited at the thought of partnering with AIF on its Digital Equalizer program.”
Pradeep Kashyap, AIF Director Emeritus, received a special award for his selfless work to AIF over the last two decades. He will now Co-Chair the AIF Advisory Council in partnership with Frank Wisner.
Overall, the gala helped reinforce the impact that AIF (www.AIF.org) is making for millions of Indians, but also the amount of work that still needs to be done, the organizers said, in the release.
The AIF is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India, and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development.
Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a suggestion from Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 5.6 million of India’s poor.