India student’s project will empower farmers with technology 

IoT-based solution presented at 2019 India Skills Forum

Jyoti and other students with their IBM mentor at the 2019 India Skills Forum in Delhi

When 17-year-old Jyoti’s high school principal called her one afternoon in December 2017, her life was forever changed.

Jyoti, who lives in the town of Nagrota in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, was one of 30 students selected across India as an IBM student intern. The internship, part of the Atal Innovation Mission, was sponsored by the National Institution for Transforming India and IBM.

To apply, students submitted entries focused on innovation in six areas: water resources, waste management, clean energy, smart mobility, health and agri-tech.

Jyoti’s idea—featuring innovation and technology in farming—was shortlisted among thousands of entries.

The 15-day internship took place in October 2018 at IBM’s Bengaluru facility, and was designed to mentor students for the new collar economy.

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The industry-tailored learning experience for selected students under 18 was designed to progress across 3 stages: induction, mentoring and recognition. The students were exposed to the corporate environment, and learned about technologies like IoT, cloud computing and blockchain, as well as the concept of design thinking.

The students worked on real-life innovation projects, including coding and website redesign, testing new applications, software and products, social media and communications strategy, marketing campaigns, and designing and administering client surveys.

“I worked hands-on with TJ BOT, Watson, IoT and various other IBM technologies,” Jyoti said.

Jyoti worked under the aegis of IBM mentors to further expand her idea of helping farmers learn about new techniques and technology. During the internship, she created a plan for an interconnected website and a smart robot.

The robot’s sensors will identify soil fertility and humidity after mapping an entire field, and update the website with that information—helping farmers with insights like weather conditions, soil fertility and irrigation requirements.

Her website is called FarmConnect. The design is ready, and she’s now working with IBM mentors and her school teachers to integrate it with The Weather Services, an IBM company.

Beyond her project, Jyoti said that one of the most valuable parts of the internship was the chance to interact with students from different states, and learn about their culture.

India has one of the highest graduation rates in the world, but its shortage of skilled STEM talent has been increasing: up from 6 percent in 2014 to 12 percent in 2018, per indeed.com. India’s government launched the Atal Innovation Mission February 2016 in direct response to that shortage. Named after India’s former prime minister, the flagship initiative was set up by NITI Aayog with the purpose of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship across the country.

“There is an impending need for collaboration between government, industry and academia to bridge the skills gap in the workforce,” said Amitabh Kant, NITI Aayog CEO.

Jyoti with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

In September 2016, IBM joined NITI Aayog to co-create a first-of-its-kind internship program for student-innovators under the age of 18.

In March 2019, IBM organized an India Skills Forum in New Delhi to showcase the progress being made, deliberate on the next steps, and celebrate student innovators— including Jyoti, teachers and partners.

After Jyoti confidently shared her skills development journey with top Indian government officials, senior IBM executives including CEO Ginni Rometty, and other students at the India Skills Forum, the room erupted with applause.

“I am very grateful to IBM for giving me the opportunity to enhance my skills through internship,” Jyoti concluded.

Jyoti is now back at school. She’s determined to help alleviate the issues and struggles she sees many of her friends and family deal with in their home village. Her goal is to become an administrative officer with the India government, where she hopes to drive the adoption of technology at the grassroots level.