In early 2021, the Karnataka Education Department approached Rotarians in the state to set up 8,000 desktop computers that were being donated by Cognizant. “The task was not simple. The logistics would be a nightmare, considering over 500 colleges, spread over the entire state of Karnataka, were the beneficiaries. Many of the colleges did not have a proper computer lab set up till then. The task of procuring and loading the software licences, testing each desktop, the logistics of transporting them to individual colleges was daunting and everyone realised the enormity of the task on hand. To execute the project, funds, people and a good project management practice were required,” says PDG Rajendra Rai.
The carrot was that successful installation of these desktops in a record time of three months would bring in an additional 12,000 computers from Infosys.
When the request was initially made, the district leadership of RID 3190 immediately responded with a resounding yes, without even waiting for confirmation from other Rotary districts in Karnataka. Such was the confidence in fellow Rotarians that the support would be unconditional, and collaboration would be automatic. A project team was immediately formed consisting of Rai and two senior Rotarians — Mohan Ramanathan and Jayaraman Subramaniam — to execute the project. The other four Rotary districts immediately joined in and identified DLCC of each district as leaders.
The project was titled Sahakarita and till now over 27,500 computers (12,500 from Cognizant and 15,000 from Infosys) have been installed at 500 colleges including polytechnics. These are not discarded or outdated computers. Most of them have Intel Core i3, some i5 and even i7 processors, with 8 GB RAM and 500 GB hard disk space, says Subramaniam. These were initially used by programmers who got their replacement laptops during Covid lockdown period to work from home and so are high-end functional computers. Typically, each machine, including the software licence, would cost over ₹30,000.
If set up at market rates these computer labs would have cost ₹70 crore, he added. But RI District 3190 Rotarians could get the software licence at a nominal cost thanks to their long connect with Microsoft through their project to provide refurbished computers to schools, thus a lot of money was saved. Districts 3160, 3170, 3181, 3182 and 3190 participated in this project.
The Trusts of Rotary Bangalore Whitefield Central and Rotary Bangalore Lakeside handled the donations. Apart from Rotaractors, the Deshpande Foundation at Hubli, joined hands with Rotary to help with the project.
The association between Rotary and these educational institutions continues. “We will soon see as many Rotaract clubs installed in these colleges and the youth power will become part of Rotary. Infosys is also offering their learning material with over 5,000 courses to all these colleges with the Rotary logo,” Subramaniam added.
Appreciating Rotary’s partnership with two tech giants such as Cognizant and Infosys, PRID Kamal Sanghvi said with this project Rotary had extended its footprint in over 500 institutions. PDG Rai, member, RILM, said that in keeping with its vision, RILM was executing mega projects, “quickly and with a professional approach to shape the future of our youth.”