Between Hope and Opportunity

Juniper volunteers work to improve living standards in rural villages.

When members of the Juniper India team set out to help a nearby village become a part of Digital India, they quickly learned that changing lives means building more than a network.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon business leaders to work with the country’s poorest villages to raise the standard of living, making education and technology more readily accessible. “We have the responsibility to shape a future of peace, stability, and prosperity in this region,” Modi pronounced during a 2015 speech in Silicon Valley.

Responding to his call to action, Juniper employees in the company’s India Excellence Center recognized they were in a prime position to help their neighbors. “At the end of the day, we need to make a lasting difference in our work,” says Pallavi Mahajan, a senior software engineering director and Juniper veteran. Working with NGOs, Pallavi and colleagues gathered a team of Juniper volunteers and began to assess needs in the rural villages of Orohalli, near Hoskote, Bangalore.

With Juniper’s leadership in the networking sector, the obvious course of action would be to use technology to connect the villages’ people to schools, healthcare, and rest of the world. However, the daily challenges for the people of Orohalli were far more basic—and pressing—than gaining network access.

The villages lacked access to clean running water and available electricity. Healthcare, particularly for children and expectant mothers, was in short supply, often requiring them to travel several miles on foot. For families wanting to send their children to schools with computer facilities, distance and expense were prohibitive.

Working closely with the Panchayat (village council), the Juniper volunteers have forged an enduring connection with the Orohalli people. The plan for these villages rests on four priorities: education, healthcare, creating occupational opportunities, and ultimately using network connectivity to tie these things together.

“We’re taking baby steps,” says Mahajan. “Clean water to drink, education for kids so they don’t have to drop out, and hygiene for newborns and pregnant moms.” Another target is providing sources of renewable electricity, using methods such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy. Garbage disposal, too, is a critical need.

“Addressing these areas first is helping the village become self-reliant,” Mahajan explains. “Network technology is coming next year.” Within five years, the Juniper team expects that the Orohalli villages will be self-sustaining in terms of their economy, education, and healthcare—with promising futures for the children as connected citizens of Digital India.