2020 tested us beyond measure and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to cause disruption. However, among all the challenges I’ve found hope in the growth of our Digital Academy Program. Despite everything, the Digital Academy continued to have a positive impact on local communities in 2020.
In fact, thanks to the hard work, togetherness, and belief of our people we were able to double the number of our partnerships.
From optimism to adaptation
We started 2020 with the ambition to continue our work empowering people at risk of unemployment with life-changing digital skills. With the experience gained from our pilot year in 2019 in countries such as France, India, and the Netherlands, our objective was to work closely with other partners to expand into new
countries. Specifically, we hoped to train 3000 graduates (vs 150 in 2019).
In March, however, the pandemic took hold. At first, it was a real challenge for our Academies as some were not ready to switch to a 100% virtual program. In India, we had to close some Digital Academies and pause the training.
Another challenge we faced was ensuring the graduates from low-income families had what they needed to continue their training. This went beyond just securing digital equipment. The pandemic has hit the underprivileged the hardest — with so many losing their jobs, struggling to pay rent, and care for families.
I am immensely proud and grateful for the work our people and the NGOs we partner with did during these challenging months. I heard stories of volunteers delivering food and essentials. I know it was due to the sheer determination and unwavering belief in the importance of the Digital Academy from our partners on the ground that we were able to continue education. And, thankfully, we were able to continue expanding the program.
A divide widens
I think it’s vital to acknowledge how the shift to a digital world has affected the most marginalized and increased the existing digital divide. I’ve heard of families struggling to access online schooling. Digitally illiterate people left unable to communicate with their families. I know many vulnerable people were left feeling abandoned and isolated.
The new normal will continue to present challenges. However, the sudden shift to online has raised crucial awareness of the importance of bridging the digital divide. Externally, I have seen more commitments from business leaders, while internally we experienced an uptake of volunteering from our people.
Adapting for success
I’d like to share two positive examples of adaptation from last year. In India, the shift to remote learning and working presented an opportunity to include a previously disadvantaged group of people — women who lived rurally. With many women facing exclusion from the industry because of the inability to relocate, the new normal demonstrated that location no longer need be a barrier.
Partnering with local non-government organizations, we launched The “Sakhi Drishtikon” project last year. It gives women the opportunity to learn, work, and live in their hometown. The program involves rigorous training to prepare graduates for traineeships within Capgemini. During their time with Capgemini so far, graduate trainees have worked on projects in the cloud and infrastructure services as software engineers.
In Spain, despite the challenges, our partnership with the NGO “Factoria F5” continued to grow, with the launch of a new bootcamp “Asturias_F5.” The center offers free, intensive, high-impact training in web and mobile development to people in vulnerable situations.
Stories of hope and optimism
Since 2019, we have trained 4,852 people, many of whom now have careers at Capgemini. I’d like to share the stories of two such people, Madiha in London and Javier in Spain.
Madiha moved to the UK from Pakistan in 2006. Although she faced many challenges, she had big dreams and worked hard, balancing a part-time job and parenting while completing her studies. At the Digital Academy, she learned to code, built a portfolio, and practiced presentation and interview skills. Madiha now not only works at Capgemini, but even volunteers on the same course that made her dreams a reality.
Javier lives in Barcelona and had been unemployed for two and a half years before joining Factoria F5. After completing the free bootcamp, Javier started working in Capgemini as part of the team that supports the CTTI in the governance of the telecommunications and IT systems of the Generalitat (Catalunya region).
I am so proud of Madiha and Javier and am inspired by all the graduates of the Digital Academy. I’m convinced 2020 was just the beginning and in 2021, look forward to starting many more stories and creating more important positive impact. Now, more than ever, we need to be driving positive change with digital inclusion.
With the Academy currently partnering with 18 NGOs in eight countries, I know despite everything we have faced, we will continue to help more people to join the tech sector. This inclusion enriches graduates’ lives and their community. And with our ambition to hire 10% of graduates, I know that we will also benefit from the richness of skills and life experience the graduates will bring. Over the coming months, I will be sharing more of their stories, and I can’t wait for you to meet them.