Access to energy is one of the key necessities for development of mankind. I realized this first hand during the course of my engagement with IEEE’s Smart Village initiative.
My first interaction with IEEE Smart Village goes back to 2012 during my final year of Undergraduate Study at BITS Pilani. I was in touch with two young and enthusiastic Kiwi’s – Alex Podmore and Matthew Gibbons, volunteers with IEEE Smart Village (then Community Solutions Initiative) who were looking to partner with the ‘’Engineers Without Borders” India team which I was leading to pilot an energy access project in Goa, India. Little did I realize that while building those portable bicycle based charging stations for slums in Goa with them, I would one day be part of a team setting up the first DC Grid in the Himalaya region in 2014 as an IEEE Smart Village Ambassador.
Upon my graduation in 2013, I took up a full time assignment with National Instruments. I was always on the lookout for opportunities to volunteer with non-profits working in the energy access space to put my professional skills to use as a volunteer for making an impact. It was in 2014 when I got selected for a conference on Asian Development at Harvard University that IEEE Smart Village formally supported me through their Ambassador Program. Since then there has been no turning back. As an Ambassador I help IEEE Smart Village to achieve its vision of providing education and access to electricity to 50 million people by 2025.
One of my first tasks assigned by Co-Chairs Robin Podmore and Ray Larsen as an Ambassador, was to identify potential partners in India working on rural electrification. I came across Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) through my professional network and was immediately able to see a synergy in the mission of IEEE Smart Village and Paras Loomba (Founder, GHE). GHE leverages the model of impact tourism to electrify villages and setup education bases in the Ladakh Region of India, one of the remotest regions of the world. I participated in the GHE 2014 expedition to setup the first DC Grid in the Himalayan region in Sumda Chenmo, a 1000 year old village located at an altitude of 14000ft. Being part of the expedition made me realize how we city dwellers take simple things like a light bulb for granted, it made me realize the development differential that exists across the world due to the lack of access to energy. In 2015, IEEE Smart Village also nominated me as a Key Speaker for a conference in Mumbai in the Microgrid and Micro-utilities Panel. The panel discussed leveraging micro-utilities and microgrids in education to empower the next generation by assuring them access to clean energy.
As an Ambassador, I continue to look for additional partners, assist existing partners for future projects and represent IEEE Smart Village at various global conferences. I have gained an incredible amount of experience through my volunteer work with IEEE Smart Village; for instance, I was able to hone my skills on how to effectively network and lobby for a social initiative, how to set up and conduct a classroom education program, and how to successfully represent a global organization in networking events effectively. The environment within the IEEE team is encouraging; I was treated as a professional, a friend, and a colleague working towards improving energy access to those strata of society that need it most. The executive team is also a team of very experienced mentors which assists our professional and personal growth. Working with IEEE Smart Village as an Ambassador has been an unparalleled experience in my life which has inspired me to continue traveling, learning and volunteering my time towards a greater social cause.