As a company, we strive to enable greater connectivity for people worldwide. But even as we pursue this objective, a gap in access to digital tools and learning still remains. Over the last year, with our community partner Digital Promise, we have engaged underserved students to provide them with digital skills and learning to help them solve problems related to global sustainability challenges.

A girl holding a UN goal bannerThrough our Digital Inclusion social impact program, we have committed $10 million over five years towards initiatives that aim to unlock new opportunities for young students all over the world, giving them access to digital skills, tools, and learning. We are truly passionate about this program as we think digital skills are critical for learning.

One of our signature digital inclusion initiatives, the Ciena Solutions Challenge, engages middle and high school students to use critical thinking skills to find solutions for global challenges identified in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Since launching the Ciena Solutions Challenge in 2021 with our partner Digital Promise, more than 2,000 students and 240 teachers from schools and youth organizations across 48 countries have engaged with the program.

The global impact of this initiative inspired us—diverse and talented students from Brazil, Botswana, Tanzania, Canada, the UK, and the United States (among other countries) used creativity and innovative thinking to try to solve sustainability problems impacting their local communities.

“We feel that since we won, we get to help the earth by having this garden. Even if it's small, it still makes a big change. It is truly a great reward.” - Alejandro, Student

Girls picking up plastic bottlesBy coming together within their schools, the students thought of impactful solutions that they could undertake with the guidance of their teachers to make a meaningful difference in their local communities. We received a broad spectrum of submissions–from building an irrigation system in Matenge Village in Botswana to setting up a hydroponic farm in Nigeria. Students' submissions were thoughtful, inspiring, and demonstrated their passion for making a difference.

As part of the challenge, 17 schools received a Ciena Solutions Challenge Sustainability Award to help them buy much-needed equipment and supplies to bring their ideas to life.

“It was truly inspiring to observe the passion the educators demonstrated and the innovation that the participants from all over the world exhibited no matter how limited their resources were. I have been amazed, humbled, and inspired by this project; I’m very grateful to have been part of it.” - Sonia Bessette, Senior Corporate Counsel, Ciena

In addition to the global design challenge, Ciena and Digital Promise launched the Ciena Solutions Challenge Model Schools program to support three high schools in Ottawa, Canada. Along with professional development and mentoring support from Ciena and Digital Promise employees, the Model Schools received a donation of digital fabrication, coding and robotics, and production equipment to support student creativity and innovation throughout their schools.

“It was a pleasure to work with one of the participating schools and guide them along the way in creating solutions based on the UN sustainability goals. The amount of enthusiasm shown by the students and teachers was phenomenal!” - Bilal Riaz, Optical Test Engineering Leader, Ciena

Digital Promise will host the YouthMADE Festival in May, a virtual festival to celebrate youth creativity and innovation globally. Our teams will work with the students to showcase and celebrate Ciena Solutions Challenge participants and invite our people, friends, and partners to contribute.

Check out the video, produced by our partner Digital Promise, highlighting the work of these talented young people. We are so proud of their achievements.