Nasscom Foundation via its women empowerment programmes spreading the goodness of tech in India
The foundation is working with several State govts, central govt’s agencies and corporates to make India a tech leader in various aspects with sound participation of the rural India
‘Tech for Good’ as a concept has resonated across the globe. Leveraging technology, several critical challenges faced by the mankind are being solved. Indian IT industry with its leadership position in the world is leading the show across innovations. Industry body Nasscom through Nasscom Foundation is spreading the goodness of technology in India through various programmes including supporting women entrepreneurship in both rural and urban areas, skilling deserving people from marginalised class and supporting government’s aspirational districts programme along with providing technology support to NGOs working in the hinterland of the country. In a conversation with Bizz Buzz, Nasscom Foundation’s CEO, Nidhi Bhasin said the foundation is working with several state government, central government’s agencies and corporates to make India a technology leader in various aspects with sound participation of the rural India. The Foundation is also confident that various announcements of this year’s budget will further complement its work in a better last mile delivery of various technology innovations. She also said that the Foundation will integrate its programmes with the aspirational block programmes in coming quarters
Which are the technology companies collaborating with Nasscom Foundation on various programmes?
We work with Google, Visa, Firstsource and others on women entrepreneurship programmes. In skilling in general and girls in particular, we have many more partners. We work with Capgemini, Accenture, and across the board many companies. With Google, we run a programme of call centres for women agri-entrepreneurs.
Nasscom Foundation runs a Social Innovation Forum. Can you please elaborate on the kind of work the innovation forum does?
We do multiple work under the Social Innovation Forum. For example, we collaborate with a lot of colleges and universities. The objective is that when the students are in engineering colleges, how we can introduce them to entrepreneurship with an idea of social impact. We are running these programmes for four years now and there are many success stories. Last year, one of the students came up with a drone idea that would help farmers to improve productivity. So, we help students to do prototyping of their product or services before launching the startup. We also work with many health startups. Out of the 15 startups, two of the startups have been featured in Shark Tank. Our handholding and mentorship help these startups to access funds provided by the state governments. We also collaborate with these startups to come up with solutions that help NGOs (non-government organisations) to solve certain problem statements for better impact and reach. We have developed 10 such solutions that include domestic violence prevention to child helpline to MIS. Many NGOs are currently using these solutions. We work with more than 10,000 NGOs as we are the biggest software providers to these organisations. As part of helping the NGOs to improve their efficiency, we have partnered with Aspire- Ashoka fellowship.
This year’s budget announced special programme for AI (artificial intelligence) terming it as ‘Make AI in India and Make AI work for India’. The budget also lays emphasis on skilling in coding, mechatronics, IoT, robotics, drones and 3D printing among others. Does Nasscom Foundation work in the space of emerging technologies for empowering its target audience?
As part of Nasscom, we are working around different emerging technologies and AI is definitely a part of it. We as an organisation are working on different emerging technologies and AI is part of it. We work on skilling for the marginalised in AI. We are running some specialised programme in AI for skilling the engineering students. When you look at AI, there is also an aspect of skill shortage. We see many deserving candidates belonging to marginalised social status who need handholding. That is the area we want to expand on. We also want to expand the scope of AI as part of social innovation. We have worked on innovations like AI in road safety, AI in environment. Third area, we want to explore is sustainability. We try to explore that how AI can help in achieving sustainability, whether in water or climate or agriculture.
Many IT companies work on the areas of sustainability, livelihood, skilling, education and other aspects through their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes and through their own foundations. Does Nasscom Foundation have any interface with such company-driven initiatives?
We don’t do any programmes in terms of implementing with them but we work with them. We work along with them in areas of skilling and tech-support among others. We have couple of programmes with corporates where volunteers in those organisations, especially tech-volunteers build solutions for particular problem statements. We have worked with several companies in building up apps for NGOs.
What is the level of collaboration of the Nasscom Foundation with various state governments?
We work with various state governments starting from Punjab to Nagaland because we need the state governments to give us the test beds. Recently, we have done a programme with the Tamil Nadu government in skilling space for people with disabilities. Depending on the programme, the foundation is working with various state governments. We align our programmes with the government and work with various government agencies. The government is implementing various programmes under ‘Digital India’. As part of this, we are working with Niti Aayog. Currently, the Foundation is working with 55 aspirational districts in 23 states across the country. We are in conversation with them for collaboration.
In the model of aspirational districts programme, the Union Budget has announced 500 Aspirational Block Programme. Will your collaboration deepen further as part of the new programme?
We are doing a study now in this regard. We are in the first year of collaborating with the aspirational districts programme. How do we go deeper with that and how do we integrate all our programmes- these are things, we are looking at. As we are currently working on digital literacy programme in aspirational districts, we are giving access to various government schemes to improve overall livelihood. Also, for instance, we are looking at future of our women entrepreneurship programme. How do we integrate our programmes with the government’s aspirational districts programme- that is what we are looking at. In the long-run, we want to integrate our programmes with that of government.
Every foundation usually faces funding gap given the breadth and depth of its programmes. Does Nasscom Foundation face any such problem? How do you overcome those kinds of challenges?
Yes, we face funding gap. What we want to do; what kind of impact we want to make; no funding is ever enough. So, the gap is always there. The biggest gap we find is resources for capacity building, organisation building and building technology.