View from India: Technology creates Social Impact

While trends like Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence have visibly influenced and refined processes within the ecosystem of many verticals during 2016, the increasing use of technology to create a social impact has also been noteworthy. Primarily, technology is being leveraged to uplift marginalised sections of society and differently-abled people by addressing social challenges like malnutrition, lack of education and low income levels.


Here’s a checklist of some of the tech-aided solutions and mobile apps that have made a difference to the lives of people. Either they have been conceptualised this year or they’ve won recognition this year. Private-public partnerships, research and collaborations have resulted in their success.

M-Governance at your Fingertips

Hailed as India’s first mobile governance model that offers 4,000 services, Karnataka MobileOne can be accessed through an app, mobile web, IVR or SMS. Apart from bill payments and ensuring access to the police, MobileOne scores for its suite of healthcare services. It helps consumers to connect with verified health care providers, book appointments, find blood banks, labs and pharmacies and access maternal and child care solutions.

Also under healthcare is Practo through which users can find doctors and book appointments from a portfolio of 100,000+ verified doctor profiles. Government of Karnataka (GoK) has collaborated with Wipro GE Healthcare and Columbia Asia Hospitals to extend Tele-ICU services in tier cities.

Karnataka MobileOne, a 2014 creation that has brought the government and private services onto a single integrated platform, won Gold at the m-governance awards at the fourth World Government Summit in Dubai in February 2016.

Girl Power, with a Difference

GPower may not exactly ring a bell, but this mobile-based digital solution has been conceptualised by Accenture and the Child in Need Institute (CINI) to prevent girl trafficking in West Bengal. A combination of tech tools along with analytics, cloud and mobile technology has been used to address several challenges related to school drop-outs, early marriage and trafficking in various parts of West Bengal.

This is how it works. A community facilitator talks to families and gathers information about the health, nutrition, education and protection of girls. The data is then fed into the mobile device, which is processed into a central server through a cloud-based platform. Based on this information, CINI steps in to provide girls access to the relevant government programmes. Community facilitators sensitise people about the girl child. In March 2016, GPower received the Vodafone Foundation Mobile for Good 2015 award in India.

Solutions for School Dropouts

It’s hard to believe that Aadhaar, a unique identification 12-digit number for all residents of India, is being used to track school dropouts.

Aadhaar is data-driven biometric and retina scan based system national governance project. It is interesting because Aadhaar has brought over one billion citizens into its fold and is working at the rate of 12 million -14million a day. It’s interesting how this data is being appropriately tweaked to track a concern area like school dropout rates. The place where this programme has unfolded is in schools in Andhra Pradesh, where dropout rates are appalling. The Andhra Pradesh government has partnered with Microsoft for this project.

Ground realities indicate that the information from the Aadhaar system is fed into Microsoft’s machine learning platform. The data gathered throws light on the student’s socio-economic background. Information about the school along with its infrastructure and student-teacher ratio is also fed into the system. Based on this information, the government and the school can step in to make a meaningful intervention.

Digital Drive

Digital Maharashtra could be an uphill task, but when accomplished it will result in a revolution of sorts. Earlier in the year, the Maharashtra government announced its plans to connect all its 28,000 gram panchayats in 36 districts by 2017-18. Digital Maharashtra will work towards the creation of smart cities and smart villages, wherein the gram panchayats will function as nodes. The digital project aims to improve the healthcare, education standards, agricultural facilities and security across the state.

The grand programme has been kickstarted as a pilot project in Nagpur, which will be Maharashtra’s first digitally smart district. Optic fibre network with Wi-Fi connectivity will enable e-health, e-education and e-marketing services. Tele-medicine and tele-education will help address issues related to primary healthcare and primary and secondary school education respectively. The digital project will extend to all tribal belts to bring them into mainstream development.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year

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