Technology for Development -T4D – Panel Discussion

2 Aug 2017

Social Start-Up Fellowship, July 14 2017

Key Note Speaker:

Osama Manzar, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Panelist:

  1. Bharat Anand, CTO, NATGRID, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
  2. Mukesh Deshpande, Executive Director, PwC India
  3. Anurang Kanti, Founder, India ReDefined
  4. Osama Manzar, Founder, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Moderator: Shalabh Mittal, Chief Executive, SSE India

 

Technology is a multiplier in creating impact and even more so in social impact to reach out to more number of people usually in need of ‘hard to access’ goods & services. Technology plays the role of an enabler for the social entrepreneur to promote the solution for the social problem being addressed. Internally, technology could be leveraged to better manage the business process & various functions of the social business. It can also go beyond developing an app, and how it can be used to engage with the communities, the stakeholders, people using services directly, the staff, etc. The forum opened a dialogue to discuss technology as an enabler to empowering processes of development.

Osama Manazar, Digital Empowerment Foundation, gave the keynote address, sharing his life journey, his story, the failures, how he dealt with them and moved ahead. Osama opened his address by paying gratitude to women and acknowledging them as born social entrepreneurs. To him social entrepreneurship is about taking risks and serving the society, despite one faces rejections or failures. Through the work he did during his early years, he realized the power of information & what digital world can do to bring change in the lives of poor people. He found his purpose in realization that everything comes down to information – how is it used, who holds it, who has the access and who does not? This led him to start ‘Digital Empowerment Foundation’.

The panel discussion focused on potential of technology to create social change, the future with technology to work in the social sector and collaborative processes to bring innovations for change.

Following are the key points that emerged from the discussion:

“We as a society are information starved and Information poverty is real – we just don’t want to accept it. Digital Exclusion is still a challenge and we need to include the last person which is a key to inclusive development. The future of technology is biology and using technology with empathy is essential. Keep technology simple – make it serve the purpose and not the process, don’t complicate it. We need to connect more women with technology beginning with internet & mobile phones and engage with local people – convert the local wisdom & knowledge to empower people via technology.” – Osama Manzar

“Technology has very different meaning for each individual and to him the most important use of technology in bringing social change is in its application to reduce middleman & connecting producers (rural/artisans/farmers) with consumers. Further, the use of technology to bring transparency in conducting business and creating impact is of a great value. Technology must up-skill people leading to deeper change, reduce Government functioning in isolation & in silos.” – Bharat Anand

“Find appropriate technology to the culture, context and resources (how RO water purification systems don’t make sense for whole of India as a single solution to water purification), think of technology beyond product – it could be an internal innovation as well in the business process, people must be educated and made aware on the use of technology for it to create impact & increase its reach.” – Anurag Kanti

“Technology has to impact the masses, and not a select few. Everything around us and all of us are generating data – be it by wearing a health band, carrying a mobile with internet connectivity, we shopping at a store, while roaming in a mall under CCTV surveillance. All of it is generating data and this data is being used, since the data today drives decisions. I would like to share with everyone technology is for people, and not people for technology. Technology will not be able to replace humans, but we will disrupt ourselves to be ahead of technology.” – Mukesh Deshpande

While wrapping up the panel discussion, the panelist discussed certain values technology should lead to:

– Confidence: Technology must evoke confidence in its beneficiaries
– Rights: Technology must bring people closer to their rights, provide access to them
– Efficiency & Effectiveness: Technology must increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of the product and/or service
– Scale: Technology must take the solution of a problem to masses
– Empowerment: Technology must empower people to solve their problems
– Reach: Technology enable the reach to new markets – increase market size
– Transparency: Technology must be transparent in how it operates and bring in transparency in the system
– Impact: Technology must create impact – impact that matters
– Honesty: Technology must be developed with complete honesty, and it should invoke honesty in people and the system

On day one of the fourth learning block, the fellows had an interactive session with Abhay Adhikari, who said, “find that smallest unit of change, and then use technology to scale up the impact”.

This sums up the purpose of T4D.