What will be the Greatest Enabler of the 21st Century?Sarah Bass
Take a second to think about this. We have seen trends emerge in the social sector from Microfinance Institutions to healthcare and education businesses that are all working to make a sustainable impact whereby services and products will become affordable and available to the masses. Director of Corporate Affairs for Intel South Asia, Mr. Ashutosh Chaddha, explains, “Intel firmly believes that technology remains the greatest enabler of the 21st century. Two years ago, we realized that there’s a large gap in the understanding of the common citizens on what technology can really enable them to do. We want to train people to use technology to come up with solutions which they can then implement to solve their problems.”
Working towards making a significant difference through their Corporate Social Responsibilities initiatives, Intel has developed an Intel Easy Steps program that caters to the rural customers and gives adult learners the opportunity to improve their economic and social self-sufficiency through training in digital literacy. “Our fundamental objective in the creation of the Intel Easy Steps program is to provide a digital learning program which enables individuals to understand how usage of technology can help enhance their livelihoods and add value to the communities,” Chaddha explains. “There is a lot of potential for transformation in rural areas… However, to ensure that technology really becomes all pervasive it’s critical that along with raising awareness of what technology can do for individuals there is a path to enable providing cheaper access to connectivity, access to relevant technological devices as well as incentivizing provision of services in the rural areas which will thus encourage more people to use broadband and technology, in turn contributing to the economy.”
One of these organizations is eKutir, a social venture focused on innovating new products, services, and a sustainable model at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Through their partnership, Intel and eKutir are working to bring digital literacy programs through the entrepreneurship model of eKutir to reduce the digital divide. SocialStory recently spoke with Mr. KC Mishra, Founder and Managing Director of eKutir who told us, “We are working with Intel to reach the next billion people and bring them onto the Internet. Everyone is connected. Specifically, we are working on how this connected platform can be used to bring people up economically and socially using agriculture and other professions. Human capital is important for farmers and other stakeholders.” Thus far eKutir has trained 2,000 farmers with the specialized cards that Intel has developed, designed, and customized for eKutir.Mishra tells us, “We wanted to do more than just the agricultural designed programs so with the help of Intel have designed programs for housewives and provided training for students, farmers, and local advocates. You feel the impact of Intel easily and quickly. The farmers can track their impact and output, and can immediately see the value attained from participating in the training program.”
Kali Prasad is a participant in Intel’s two-day Easy Step training program in New Delhi. Prasad, a tribal youth from the Khorda district of Odisha, recognized that technology could not only help his community, but also help him become an entrepreneur and earn a living.
Prasad’s inspiring story began after he returned home to his impoverished village after graduation. He quickly realized he was overqualified for any local employment opportunities, and felt that getting education was a mistake. After 5 years of searching, Kali found an opportunity that has entirely changed his life, and after speaking to the KC Mishra about how rural villages needed a digital literacy program Prasad found his calling. Prasad participated in the training program, and upon completion began training others to become digitally literate. He has been been promoted and works as the Program Head, Odisha Intel eKutir Digital Literacy programs.
Prasad explains, “A person doesn’t need past computer knowledge, because doing is a practical method of learning as opposed to a theoretical method. I have helped train 6,000-7,000 people. We train farmers who don’t know anything about computers and we teach them how to use Skype to connect to an agricultural consultant in another location about his farm in Orissa. This is really important for the farmers as pictures can be sent and continuing courses can be taken by the farmers to track their yields. The farmers learn how to use the computer and have customized curriculum in order to make it attractive for them, and the most beneficial while also being practical in their daily lives. This builds interest in more apps and modules so then the farmers will become interested in learning and understanding the full computer.”
Ashutosh Chaddha tells us further, “Our end goal is not just digital literacy, but what it can enable, and, therefore, we are focused on economic and social empowerment. We are accelerating the process by entering into partnerships with various civil society and governmental organizations to make at least 1 million people digitally literate by end 2013, using the Intel Easy Steps program. Last year, we brought together the ecosystem and the government to launch the National Digital Literacy Mission with a goal to make one citizen in every household digitally literate by 2020. To achieve this, we are working to rally the entire ecosystem. In 2013, we are aiming to replicate our work in a larger fashion in order to make it more meaningful.”
Check out more about Intel’s Easy Step Program here.