Technology and innovation have the capacity to drive large-scale social and economic change. However, for these solutions to have the maximum impact, governments also need to be proactive in bringing these to the fore.
Today, we see entrepreneurs, professionals and students working on interesting technological solutions, which address the exact challenges that governments have been facing. However, often, the innovators stop short of working on government projects related to these solutions. One of the main reasons for this, they say, is the mandate in the traditional tendering process regarding prior experience, a minimum turnover, the requirement to furnish details regarding earnest money deposit, and other details.
To address this and give home-grown talent the opportunity to partner with the government and work directly work on relevant projects, the Rajasthan Government’s Department of Information Technology and Communication has designed the Challenge for Change.
The programme has been conceptualised to align with the vision of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to encourage home-grown talent to play a key role in the IT advancement of the state and deliver better citizen-centric services.
According to Mr Akhil Arora, Principal Secretary, Information Technology and Communication, Rajasthan, “The Challenge for Change is a disruptive practice and a component of the Rajasthan Startup Promotion Action Agenda. It’s a one-of-a-kind initiative which has been designed to provide startups a fair opportunity to partner with the state government and play an important role in empowering Rajasthan to be the ‘Digital-sthan’ of the country.”
Challenge for Change
Challenge for Change is a competitive platform for entrepreneurs, professionals, and students to design and implement innovative integrated IT architecture to enhance efficiency, transparency and outreach of e-governance initiatives across different sectors such as the wool industry, agriculture, and mining, among others.
A key highlight of the Challenge for Change contest is that the startups get to bid for a government contract without the need to adhere to the standard tendering process. It also waives off several terms and conditions that government contracts are often saddled with, like the age of a company, the minimum turnover etc. The winning startups will be awarded direct work orders worth Rs 1 crore from the Government of Rajasthan.
Additionally, the state government will support the startups, from evaluating the prototype to ensuring its effective implementation. In addition, startups stand the chance to partner with the government on relevant projects depending on a startup or individual’s capabilities.
As part of the challenge, students, professionals and startups can share innovative ideas and ingenious solutions for five existing challenges floated by the government and bring about change that will benefit the masses. The active challenges require the participants to:
- Exploit the manufacturing and processing potential of the state, which happens to be the largest producer of wool in India, and thereby contribute to generating more employment opportunities and income.
- Make productive use of barren land which constitutes 25 percent of the state by using it for cultivation or industrialisation, or use cases such as starting solar farms, defence training facilities or astronomy observatories.
- Design RFID-powered cold storage chains to track the shelf life of agricultural produce to improve its go-to-market value and minimise losses. Locate key areas where godowns can be built to ease logistics load. Also, look at the feasibility of designing a user-friendly storage location guide app or SMS facility to assist farmers.
- Optimise and balance the cultivation of water intensive and less-water intensive crops to boost the agricultural capability of the state, which is primarily arid and gets scanty rainfall. Introduce innovative irrigation and harvesting technology to optimise water utilisation and maximise agriculture cultivation.
- Design a robust and efficient remote monitoring and surveillance system to detect illegal mining activity on a real time basis so that necessary response can be initiated in the shortest possible time.
Participate in the Government of Rajasthan’s Challenge for Change contest and win work contracts up to Rs 1 crore per Challenge. Fill up the pre-form here.
The first edition of the Challenge for Change had seen saw startups sharing innovative ideas to address the challenge of making drinking water safe. The winner, Amritdhaara Water Projects, was awarded a work order of Rs 1 crore for its innovative working model in the area of water conservation.
Explaining why the scope of the challenge has been broadened for the second edition, Mr Arora says, “In this edition, we are looking at leveraging the expertise of startups to maximise revenue and employment opportunities in core sectors such as agriculture, mining, wool production, and more. A key objective is to encourage companies and professionals that can implement the best technology solutions for boosting these sectors in Rajasthan by working along with them.”
The Challenge for Change contest has received tremendous response. In the first round, more than 1.34 lakh people accessed the platform and submitted hundreds of innovative ideas.
While Challenge for Change does not mandate submitting a working prototype, it is beneficial for startups to submit one as it helps the evaluation committee get a better understanding of the problem solution fit, and the feasibility of implementation. In case the idea is brilliant, weightage will be given to the idea itself and support will be provided to create a working prototype and then subsequently for implementation.
The evaluation panel comprises industry veterans, subject matter experts from sectors corresponding to the challenge areas, as well as leaders from key government departments. The ideas will be shortlisted on two key parameters – relatability and ease of execution.
The process involves two rounds of selection. Shortlisted candidates will be called for an in-person interview in Jaipur. In the final round, teams or individuals will pitch to an expert panel, and be judged on their overall performance, the marketability of their idea, its potential to bring change, working prototype and the startup’s capabilities to execute the idea. The shortlisted applicants will be informed one week after the application process closes on June 22, 2018.
Adopting disruptive policies and programmes
Rajasthan has been at the forefront of leveraging innovative technology solutions to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. In fact, as early as 2008, Rajasthan envisaged Bhamashah Yojana, a direct benefit transfer programme for effective use of all cash and non-cash benefits under various public welfare schemes, even before the launch of the now-popular Aadhaar programme. It has also worked towards providing gram panchayat and villages with internet connectivity.
“We strongly believe that information technology will not only benefit people but help the government bring in order and discipline at work. We want to make the state a role model for digital transformation,” says Mr Arora.
In addition to driving digitisation, the other key element that is on the state’s development agenda is building a strong startup ecosystem. Rajasthan has continually worked towards making the region a thriving startup hub. It launched the Rajasthan State Startup Policy as early as 2015, making it one of the first states to formulate a regional startup policy aimed at improving the ease of doing business for new startups.
With the twin objective of supporting the local startup ecosystem as well leveraging the startup talent to enhance the delivery of citizen-driven schemes and e-governance, the government has launched a number of initiatives such as Rajasthan IT Day, DigiFest, and the Challenge for Change.
The Rajasthan IT Day 2018, in its third edition, provided participants the opportunity to showcase innovative solutions and services as well as win work orders from the government. DigiFest, which has been organised for two years in a row, has grown to become a platform to inspire and support innovative ideas, develop breakthrough innovations and create world-class enterprises.
Yet another initiative is iStart Rajasthan, a flagship initiative by the state government intended to foster innovation, create jobs and facilitate investment. Most recently, in February 2018, the state government launched a Rs 500-crore Startup Fund to provide loans and equity funding for startups and assist companies, venture capital funds and angel investors to set up incubation centres.
“Rajasthan’s startup environment is full of energy. The youth are driven by a passion to solve things differently. Our intent is to not just support, but to empower them. And, Challenge for Change is yet another initiative in that direction,” concludes Mr Arora.
Collaborate with the State Government of Rajasthan to improve efficiency, transparency and outreach of e-governance. The contest does not mandate that startups or professionals have prior experience or business turnover details. Weightage will be given to the relatability and ease of execution of the idea.