Microsoft India and NASSCOM Foundation announce Innovate for an Accessible India campaign to empower PwDs

The nation-wide innovation challenge supported by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will serve as an aggregator of technology-led solutions for empowering persons with disabilities

18th Mar 2020
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According to a survey by the National Statistical Office (NSO), persons with disability (PwDs) comprised 2.2 percent of the population as of December 2018. The survey also aimed to find data about the various challenges they face, including access to public buildings like offices, cinema halls, restaurants, public transport or even public restrooms.


In an effort to change the narrative around accessibility, Microsoft India and NASSCOM Foundation have announced the launch of the Innovate for an Accessible India campaign. The programme has been created in partnership with the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Department of Science & Technology (DST), Ministry of Science and Technology and ERNET (National Research and Education Network under MeitY).


This nation-wide innovation challenge aims to create the technology and tools required for better integration of PwDs into society, by giving them access to equal opportunities. The campaign will be an aggregator of workable technology solutions developed using Microsoft Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other technologies that address gaps PwDs face in acquiring services and support in education, skill building, employment, mobility, rehabilitation and other government services.


Speaking at the launch, Smt. Shakuntala Doley Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, said, “In line with the Accessible India campaign, which is a flagship programme of the Department launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister as a nation-wide campaign for achieving universal accessibility for persons with disabilities, the Ministry will provide guidance and awareness to the program to keep it aligned to the disability policy framework and the Department’s vision to empower persons with disabilities with equal access and opportunity.


Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, said, “With over a billion people around the world living with some form of disability, it is critical that we find new ways to use technology to enable everyone to fully participate in the socio-economic environment around us. Innovate for Accessible India presents an amazing opportunity to bring new ideas for building an inclusive future. Using the power of Microsoft Cloud, AI and other technologies, developers can create products and solutions in the areas of education, skilling, employment, mobility and other citizen services for greater accessibility. We are very excited to partner on this effort and look forward to some ground-breaking ideas.”

Who can apply

The Innovate for Accessible India campaign is open to students, startups, impact organisations and NGOs who want to build customised solutions that address challenges faced by people with disabilities across the 21 officially recognised disabilities. The key areas of focus that developers are encouraged to address are mobility, e-governance and access, education, skilling and livelihood and health.


Applicants can send in their ideas to https://iai.nasscomfoundation.org/, on or before April 15, 2020.


The applications will be screened by a jury of top subject matter experts, during cross-city pitch sessions. Of these, 10 ideas will be selected as the winning innovations. After a six-month screening process, finalists will be provided support for another six months to roll out their solutions in the market.


The finalists will be mentored by Microsoft and NASSCOM Foundation, and will also be given grants to develop and scale their solution.


Ashok Pamidi, CEO – NASSCOM Foundation, said, “We are living in exciting times where innovative technology solutions can finally make the world better for persons with disabilities. With Innovate for an Accessible India, we hope to capture all possible tech-based innovations that can make the lives of people with disabilities easier. We are grateful to Microsoft for providing an opportunity to all innovators working in the accessibility space to scale up their solutions using grants and mentorship and are thankful to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Department of Technology and ERNET to support this initiative wholeheartedly.”


The Government of India and DST has been supporting public-private partnership programmes on idea-scouting and startup promotion.


“Programs like this strike a deep chord with us given our role in promoting science and technology to develop solutions, products and services to address challenges faced by the masses. The IAI program will offer workable solutions that can address problems faced by persons with disability and help in acquiring services and support in the areas of education, skill building, employment, mobility, rehabilitation etc,” said Dr. Neeraj Sharma, Advisor and Head, NEB Division, Department of Science and Technology, MST.


“ERNET, will help consult, select and mentor the Innovate for Accessible India finalists as well as provide the much needed research support and guidance. Additionally, we will also help spread the message and crowd source innovations amongst our extensive network,” said Smt. Geeta Kathpalia, Director General, Education and Research Network (ERNET), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY).


Applicants can send in their ideas to https://iai.nasscomfoundation.org/, on or before April 15, 2020.

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