According to the Annual Status of Education Report 2018, less than half of 5th grade children in India’s villages are capable of reading a 2nd grade textbook, and approximately one-third of village adults are illiterate. Social discrimination is a big reason for why opportunities in skill development don’t reach India’s marginalized peoples.
TCS’ BridgeIT is a digital-driven effort to help those living on the fringes of subsistence in rural India to cross over by way of equipping them to start small businesses. The program is a collaboration between TCS and non-governmental organizations (NGO) that work to support rural youth from socially and economically disadvantaged sections of the rural community.
“We want to leverage our strength as an IT company and use it for the betterment of communities,” said Joseph Sunil Nallapalli, who leads India CSR at TCS. “With the help of NGO partners, we train and equip young people with digital tools so that they provide digital services in their rural communities.”
Asha Rani Mondal, 29, a diploma holder in computer applications, was born and raised in Bhopal. When she moved to North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal following her marriage, among her many challenges was learning Bengali. Undaunted, Mondal was keen to share her digital skill and knowledge with those less privileged. BridgeIT helped her acquire two laptops, and start a training program for residents in her village.
Asha Rani Mondal, at her digital services centre in Chhota Jirakpur village in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district
Mondal soon began teaching basic computer skills to schoolchildren during the day and computer-based functional literacy to adults in the evenings—leveraging the tools offered by the BridgeIT program.
The laptops have helped her earn a living as she now provides digital services such as booking of railway tickets and online access to government schemes. She also holds coaching classes to help private school students become computer literate.
Kamal Singh, a BridgeIT entrepreneur from Saih Village, Kumher Block of Bharatpur District in Rajasthan clarifies the pension query of an elderly woman
BridgeIT demonstrates the use of information technology as an enabler in primary education and adult literacy and helps create digital entrepreneurs who help local citizens. The presence of computers in the classrooms improves attendance (upwards of 50% in most schools) as children are eager to use such devices, and parents see the value in encouraging such skill development.
The digital entrepreneurs that the BridgeIT program has helped nurture are now point persons in their villages for digital services both public and private. Profits earned by these entrepreneurs have seen a steady increase, going as high as USD 1,000/month (approximately Rs 70,000/month). Further, they have also begun to invest in their businesses, the highest such investment being USD 7,100 (approximately Rs 500,000).
BridgeIT is an initiative created to address the challenges of socially and economically disadvantaged communities. The program grew out of the Tata Affirmative Action Program adopted by the Tata group in April 2007, which focuses on the 4Es—Education, Employability, Employment and Entrepreneurship. BridgeIT attempts to address prevailing social inequities in India by proactively reaching out to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) communities.
BridgeIT’s work has been successfully implemented in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Haryana with NGO partners, the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisations (NACDAOR), Development Focus (DF) and Pratham InfoTech Foundation.
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