Technology is changing the world as we know it. The world’s largest companies are leveraging it to drive ground-breaking innovations and redefine the competitive landscape.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing enterprise operations, analytics is enabling a higher degree of customer segmentation and personalization, the cloud is transforming the infrastructure landscape and IT portfolios, and blockchain is changing transaction processing. The impact of these technologies across industries is profound.
Meanwhile, the very technologies that are powering change across billion-dollar enterprises are also instituting change at a grassroots level. They are creating a positive impact on the lives of millions of people across communities, offering individuals access to opportunities that foster greater equality and an improvement in their quality of life.
Creating more opportunities for women
There are countless examples of how technology is being used to empower people of all backgrounds, genders and ages on a daily basis.
Even as the world becomes increasingly connected, in parts of India only one in ten internet users are women. Google’s ‘Internet Saathi’ initiative helps tackle this issue. It empowers female ambassadors to train and educate women in 300,000 villages on the benefits of internet in their day-to-day life.
Young entrepreneur Rohini Sandeep Shirke started a small bee-keeping business in 2014 in Maharashtra. She is now using the internet to promote her product and accept online orders. The subsequent uptick in profitability wouldn’t have been possible without Internet Saathi.
From abilities to opportunities
Many leaders harness technology for good causes when they sense that a group or community is facing injustice. For Carlos Pereira, named by Google as one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, this sense of injustice falls close to home. His 10-year-old daughter Clara cannot walk or talk because she was born with cerebral palsy.
To give his daughter a voice, Pereira quit his job as a computer scientist and developed an app to help her communicate. Called Livox, the app’s algorithms can interpret motor, cognitive and visual disorders, and it uses machine learning to predict and understand what the person might want or need.
The Livox app can be used by people living with a range of disabilities, including Down’s Syndrome, multiple sclerosis and the effects of a stroke.
For Clara, the app has given her a voice. When her dad asks her what she wants for breakfast, the app recognizes his voice and gives Clara the options on the screen, allowing her to select what she wants.
The app also gives disabled children a more inclusive education. At school, the software can hear a teacher’s question, and provide appropriate multiple-choice answers for the student to select. The United Nations has named Livox the Best Inclusion App in the World.
Championing growth through learning
The on-screen technology used by apps like Livox opens up a world of possibilities previously closed off to the millions of people who cannot read or write. Overcoming illiteracy is central to making the world a more inclusive place. According to UNESCO 796 million adults are illiterate, and two thirds of them are women.
Entrepreneur Ambarish Mitra has developed an app, called Blippar, that combines augmented reality with voice recognition. He says it could provide a huge step toward eradicating illiteracy. The app reads out printed words and identifies objects that the phone’s camera focuses on.
For several communities, technology is helping create more career opportunities not just for today’s workforce but also for future generations.
For several communities, technology is helping create more career opportunities not just for today’s workforce but also for future generations. With better pay parity and greater access to jobs, the tech sector is enabling a higher degree of inclusion and economic sustainability. Initiatives like the GoIT program, which was launched in North America in 2009, aim to demystify computer science and help students gain the skills and confidence required to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Boosting economic parity
Technology is also being used to create an ‘internet of value’ for the world’s poorest people. It is now possible to move money around the world as quickly and easily as sending a picture to a friend electronically.
Interledger Protocol (ILP) is an open-source code that developers can use to enable instant payments across any ledger or network. It has the potential to provide billions of people in the world’s poorest communities with access to the global economy.
The majority of India’s illiterate adults can be found in rural communities. A government study estimated 32% of India’s rural population is illiterate, compared to 15% in urban areas. The Progressive Rural Integrated Digital Enterprise (PRIDE) scheme aims to use technology to address some of the problems India’s farmers face.
Using mKRISHI technology, it delivers information on weather, soil, fertilizer and pesticides that are tailored specifically to a farmer’s land.
It also provides information about new types of seeds and crops that are available on the market along with local market price information for agricultural products. Farmers send queries in the form of images and voice activated SMS via a mobile phone. Each query receives a personal response with advice or relevant information in their own language.
Giving farmers this vital market intelligence in formats they can understand helps transform them from individuals reliant on their own experience and local connections to highly informed, networked producers. Since 2008, more than 20,000 farmers in 400 villages have subscribed to the mKrishi service.
Technology is opening up the world to these farmers, just as it is for female entrepreneurs in rural communities, people living with disabilities and many other marginalized groups, turning challenges into opportunities and building bridges across decades old chasms.
About the author(s)
Business & Technology Services
TCS’ Business and Technology Services organization combines the power of business excellence with digital innovations to help enterprises and leaders be purpose-driven and performance-oriented, making the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value. By harnessing the abundance of data, talent, connectivity and capital, B&TS helps leading companies around the world build ecosystems that fuel growth and innovation, foster collaboration and engagement across ecosystems, improve health, safety, and well-being, enabling empowerment and inclusivity, and driving sustainability and positive environmental impact.