Creating more opportunities for women
There are countless examples of how technology is being used to empower people of all backgrounds, genders, and ages daily.
Even as the world becomes increasingly connected, in parts of India, connectivity still can be a challenge. 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 the western India state of 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, driven by the passion to empower people by enabling them to have a voice, 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 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, 781 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 that 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.
Although 70% of India’s population depends on agriculture for livelihood, India’s farmers haven’t fully leveraged the advances in agricultural technology. mKRISHI, a mobile app, is a Tata group initiative that addresses this gap. Using predictive 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.
This technology for farmers gives them vital market intelligence in formats they can understand and helps transform them from individuals reliant on their own experience and local connections to highly informed, networked producers. Since 2008, more than 400,000 farmers across Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have subscribed to the mKRISHI service.
For farmers, technology is opening up their world just as it is for women entrepreneurs in rural communities, people living with disabilities, and many other marginalized groups - turning challenges into opportunities and building bridges across decades-old chasms.