NASSCOM India Leadership Forum, Mumbai, February 12, 2010: NASSCOM Foundation (NF), the social development arm of NASSCOM, organized Global CSR Conclave on the 11th of February, 2010, at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. The theme for the Conclave was 'Engage the Bottom of the Pyramid' [BoP] i.e. engaging the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. As half a billion people in India alone and over 4 billion worldwide are below the poverty line, NASSCOM Foundation believes that it is a pressing humanitarian and business imperative to find solutions for this global concern.
Mr. Som Mittal, Trustee, NASSCOM Foundation & President, NASSCOM said NASSCOM Foundation, as a company believed in hardware, software and the empowerment of human beings- he chose to classify as 'human-ware'. He also advocated NASSCOM Foundation's two key projects namely - Employee Volunteerism and Disability Awareness. He stressed the importance of employees volunteering for social service & talked on NF's Disability Awareness Group (DAG) which aims to create a platform to empower people with disabilities using the collective strength of the IT industry. His sentiment resonated with the entire audience when he said, "This is the smallest contribution we can make to society.'
The inaugural session of the Conclave had a global perspective on Engaging the BoP. Mr. Jaithirth [Jerry] Rao, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation, chaired the session with eminent speakers Dr. John Fung Yat Chu, Director, Information Technology Resource Centre- Hong Kong Council of Social Service & David Barnard, Executive director, SANGONet, South Africa who spoke about how they created funds and engaged the BoP in their respective countries. Mr. John Fung Yat Chu shared his experience on how the Hong Kong Council of Social Service created funds to purchase helping purchase 400 computers which he then leased to NGO's on a monthly EMI basis. This was an interesting model where the beneficiaries of this program paid a nominal rental and had the benefit of owning the computer in 3 years. By this time, Mr. Chu's team had made available resources to help them with the next set of computers. The earlier set could then be used for other purposes or could even be given away to deserving families. The focus was on sustainability and not just charity. The discussion also threw light on the fact that in India, with power still being an issue, computer donations alone may not benefit. However, there was hope drawn from the fact that with alternative energy resources like solar power becoming more affordable and convenient with every passing year, many initiatives planned could see the light of the day.
Reaching out to BoP through technology & media
The session that followed was 'Reaching out to BoP through technology and media'. Ms. Seemantinee Khot, Head CSR, Suzlon Foundation chaired this session, with speakers Beth Kanter, popular blogger and social media expert, Gaurav Mishra, CEO, 20:20 Social & Vijay Talwar, CEO, William J Clinton Organization.
Ms. Seemantinee stressed on the fact that initially even though she was very cynical about the whole CSR idea, now she actually can see people taking genuine interest in their social work & also that they have the will to grow inclusively. She also said that first we need to focus on proving the less fortunate with what they want, in a manner that they want it in. Our current method of giving them things-technology for instance- how we use them may not be the most suitable solution.
Beth Kanter, spoke about how she engages the masses especially developing nations all over the globe in various social initiatives through the social media like Twitter, blogging etc. She shared the case study of 'Red Cross' an NGO in the USA & how social media helped them to re build their reputation among the general public after it was adversely affected after Hurricane Katrina. They used social media to monitor the views of the masses and slowly & steadily connected with them & thus, cleared all the public's doubts about their intentions, which over the last 5 years turned it around & during the recent Haiti crisis, Red Cross raised a record amount in fund raising.
Gaurav Mishra, agreed that Engaging the BoP through Technology, has a huge challenge because of lack of electricity in many areas. He gave encouraging examples of mobile social networking in India, where the data would be saved in clouds & be referred to when required.
The session that proceeded was one which showcased presentations from 4 winners of the NASSCOM Social Innovation Honours 2010 [NSIH], namely Geodesic ltd, Swanchetan Society for Mental Health, Iris Business Services Private Ltd & Health Management Research Institute. These companies won the NSIH 2010 Awards for their outstanding projects that helped society to bring about social change.
Employee Volunteerism: Change Agents in Society
The session 'Employee Volunteerism: Change Agents in Society' had Mr. Raja Shanmugam, CEO Mindtree Foundation & eminent speakers Susan Jain, VP Marketing Communications and Corporate Citizenship, IBM India/South Asia, DK Srivastava, Corporate VP & Global Head, HR,HCL Technologies & R. Elango, Chief HR Officer, MphasiS.
Mr.R. Elango emphasized the fact that there was a tremendous change in the attitude and mindset of employees who volunteered for various social activities, before & after undertaking them. He specified that four causes motivated employees to volunteer for Health, Children, Education and Senior citizen care. He also believed that CSR gave a company an edge where employees benefitted. It is also observed from preliminary research done by NF that employees are more eager to join because they are more socially responsible than others. Thus, making it a business cause to engage in CSR.
In conversation with Pravin Patkar, Founder, Prerana
This was one session was something that no one at the Conclave wanted to miss. Jaithirth [Jerry] Rao, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation and Pravin Patkar discussed how the cause for lost & found children can be supported through IT. Mr. Patkar informed them that there is a need for IT framework and solution to tackle the problem of missing and found children. The current state of this problem is that the entire burden has so far been carried out by a handful of voluntary sector organizations that do not have any mandate, resource base, or the absolutely essential technical back up. Mr. Patkar said, "This problem is huge; it's not in hundreds or thousands, it's in millions. We can only help them but not solve the problem with the help of strong IT solution and active partnership from many bodies led by the IT- BPO industry".
About NASSCOM Foundation
NASSCOM Foundation (NF) was established to leverage information and communication technologies (ICT) to empower and transform the lives of the underserved. NASSCOM and its members are committed to social development through the application of ICT. NF today has the unique opportunity of leading the IT Industry towards changing the social development landscape of India.
NASSCOM Foundation is a charity registered under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 and under Section 12A of Income Tax Act. NF is the social development arm of NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies), the internationally recognized trade body of the Indian IT industry. For more information, please visit www.nasscomfoundation.org