Workshop on
‘ICT @ Social Entrepreneurship’
October 18, 2008

By Gaurang Sharma 

A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Since there is no dirth of social problems in India, the workshop on Social Entrepreneurship during the three day Manthan gala was a good platform for viewing different endeavours undertaken in this direction and analyise what entrepreneurial initiatives can be taken for real development. Prof Anil Gupta from IIM Ahmedabad and Ms. Neelam Chibber from Industree were the chairpersons for the session.

Jeeon-ikb, an offline content database developed in Bangla, set up a good example of how rural people, even those who are unable to read and write, can get response to their daily queries with the help of an ‘infomediary’. It provides information regarding health, education, agriculture, etc. It also provides low cost solution to many problems.

Prof Anil Gupta made a suggestion that to authenticate the credibility of the employees in an organization information regarding them should be pasted on the Internet.

Mr. Rajveer Singh made a presentation which concerned improving the competitiveness of medium and small enterprises in manufacturing clusters through ICT apex cluster development. He informed that experimentation has been done in the Craft sector with the partnership of the Canadian government. “Information technology can be used in designing of bangles, sarees etc. The issue is that the use of information technology should be in harmony with eco system,” Singh said.

Hand in Hand, an NGO from Tamil Nadu in India spoke about its five main objectives, namely, child labour elimination, dispensing education, encouraging self-help groups and microfinance for enterprise and job creation, creating citizens’ centres to strengthen grassroots democracy and protecting the environment via solid waste management  and water shed projects. The NGO follows certain principles like pro poor and bottom up approach, participatory learning, mainstreaming gender in all activities, transparency and accountability in all actions and working in coordination with local institution to achieve these objectives.

In a country where agriculture is the primary sector, Shah Nawazul Islam presented ‘expert system’, which can be called a revolution in the field of agriculture. Expert system is a computer based software that uses artificial intelligence techniques to solve problems that ordinarily require a knowledgeable human expert. Agriculture faces many challenges and this is a path breaking move to solve those hurdles. Use of technology in this fashion can help India get rid of its agricultural woes.

Prof Gupta informed that although the government is waiving a loan of Rs 60000 crore for farmers, but it forgets to lay stress on the use of natural pesticides like bitter plants as a better alternative, which can considerably bring down the cost entailed in agricultural process.

Moving from agriculture to transport, the  initiative has enabled people to book their bus tickets through online. Although there were many challenges like internet connectivity, power supply cuts etc in the start, presently there are more than 400 operators, over 400 routes, Jammu to Thiruvantpuram and Mumbai to kolkata.

E-bay, a platform which can help a layman turn into an entrepreneur with the help the Internet, Cell Bazaar from Bangladesh, where the millions of users of mobile phone can purchase and sell even their old products just by using the mobile, and, India’s largest mall on the mobile came as social entrepreneurial eye openers.

How technology can revolutionise lives by putting to use our entrepreneurial abilities in combination with serving social causes, were motivating enough to set our minds thinking to start working in the direction. These product presentations also made it clear that technology has left no barriers for anybody, be it a housewife, a retired person, student or anyone else, to have a career as a social entrepreneur.

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