When floods ravaged the state of Uttarakhand, technology buzzed to the rescue. Vodafone India set up help desks from where people could call the government helpline numbers or their family. Not just the helplines but other Vodafone users in the region also got a free emergency top-up for their prepaid numbers, so that they were not stranded. Helplines and mobile charging units were also set up in the local helipads, allowing free calls by the rescued to their families.
Even as Vodafone demonstrated timely use of tech infrastructure, Google came to the rescue by conjuring up apps to help rescue teams. It launched a crisis map of the flood-hit state to provide quick information on places affected, relief centres, medical centres and road closures. It also activated a Person Finder tool—a Web-based application that helps feed names of people you are looking for, as well as share information about somebody who has been found or rescued. When there is a match for a person being searched for, it is displayed.
These are topical examples of how technology comes to the aid of society in times of need. At other times and places, other situations have motivated other technologists and entrepreneurs to develop solutions with social spins. These are the silent tech heroes of this world. Some have risen to a celebrity status, others do their job quietly but continue to benefit society and be satisfied with the outcome. Some companies develop such solutions as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) charters, and some technologists do it for personal satisfaction, while other entrepreneurs manage to implement such socially-beneficial solutions with a profitable business plan—
although this calls for a fine balancing of reach and pricing.
In this story, we quickly scan such technological solutions that have a social spin, from the perspective of motivation, technology and business.
Social media platform to connect charities and volunteers
Social tag: Charity
Tech tag: SAP HANA, social media, cloud, mobile
SAP’s Charitra stands for ‘Charity Transformation.’ It was designed in 90 days as a social network, and presently connects social causes posted by NGOs or individuals with potential volunteers or donors, so that they can contribute their time, skill or materials for the cause. It also helps NGOs, CSRs and others to organise their relief efforts and engage with other organisations in the relief efforts.
“Charity is becoming an essential element in people’s lives and individuals are more conscious about being charitable. Not knowing how to channel donations is a key issue for people wanting to participate in acts of charity. Social media is an increasingly effective strategy for all industries to connect with external stakeholders and in no way an impediment for charities to engage with. It has the power to personalise communication, establishing direct connections with stakeholders,” says Suraj Sudhi, product owner, SAP Labs India.
NGOs and volunteers can sign up on Charitra (www.charitra.in) for free. NGOs can then post their project details including descriptions and requirements, which go online after moderator approval. Donors or volunteers can sign up to know about various projects or causes to participate in. If they are interested in a project, they can register their ‘promise’ to donate or participate. However, the actual fulfilment of the project requirements is offline, with the NGO and the volunteer deciding together how to deliver on the promises made.
“We believe technology is a key enabler for bringing about change, which drives positive impact beyond businesses. Taking this thought forward, the SAP Labs team in India developed Charitra—one of SAP’s first consumer applications using ‘design thinking.’ Design thinking is an approach that views a problem from three key angles: desirability, feasibility and viability. Charitra is also built on the SAP HANA platform and runs on the cloud,” says Sudhi.
Harnessing the capabilities of SAP HANA, as well as cloud and mobile technologies, Charitra helps to drive positive impact in people’s daily lives. Charitra, since its launch towards the end of 2011, has over 17,000 users, 100+ NGOs and 80+ educational institutions as part of the system.
Mobile solution to detect and cure epidemics
Social tag: Epidemics, spread, information, cure
Tech tags: Mobile app, simple forms
Startled by the outbreak of Leptospriosis in Sri Lanka and Chikungunya in Tamil Nadu around 2007-08, researchers from IIT Madras’ Rural Technology Business Incubator (RTBI) and LIRNEasia in Sri Lanka set about exploring whether the mobile phone, which was gaining ground during that time, could be used to detect the outbreak of an epidemic and also send out information pertaining to its cure to health workers across geographies.