India is in a unique position to solve the problems of the poor as it has the largest number of poor and huge amount of talent to address challenges faced by them, said Sam Pitroda, advisor to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on public information infrastructure and innovations and Honorary Chairman of Action For India. “There is a lot of talent solving the problem of the rich. Innovations are needed to solve the problem of the poor,” Pitroda added addressing a meet of 100 young social innovators at the first ever ‘Action For India’ Forum 2012 focussing on how technology can make social enterprises scale their operations more effectively.
These social innovations will be driven by the young innovators from the bottom (of the pyramid) as the top is not in tune with the requirements. The government – state as well as central – is doing a number of things to help this change and make the delivery of public service different, Pitroda added. India’s most celebrated social innovators – Chanchalapathi Dasa, Trustee of Akshaya Patra Foundation that feeds 1.3 million mid day meals everyday; Prableen Sabhhaney from Fabindia, the unique venture that made 15,000+ mini entrepreneurs out of weavers and artisans, Self-Help Group pioneer Anish Pradhan from Pradan, pioneers in the promotion of Self-Help Groups that covers nearly 200,000 rural poor women in eight states who have mobilized a total savings of Rs. 50 crore; Sushmita Ghosh, President Emeritus, Ashoka, the world’s working community of nearly 3000 leading social entrepreneurs, K Thiagarajan from Agastya, the largest science education program in schools; bureaucrats from Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana which has over 90 million active smart cards and more than 1.5 million people already availed treatment at various hospitals shared their challenges and lessons in scaling up to galvanize 100 Young Social Innovators to discover how technology can help social enterprises get more pervasive in coverage and impact.
Enthused by the work done by social entrepreneurs and changes in public delivery system at least five African countries are looking at Indian models of development to solve the problems at the bottom of the pyramid, said Sam Pitroda, as western models aren’t scalable.
An in-depth report highlighting barriers to scale and how technology and government can play a role in overcoming these challenges, specially developed by Dasra team led by Neera Nundi, a strategic philanthropy foundation, was unveiled by Mr Pitroda.
The forum discussed technological and other challenges faced by social innovators in sectors like agriculture represented by eFarm and Logistimo, Education by Butterfly Fields and Gram Vaani, Healthcare by Biosense and iKure, Energy by Simpa Networks and Onergy and Livelihood by Amrita University and Jaldoot.
To support social entrepreneurs set up new business models to bring about change, efforts are underway to increase the corpus of National Innovation Fund, as soon as it collects Rs 500 crore, including Rs 100 announced by the finance minister Pranab Mukerjee, said Sam Pitroda. This fund is expected to be operational by June-July this year