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How Corporates Can Uplift Entire Communities Through Technology & Data

08 March 2020

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Akanksha Sharma

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4 min read

We live in an age where data and technology are indispensable parts of our everyday life. In fact, over the last few years technology has emerged as a powerful instrument of change and has been employed to address some of the world’s most pertinent and challenging issues. While it is common to observe private sector enterprises making use of technology to maximize their own profits, it is still rare to find technology being harnessed in the social sector.

Technology provides the means to quality education, healthcare and essential services otherwise inaccessible to geographically-isolated communities. Data on the other hand helps the sector plan and implement CSR programmes better; Not only does it facilitate real time data and monitoring, but also reduces manual errors and allows resources to spend more time on field to drive real change. In partnering with social enterprises and NGOs to build their capacity for technology use, we saw astounding overall results:

Real time data at the click of a button

One of the most significant responsibilities of any social enterprise or NGO is to maintain accurate and error-free records and reports that help assess the success of their endeavors. While the task is vital for the programme’s sustenance, if done manually, it demands time and resources with no guarantee of accuracy. Technology platforms that are supported by mobile devices and other online tools help simplify and expedite all of these operations with minimal efforts. Day-to-day operations like attendances, admissions, patients’ health records, inventory, reporting, carbon sequestration, volunteering activities, need assessments and geo-tagging among other operations are now, all done through technology ensuring all data is digitized.

The time saved through digitizing such administrative work has allowed our team to further focus their time and resources into more meaningful work. For instance by using technology, the Mobile Medical Unit programme that provides basic healthcare to tribals in Silvassa, has reduced data entry time by approximately 3-4 hours daily. The significant time saved has allowed the team to cover additional villages, furthering their reach from 24 locations in 2018-19 to 36 in 2019-20.

Secondly, the digitization of tribals health records provides us with easy accessibility to real time data from daily checkups instead of waiting for an entire month for reports. We are able to define the data we need and intervene in a timely manner, as well as hold our partners accountable for the responsibility and KPIs they are given. All of this not only enhances the treatment the tribals receive, but also facilitates more efficient planning of health and awareness camps in the region.

Technology to Enhance Reach and Impact

One of the biggest barriers in supporting marginalized communities is geographical inaccessibility. It is not only difficult to improve market accessibility of a particularly isolated and underprivileged community, but also an ineffective use of resources to simply cater to communities nearest to a company’s operations. They may not always be the most critically in need. It hence becomes crucial to first identify communities that truly need to be brought out of adversity. However, identifying traditional, non-travel intensive ways to reach these distant communities or provide them with alternative markets and customers to improve their earning ability is also a difficult task. In both these cases, technology and digital platforms can provide unprecedented reach and livelihood opportunities.

For instance, we partnered with Mentor Together for their digital mentoring platform- wherein through the Mentor To Go app, our employees mentored 300 underprivileged youth across the country to become work ready. This collaboration provides several needy individuals easy access to professional mentoring otherwise unavailable to them.

The partnership with Amazon Saheli, a digital retail platform has helped several rural artisans who were restricted to customers in and around their villages, access a nation-wide customer base and improve their earning opportunities dramatically.

We also partnered with the Government of Gujarat to harness the entire state’s government schools information using technology and other digital tools. This includes schools dropout rates, progress in attendance, and health rate through midday meals. This information helps us identify gaps which need to be bridged to roll out more effective interventions.

A call for more corporates to leverage expertise for impact

The expertise corporates have make them crucial contributors to the social sector. We’ve seen that leveraging these core competencies through community outreach programmes as well as providing mentorship and guidance to social enterprises and even NGOs is what truly makes a difference. This has allowed us to implement interactive, scalable programmes and provide access to communities in some of the remotest villages as well as slum and semi-urban areas.

All of these seemingly inconsequential shifts to technology-based operations, management and partnerships has led to a significant difference in the implementation process and resource allocation. This leaves for us funds and resources to explore more creative and nuanced community interventions and innovations.


At Sterlite Technologies Limited, technology and innovation are core to how we operate. We, therefore, decided to leverage this expertise for our Social Responsibility initiatives to optimize resources and produce maximum community impact. Learn more about our initiatives.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Akanksha Sharma

Akanksha Sharma is an internationally acclaimed International Development & Public Policy Specialist on a mission to empower people. She is a ‘Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum’, Writer and TEDx Speaker. She is a notable voice in the socio-economic development space and is noted amongst '100 Most Impactful CSR Leaders Globally' by World CSR Congress; 'Asia’s Top Sustainability Superwomen List of Honour' by CSRWorks International; ‘Young CSR Leader’ by India CSR and is also conferred with the “Sustainability Leadership Award” by World Sustainability Forum. Sharma has more than a decade of experience in leadership roles at both large corporations and UN agencies, where she led change for development through strategic decision-making and policy discourse on CSR, sustainability, business responsibility, social entrepreneurship, and impact investments. She currently leads CSR and Sustainability for Sterlite Technologies and has worked with UNICEF and other large MNCs in the past. Her role with the corporates is to advise Boards on Responsible Business and Impact Investments through Sustainability & CSR along with developing organizational approaches to establish strategic partnerships for development ranging across public, private and civil society. She has mentored non-profits and has served on several boards and policy committees. Sharma has worked extensively on international development issues such as poverty alleviation, health, education, environment, climate change, gender issues, post conflict development, governance and more in diverse regions of the world. After completing her Master’s in Business Administration, Sharma has done her specialization from Harvard Business School in CSR. She is a member of notable national/ international CSR and Sustainability Policy Making Forums of the UN, CII and others. She has been advocating for integrating CSR with SDGs with the UN and the Government. Sharma is widely recognized for writing a Peace Series between India and Pakistan that was published in the Dawn, Pakistan. Later, she became a “Peace Ambassador” of an international organization, Postcards for Peace, a UK based organization for her contribution on issues related to peace and conflict. Besides, she is a regular writer for Forbes, Times of India, Economic Times, Huffington Post and Dailyo (India Today) amongst many others. She is a “Global Climate Force Ambassador” and was chosen to represent India on “International Expedition on Climate Change at Antarctica” in 2017. She has been a notable speaker at various forums on issues related to Public Policy, Business and Government.

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We see social investment as a continuum that encompasses everything from philanthropy and venture philanthropy to impact investing, CSR and sustainable investment. We call this the “Continuum of Capital”.

We see social investment as a continuum that encompasses everything from philanthropy and venture philanthropy to impact investing, CSR and sustainable investment. We call this the “Continuum of Capital”.

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