Nasscom Foundation’s is working on digital literacy in urban areas, employability, and women entrepreneurship under its umbrella program ‘Tech for Good’. India CSR interviewed foundation’s CEO Nidhi Bhasin on it’s journey so far and future plans. Excerpts:
Can you tell us the journey of NASSCOM Foundation?
NASSCOM Foundation just completed 20 years in November 2021. As part of the NASSCOM ecosystem, we are the only not-for-profit organization representing the tech industry. We believe in the power of technology for social and economic transformation. Our work in the last 20 years has been all about using technology for social impact. Rooted in that core philosophy of Tech For Good, our focus will be on three key areas of intervention – digital literacy, skilling and employability, and women entrepreneurship. Along with that, an area that we are passionately pursuing is empowering the NGO ecosystem in India through technology..
While, we already work across the country right now, our efforts are to constantly create impact at the last mile. Aligned with the Digital India initiative, we want to work extensively in rural areas and aspirational districts because that’s where the real need is. There’s been a lot of transformation in the last two years, especially because the world came together during the pandemic through faster technology adoption, but there is still a huge gap and that is where we feel that we can play a role.
So what are the major umbrella programs NASSCOM Foundation is running right now?
Our umbrella program is ‘Tech for Good’, under which we have three core focus areas – Digital Literacy, Skilling & Employability and Women Entrepreneurship.
We were one of the first few people to talk about Digital Literacy, initially aligned with the Digital Literacy mission, the entire program has evolved and grown tremendously in the last few years. Our primary tool for imparting Digital Literacy is our learning management platform Digisakshar. Our focus through this is how we can include the last mile, rural India with digital adoption that creates access to the benefits of technology. Before the pandemic, 70% of our beneficiaries in digital literacy programs were men, however now it is wonderful to note that more women are coming forward to learn digital skills – with 60% participation coming from women.
The second is Skilling and employability. Our country is growing in terms of the young population and while our education rate might be going up, people are not employable so a lot of our programs are focused on making the youth employable. work across genders, our focus remains women and youth. We try and look at our skilling programs with a rounded lens, with skilling, employability and placements as important aspects. We are becoming an organization which is bridging the gap by not only skilling them but also approaching the industry.
Our third vertical is women entrepreneurship. This is our most recent initiative, and how we differ is that we are not in the process of mobilizing or convincing women to become entrepreneurs; what we are doing is trying to explore how technology can enable existing women entrepreneurs to build capacities and become more self-reliant through technology. We are already running a few programs with artisans and farmers where we are using technology to help them upskill and upscale themselves.
Women entrepreneurship is quite an interesting idea. What do you do in this space? You give them a platform for market linkage, provide training or build supply chains for them.
We started our women entrepreneurship program less than a year ago and we are also coming up with newer models as our intervention in this area increases. What we are doing right now is depending on their business model, we provide tech-based support that helps their business become more sustainable and scalable. Let’s say, for farmers, we are making them digitally literate. We are also looking at giving them training in terms of different entrepreneurial skills, majorly helping them to understand e-commerce, helping them to understand how they can do social marketing and build those linkages.
While launching more programs, we are planning to build an ecosystem where we can bring them all together in the long term which means in the future there may be a platform we can put together for them.
We have spent considerable time trying to assess needs and gaps. Accordingly, our content is curated to address these gaps which are mainly in the area of digital & financial literacy, a lot of ecommerce, creating linkages for them and later in the lifecycle also explore technology support that can help them to further scale up their initiatives.
So, for point A to point B or baseline to midline, what change do you see in women-led enterprises?
To start with, we have trained women; we have a group of people working in multiple states with women farmers where we make them digitally literate. We have taught them the basics such as how to see a YouTube video. We are also teaching them how to use wallets. It’s a very slow process, but no doubt the impact will be tremendous as they get more comfortable with technology platforms.
In Madhya Pradesh, we started a program with women weavers and we realized that while they excel in their craft, they do not know how to go to the next level. So, right now the training on digital literacy is going on and once they’ve learnt to use a smart phone, we would also teach them to understand about other areas.
Even from a design perspective, they do not have any exposure. By learning the basics of digital literacy and understanding the use of the internet, their exposure to designs, market trends and ecommerce platforms will increase significantly. One thing, which all our programs focus on, is training them how to access government schemes. We all understand that every state has its own schemes, so we’re also saying that while understanding how to use technology, you would also be able to access government schemes.
Fair enough, but what are the project goals or objectives and how many beneficiaries have you catered to or are catering to right now?
We definitely have a long-term goal. One thing we are sure of is that our roadmap will continue to revolve around the key theme of – TechForGood. Working on that principle we are committed to impacting 25,00,000 lives, this year. Our goal will be to keep finding routes to unlock the power of technology to create access and opportunity for those who need it most.
That is overall. In terms of our goal through our Women entrepreneurship programs is that, every woman entrepreneur should be able to use technology to upskill their business and later on the evaluation would be more in terms of their movement from one income to another income source. Right now, our goal is to help every woman entrepreneur use technology and upskill themselves.
Overall, if you look at our role, we are not starting from the scratch — we don’t create entrepreneurs. We are more like enablers who are helping existing entrepreneurs upskill themselves and move to the next level. So the whole idea is to make women entrepreneurs independent and upscale, increase their income and of course create an overall positive impact on their lives and livelihoods.
Do you have any report or data which suggests there is a slight increase or there is a certain percentage of increase in the revenues when they adopt technologies?
It is an early stage of the program to capture such data yet and you know the lifecycle of a learning program is longer; however, I am sure next time we talk there will some data to share. In fact, we definitiely believe that what does not get measured gets lost. So we are making sure that impact and measurement is a principle embedded into every program early on. That’s a big change we brought in the organization, from an organization which was focusing on only doing, we are becoming a very impact-oriented organization; one that captures impact, success, learnings and is able to look at all these while planning the next level of the program.
How do you see NASSCOM Foundation three years from now?
I would say three years down the line, if anyone talks about ‘Tech for Good’, it should be synonymous with NASSCOM Foundation. Our goal is to contribute to building an Inclusive techade and we can play that role by creating access and opportunity for people at the last mile.
A huge part of that will be using technology to enable the social sector ecosystem. Bridging the digital divide is a mammoth task and we will need every partner who can help in this cause.
Towards that, the role of an enabler will be extremely crucial as unless the agents of change in our social sector are not enabled, transformation at the last mile will remain a distant dream.