It is a proven fact that technological innovations are immensely helping organizations across industries to continuously up their game. We witness innovation in everything, starting from the simplest task of our daily lives like brushing our teeth to the most complex problems like fighting a pandemic! Today we are innovating in ways we never would have imagined before. However, the real value from these innovations can be derived when they are used to develop solutions which can address some of our toughest social problems. I am glad to note that we as a country have made significant progress in this regard.
In an attempt to give our country a greater push towards being a digital economy, the government introduced Aadhar. With biometric deduplication at its core, Aadhar has effectively managed to build a strong base for the digital India movement. Proving to be a game changer, the project has been instrumental in driving financial inclusion for the country of 130 crore, where majority of the population is in the rural areas. Today, as many as 95% have Aadhar and 92% are satisfied with it 1 ! Making use of the deep mobile phone penetration into the nook and corner of our country the government has effectively used Aadhar backed verifications to reach the rural population, moving towards its financial inclusion goals. Aadhar has also helped the needy with gas subsidies, assisted the HRD ministry to remove fake identities of rural school teachers and much more. Backed by robust encryptions, Aadhar truly has the potential to be further utilized to realize India’s dream of becoming a digital economy.
While the urban parts of the country make the most of the technological advancements, the rural population is just beginning to experience the benefits of technology. Housing and sanitation, lack of access to primary healthcare, poverty and its associated concerns like hunger, lack of education and limited connectivity to developed cities are some issues of the under developed areas that can be addressed to some extent through technology. Incidentally, a few of these concerns struck harder during the current crisis and technology played a dominant role in addressing some of these concerns. When the nation faced the impending crisis with the migrant population, organizations like Swiggy and Zomato stepped-up to take care of at least one aspect of helping them – providing food to the migrants. These organizations utilized their existing applications/websites to allow their customers to donate to the cause and utilized the funds to provide food to migrants.
Education is another sector that has been revolutionized by technology. In India EdTech startups like Unacademy, Byju’s and Vedantu played their part well in taking education to the homes of the students.
Growing in numbers and value, these emerging EdTech businesses increasingly deliver online solutions and applications for the ease of the students and the educators. While a digital divide does exist and did exacerbated during the pandemic, a lot was achieved towards digitizing the education sector, considering the pace at everyone adapted to virtual schooling.
As with every other sector, the pandemic pushed schools, teachers, parents, and students to embrace technology. If not for technology the impact on the education sector would have been enormous, considering that India has an estimated 37 million students 2 , enrolled in higher education alone.
Technology enabled the digital transformation of classrooms and online classes allowed teachers and students to connect, thereby helping students continue their studies without losing out on an academic year. Online classes and online assessments ensured minimum lag in the learning process. Numerous other initiatives like virtual events and field trips were introduced to model real-life interactions and alleviate the feeling of isolation and lack of bonding with peers that students initially experienced during the pandemic. Applications like WhatsApp became the preferred medium to share study material between the faculties and the students 3 . In the new normal, a tech-enabled education system can increase outreach and make education more accessible to the masses, while being disruption-proof.
Healthcare, a sector that was already leveraging technology to reach the remotest corners, witnessed rapid advancements in the last few months. From creating predictive analytics tools to forecast the spread of the infection and using GPS data to track visits to using business intelligence to tailor treatment plans, coordinate staff schedules and optimize the supply chain, the sector quickly adopted technology across functions. The period also saw hospitals and healthcare systems investing more in their digital presence with websites and mobile apps, to connect with patients for virtual consultations and patient education. During the pandemic, people turned to AI and machine language enabled chatbots for reliable information and preventive measures, at a time when people needed to speak to someone to alleviate their heightened state of anxiety and isolation. Even today, data-driven analytics, coupled with AI and ML, is being used by governments to track cases to provide timely support.
Today, as the world is moving closer to getting vaccinated for Covid-19, the pertinent question that comes to our mind is the access to vaccine and the associated logistics -an unnerving task at hand for a country like ours keeping in mind our developing infrastructure and large population. Supply chain and logistics management can be crucial for vaccine distribution. Hence, data analytics, AI, IoT and other emerging technologies can prove to be beneficial in identifying bottlenecks and ensuring continuous supply, maintaining storage temperatures, utilizing the best route for transportation, maintaining the data of people who are vaccinated and performing other important functions associated with this. Effective distribution of the vaccine can truly be enabled with the right use of technology.
Technology inspires us to reimagine the way we solve many complex social problems. Technological advancements acquire greater meaning and purpose when they step beyond the boundaries of commercial utilization and help make a difference in the lives of people. After all technology for social good means Technology for All!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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