NASSCOM Foundation, the social arm of NASSCOM, is committed to enabling an inclusive society that aligns with sustainable development goals through IT and ITeS sectors. In this Skill Talk, Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation and 5F World, introduces us to many initiatives from NASSCOM Foundation and the impact they have been generating at various level through CSR, Government projects and other initiatives from IT industry in skill development and digital literacy.
NASSCOM Foundation operates in three clusters: one, digital literacy and skills, two, inclusive initiatives for underprivileged and physically challenged communities and three, offering large number of horizontal programs that are sponsored by many corporates in the IT – ITeS sector. Our main objective is to build inclusivity and create long-term impact through digital literacy and empowerment through access to digital knowledge and skills.
We are focused on scaling our initiatives nationally and exploring the use of technology to build communities for change and engage with them through various programs. There are 40 NASSCOM member companies that are working with us in inclusion initiatives, but this needs to be substantially scaled.
Promoting digital literacy at grassroots level
First, we are actively involved in realising the Prime Minister’s National Digital Literacy Mission where one member of every family in the country should be digitally literate. We are working with the government by contributing to the target of providing digital skills to 22 crore people. We have Common Service Centers in all the cities and the IT companies are helping us in setting up of digital literacy centres that can that can work with slums and make one member of the family digitally literate.
Digital literacy has become utmost important since demonetisation and the resultant push for acquiring digital skills. This is way beyond computer training; it involves training in using any kind of digital device, including mobile phones and computers.
For example, in Pune, we have an ambitious plan to make Pune 100% digitally-abled by 2020. We are doing it by setting up hundreds of Digital Literacy Centres to offer training through skill schools and there are six buses that are given by the Municipal Corporation that are being used for enabling digital literacy by going from one locality to the other in the city.
Skill development at various levels
The second initiative is the skills initiative primarily aimed at helping companies to spend CSR budget for social reforms and use it for skill development. For example, Pune City Connect initiative is setting up Skills Lighthouses in every ward of the city to enable people from underprivileged communities to visit the center and get counselling and understand their strengths and aptitude and then join various various skill courses. Through this initiative, we are also integrating other skills such as Nursing and healthcare sector, Food and hospitality, Beauty and Apparel sector and of course the IT sector. So, if someone is interested in nursing, or cooking or learning about beauty services or tailoring or becoming a data entry operator – we should be able to facilitate all these skills. This is our major mission.
When it comes to upskilling and re-skilling, we are exploring the best ways to train the employees in new technologies through various sector skill councils are also planning to include the student community in these programs. Thus, we have embarked on loads of initiatives in skills at both the national and state levels. This is mostly being managed by, Skills Alpha, a comprehensive skill management platform, that uses digital technology to connect students, employers and employees. Using this platform students can handle their own skilling they don’t have to wait for a trainer since the platform is based on artificial intelligence for faster and effective skill development.
Facilitating CSR in skill development and technology-enabled learning
Collaborative CSR is the only way to scale up skilling. NASSCOM Foundation gets funds from various CSR initiatives and which is analysed and channelised for skilling through the Skills Lighthouse. We work with the government agenda and it gets partly funded through the government. Such public-private partnerships is the way to go along with the involvement of various stakeholders if have to make Skill India happen.
NASSCOM Foundation promotes technology enabled training for IT skills with plans programs in training the trainers and college teachers. Lot of work in prerequisite learning and reinforcement and remedial learning can be done through technology as well as e-learning and digital platform like Skills Alpha. For a country as large as India, we can’t skill everybody using traditional classroom, so we have to encourage a culture of learning using technology to foster better, quicker access to knowledge. Future of learning is mostly going to be technology-enabled with perhaps 20% face-to-face learning.
Social entrepreneurship is a positive development because NGOs are limited in their capacity to scale and the advantage of social enterprise is that they can achieve social goals and sustain their business, and even become profitable. For example, a company called Global Talent Track has been able to scale considerably with a hundred thousand people per year they are funded through venture capital. They are doing good work in small towns and using CSR funds. Even in the skill sector, one cannot depend on grants alone.
Other initiatives from NASSCOM Foundation
We are also working with Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for Indian Public libraries movement (IPLM). This is to bring back the library culture. Today, the library system has degraded in our country; we have to restore the libraries and give them the digital content that would enable the culture of libraries to come back.
Through NASSCOM social innovation forum, we recognize and award outstanding initiatives that were using technology. The initiative is called “Tech for Good” for working towards the good of social sector that includes education, skilling, health, inclusion and other community initiatives. We have a huge skilling agenda so many people should come forward and participate in this movement and it is a significant challenge at the national level.