R Chandrashekhar, President, NASSCOM, shares with Elets News Network (ENN) the challenges and opportunities in the CSR segment in India
How is technology shaping the CSR initiative in the country and what are the challenges facing the IT sector?
A number of challenges have been put before the industry in different areas, and very specifically shared by none other than PM Narendra Modi himself. We are already fully involved in the Digital Literacy programme through the Foundation. It is one of the earliest and the largest programmes, which the industry has done, because the IT sector has been well-known for good governance as well as for implementing social responsibility. Many of the companies have their philanthropy arms in separate foundations for this purpose.
Also, the use of technology in a lot of the CSR initiatives can bring about a big change in the social sector. For instance, very often we keep thinking of digital literacy and say let’s get hold of the graduates and make them digitally literate. Nevertheless, the way that technology has evolved today, digital literacy may be the first step to literacy rather than the other way around. Today’s technologies have enabled a complete reversal of the way in which social challenges are addressed.
You said digital learning is a big challenge and the government can get involved directly or through a B2B model. Could you elaborate on that?
Earlier, a lot of initiatives were being taken in the CSR segment. One knows the kind of work being done by Intel extensively under the NDLM (National Digital Literacy Mission) umbrella. Companies like Microsoft too have been contributing in the past with some of the learning materials etc, but more recently the government came up with this Digital Literacy programme, DISHA, and in that the implementation is through the CSC network also. Here, the point is that rather than saying that it’s a government programme and the other is a business programme, the idea is how one combines the strengths of the two.
For example, the content which comes from companies like Intel etc can be used everywhere. There is no need for reinventing that content again, though there may be a need to customise it. Second necessity is to customise it to the local requirements, and the government further brings in the scale and the money, or else it may not be an ideal revenue model. However, these may not be the kind of initiatives that are necessarily linked to a revenue model. Combining these is what we are advocating and that’s the partnership being built with the government.
…IT sector has been well-known for good governance as well as for implementing social responsibility… Many of the companies have their philanthropy arms in separate foundations for this purpose
Individual companies have worked on different models and have their own variations. Sharing these models and examples is a good idea, because ultimately every company will cover only a few locations and a few villages. However, these are IT companies using their expertise and their money directly. To get scale, they will need a combination of government and the corporate sector, because it may not be in the core area of competence of other corporate houses. So, this offers a model and a way for them to really contribute meaningfully rather than just putting money into some fund.
Actually, the challenge is not about the money; the question is whether we are offering opportunities to other non-IT players to take initiatives through the IT sector. There can be another way as well, wherein the non-IT industries can be offered models and shown the way in which they can make a bigger impact using today’s disruptive technologies to achieve scale.
What is the role of NASSCOM Foundation in this regard?
Nasscom Foundation not only offers the models and the partners, but also direct facilitation to build the execution and the collaboration model. The Foundation helps identify the different needs and brings them together.