Connecting the Disconnected.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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My work, family, friends and my lifestyle always gives me an opportunity to meet people from various walks of life, from farmers to entrepreneurs, techies to cabbies, housekeepers to house owners, socialites to social evils:). One common thing about all the people I meet is that when ever we catch up over a cup of coffee, knowingly or unknowingly we tend to discuss issues related to technological inventions in the recent past. Needless to say that the discussion predominantly revolves around the INTERNET and the way it is changing our life at the end of this century. Most of the time we only discuss about the initiatives which are made towards making life comfortable for the people who are already living in a comfort zone or leading a luxury lifestyles. Be it about the new feature added in the Mercedes cars, the online railway ticket booking systems, Job boards, eShopping, online banking or anything which falls in the same page. From New York to Tokyo, the Internet has fundamentally changed work, recreation, lifestyle, marriages and even love to name few. But in Kodihalli, a village in Karnataka or Patalgarh, a tribal hamlet in MadhyaPradesh, life remains very much the same as it was 10 years back.

Very few people I meet are really concerned about the situation and are aware of those sustainable initiatives in the online space, which are in some way or the other making difference to people who live in the base of the pyramid, for whom the words ‘Internet’ and ‘technology’ are just an alien terms. Having been part of the Internet business in India for over six years and being a strong advocate of economic developments through social enterprises, I get propitious when I come across a new initiative in this space.

Out of the many social enterprises launched in the online space, I would always love to profile, talk and discuss about the 2 portals which are keeping people at bottom of the pyramid equipped for the race of survival. First one is the recently launched Babajob.com and the second one being eChoupal.com. Directly or indirectly, they are also contributing some amount to the over all economic development though their online initiatives.

Babajob.Com: Any online initiatives especially Job sites, help people who have access to the net. However, there are millions of people in the country like cooks, drivers, housekeepers, gardeners, plumbers and etc, whose only connectivity is a friend, family or his employers who have access to digital world. Babajobs have a new model which helps people escape poverty by connecting employers to informal sector employees - such as maids, cooks and drivers - through people they know. Uniquely, when an employer hires someone on babajob.com, Babajob compensates whoever digitally registered the job seeker and up to 2 people that connect the employee to the employer. The Bangalore-based company was profiled in the New York Times piece as a significant innovation that “seeks to bring the social-networking revolution to the world’s poor”

ITC’s eChoupal: The unique web based initiative of ITC’s International Business Division, offer the farmers of India all the information, products and services they need to enhance farm productivity improve farm gate price realization and cut transaction costs. Farmers can access latest local and global information on weather, scientific farming practices as well as market prices at the village itself through this web portal. eChaupal also facilitates supply of high quality farm inputs as well as purchase of commodities at their door step.

Apart from these two, there are few other online initiatives which were launched with an objective of promoting Indian handicrafts, and create sustainable environment for the craftsmen and artists, but however, they were less talked about and I am really clueless about the results these portals are achieving. Hence, I refrained from profiling them.
{Image in the post has been taken from hindu.com}

Posted by Pradeep A.J  

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