AS PER THE sustainability goals determined by the collective efforts of various countries as per the UN Charter, per capita income along with education and health are the key indicators that define progress of a nation.
AS PER THE sustainability goals determined by the collective efforts of various countries as per the UN Charter, per capita income along with education and health are the key indicators that define progress of a nation. There has been an excessive focus on the vertical programmes and the impetus required to enhance overall outcomes has got lost in the process. India has slipped one position to 131st amongst 188 countries in terms of human development as per the recent report of UNDP. With the human development index (HDI) of 0.63, India has been positioned in the medium human development category and stands third amongst the SAARC nations, behind Srilanka and Maldives both of which feature in the ‘high development’ category. Despite having higher growth as compared to other middle human development countries, the strategies that were developed when the nation had to focus on elevating to the middle development category will no longer work with the income disparities between groups widening steeply. With 22% of the population still being below poverty line and 57% deemed vulnerable, the right to work, education, skills and employment are absolutely critical.
The window available for capitalising on the demographic dividend is roughly until the year 2030 only, with the window being already closed for the southern states. Almost 60% of the youth in India reside in rural areas, hence skill development of this segment is extremely important as despite the best efforts for making basic education mandatory, a sizeable proportion of citizens in the states of Rajasthan, MP, UP and Bihar have had only 5-7 years of education. The challenge for livelihood creation is mammoth as every month one million people require to be made employable. Corporates have a major role to play in this movement to improve the human development index. Sustainability begins with the principled approach to business as some of the leading business houses like the Tatas have demonstrated over the years with their dedicated efforts towards social transformation and business growth working in tandem. The need for scale and reach is immense and these twin objectives can be addressed only through digital interventions.
The starting point is to inculcate digital literacy. For this purpose, there is a need to set up thousands of digital literacy centres in rural and urban areas and we also need tens of thousands of volunteers from the IT industry, education establishments, the pool of retired personnel and other walks of life to take on the responsibility of addressing the subsets of the overall goal. In Pune for instance, Pune Municipal Corporation has set up the goal to make the city 100% digitally literate by the year 2020 in addition to gearing up for transforming Pune into a smart city. This task championed by Pune City Connect in collaboration with various corporates and NGOs is an example of convergence of efforts towards the improvement of human development index. Together with this initiative, the skill development initiative of Lighthouses is drawing hundreds of youth to the skills centres set up in the vicinity of communities. The endeavour in such models is to use digital tools and applications to supplement human interfaces for career counselling, support for practice, visualisation, simulated experiences and remedial as well as refresher training so that a large number of people could be impacted in remote locations with speed and without compromising in quality of outcomes.
Internet Saathi project of Google is another example of bridging the digital divide to fast forward the ease of digital adoption by large sections of the society. The M Pesa implementation in Africa is another example of bringing into the digital fold hitherto deprived segments and giving them access to formal monetary avenues.
In India, there are several micro segments that have unique needs which require different models that are capable of addressing the niche demands. These could be addressed with the help of digital platforms offering newer options for skilled professionals, artisans and small firms. Digital platforms enable us to rethink jobs, entrepreneurship and income generating models by redefining the demand fulfilment processes, rethinking the current paradigms of product and service frameworks, opening up possibilities for self employment and micropayment models that would augment other existing sustainable livelihood creation efforts.
The writer is CEO of Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company