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Technology-Forward Solutions for Social Good

One of the fields India saw major growth and development after its independence is science and technology. To observe this, for National Technology Day, we examine how technology and data science have impacted India, beyond the realms of business.

Data analytics has been effectively implemented in scientific and business spheres to optimize their product and service offerings. India faces a slew of societal challenges, including poverty. However, social enterprises lag behind the corporate and scientific worlds in terms of collecting and interpreting the massive volumes of data created.

With development efforts around the world, data and evidence-based policy and programming have become the standard. In India, like in many other developing nations, the endeavor has been driven by a diverse group of development agents, including assistance agencies, investors, and research institutes. This approach to governance has now started seeming more viable to government and policymakers.

The data must be trustworthy for evidence-based policy to be implemented, and this is dependent on the quality of the data as well as the expert statisticians. Statistics that can be trusted are thus essential for successful governance and decision-making in all areas of society. As a result, policymakers are more likely to employ evidence in decision-making if it is objective, rigorous, substantial, timely, actionable, easy to grasp, cumulative, and simple to explain to constituents.

The Aadhar project is one significant endeavor to harness the potential of big data in the social realm. Aadhaar is the world's largest biometric initiative, collecting demographic and biometric data from a billion Indian citizens. 95% of people have Aadhaar and use it once a month on average.

The database can swiftly expand to 20 petabytes and be utilized to detect and address critical socioeconomic concerns at the community level. The Income Tax department is using machine learning to spot outliers in financial accounts presented by individuals and corporations in to aid in the detection of financial fraud and tax evasion. Criminal justice and the judiciary can use data to study crime trends, find criminal networks and possible crime hotspots, and so on. This would assist authorities in taking corrective action and preventing and reducing crime.

With data analytics, non-profit organizations also gain the tools to tackle vast amounts of data, allowing for better insights into social problems. For example, in farming and agriculture, farmers struggle to forecast crop quality and comprehend future crop demand. Artificial intelligence can be utilized to overcome this hurdle. Predictive analytics using sensors can monitor how the crop is developing and whether there is any external source influencing the crop's growth. Aside from that, the data may be organized and used in the future to enhance outcomes and crop quality. Digital Green is a global development organization that strives to improve the lives of small farmers. It employs data analytics to help unskilled farmers living below the poverty line. They employ a specialized data collection solution that also operates offline to overcome the challenges that arise due to a lack of connectivity in rural areas. They created an analytics dashboard that is an open-source platform that anyone may utilize. Digital Green also intends to create a recommendation engine based on predictive analytics models, using a database that contains thousands of videos.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation uses data analytics to help them find a cost-effective way to distribute their mid-day meal program to Government schools across the country by reducing transportation costs through optimal route allocation. Previously, Chanchalapathi Dasa, Vice-Chairman of Akshaya Patra explains, "We were taking 34 routes to deliver food to Government schools in Bangalore and each route costs us an average of Rs. 60,000 a month". They also use data-driven feedback from children to ensure a high-quality meal every day. Further, they discovered that through big data analytics, less expensive means such as the internet and telephone could bring in more funds leading to an increase in contribution from these sources from 4% to 17% of the total funds.

By facilitating cross-sectoral data to be compiled in near real-time, SocialCops, an organization that believes data can be used for social good, has helped the government to monitor the activities of its programs, provide clean cooking fuel to 46 million women, aid construct village development plans, among other things.

My Choices Foundation works to help women, children, and families in marginalized communities who face violence, abuse, and exploitation. Their Vulnerability Mapping tool and NexGen Red Alert application are their technology-forward initiatives to combat these issues. NexGen Red Alert is a mobile application that collects vital data from its implementation partners, such as NGOs and volunteers, and allows for real-time reporting of suspicious activity to the authorities. The Vulnerability Mapping technology employs big data and artificial intelligence to pinpoint hotspots of human trafficking in rural India, allowing the organization to provide prompt assistance.

The same sophisticated data analytics technologies that have fueled the growth of giant tech corporations offer considerable potential for having a similar influence on the effective and efficient delivery of public services to those in need. Data scientists that have valuable skills and a strong desire to use them can work to improve their communities and the world at large.


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