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Technology: An Expected Paradigm Shift For Social Sector As Well?

The advent of technology has brought with it a paradigm shift in the world and proliferation of innovations. Be it from introducing efficient and productive supply chains and processes for business (using AI, ML, AR or Robotics) to inventing cures for rare diseases or introducing painless and quick surgeries or operations for different ailments. It fosters convenience for individuals via e-commerce. Identifies various methods and processes to prevent pollution from factories or rendering processes to avoid maximum amount of pollution released from factories or just introducing the concept of reverse logistics and cradle to grave.

Technology makes it easier for businesses to grow and scale up at an unprecedented rate globally connecting all their employees virtually.  It is predominantly evident that by employing technology at our disposal, the unimaginable and impossible can be achieved. However technology can bring to light its profound unintended consequences and inherent challenges. This aspect raises certain paramount questions. What impact will technology have on the social sector? Will it define new innovative models for proficient education and skilling programs targeting the disadvantaged, for easier mainstreaming in the future society? Is technological advancements for their better or worse? Or will it lead to increasing disparity between the haves and have nots?

The increasing digital divide has been an alarming concern worldwide and a dilemma faced by the social sector around the world. In India the disadvantaged children and their communities encounter paucity of internet connections, affordable data packs, devices such as tablets, laptops, smartphone and PC’s. Furthermore, the distribution of these services and devices within India, including the remotest village is a predominate challenge encountered by the governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO), due to the size and scale of the country. While NGOs have been one of the actors at the forefront of distributing access to internet facilities and devices, unfortunately they still lack resources and funds to magnify their scale across India.

The unprecedented spread of COVID 19 led to all India lockdown confining the underprivileged within their houses devoid of educational access. The private sector was agile in adopting e-learning for students, likewise were NGOs involved in imparting e-education under their education programs. A seamless prerequisite to e-learning is that each child has their own devices, however in reality they have to share their device with siblings. Or they may rely on utilizing their father’s smartphone to attend e-classes. Thus, hampering the child’s education and resulting in them being unable to attend classes due to unavailability of the device or it being damaged by a sibling. Providing a digital device for every single child in the household is critical for the development of their educational journey leading to a self-sufficient future. This would not be possible without the support, guidance and assistance of the government, NGO’s and large corporates via their CSR programs. Subsequent to delivery of the resources, it is extremely imperative to train children to use the device in a safe and precautious manner which involves limitless hours of training.

Realizing in hindsight of COVID 19 it is inevitable that humans will need to be dependent on technology for survival and progressing towards the future. As is evident internet access has found a place for itself in the category of basic human needs. While the privileged society is nimble to embrace technology, the underprivileged are neglected of this powerful tool to utilize at their disposal. It is commendable how NGOs have worked day and night despite the lock down, to arrange online zoom sessions for children so they can continue their educational sessions, stay connected and enrich themselves with knowledge during these tough times.

COVID 19 has significantly turned the tables and pivoted the world towards harnessing technology to reduce human interactions. This is evident in the transformational change in the delivery of education and skilling programs online. The disadvantaged are required to access and embrace technology with open arms for their overall development and becoming a part of the mainstream society . COVID 19 has accelerated the familiarization and utilization of technology (eg: switching to e-payments to avoid human interaction) and it is up to all to prepare for the coming future.

The government and NGOs are required to implement a future centric approach in the education system. It is necessary that no child is left behind in the rat race or denied opportunities to grow leveraging technology. Startling figures have been highlighted indicating the loss of millions of manual jobs in the future due to automation and robots replacing humans. This can be considered a paramount problem for the future especially for the late millennials and GenZ. Nevertheless, it is also stated that these changes will introduce innumerable jobs as well.

Underprivileged youth and future youth can no longer rely on manual jobs to earn a living and hence are required to reskill themselves consistently to remain active and employable in the future job market. Hence NGO’s are required to remain proactive targeting these individuals, introducing reskilling programs so underprivileged youth remain employable in the new job market, in near future. The government and NGO’s have the inherent capability and drive to create and foster the new age digital designers, content writers, innovator and inventers.

While it is being argued that technological inventions are augmenting the digital divide. Another school of thought would be that in fact technology has the power to the bridge the gap and integrate society as a whole. Technology has immense power to target and reach a wider scale of audience around India. For instance NGOs can broaden their reach and expand distribution networks to reach to remotest villages (once internet access is established). Following that they can connect to numerous children at once delivering lectures online. To make the interactions more personalized (demand of future) NGO’s will need funding to offer the facility of personalized AI and robotics to assist and guide students. Though this sounds extremely difficult however it will be crucial to take these steps for the betterment of these communities.

Various applications or databases can be utilized to store student performance records as the scale of beneficiaries increases. Children from a tender age need to be introduced to technology eg: robotics, coding or AI. The underprivileged will require the technological skills to survive in industry 4.0 and so forth. All the more it is plausible that an entire ecosystem can be created for the disadvantaged to access similar education as private schools offer. These developments are all in the hand of governments, NGO’s and their corporate partners.

Advancements in technology can be viewed from both sides of the spectrum: opportunity or threat. It all depends on the eyes and mind of the bearer to decide its application for the betterment of society and future generations. The social sector will be undergoing through significant change in the coming years. Thus, needing to harness technology to nurture and cultivate youth and future generations by imparting knowledge about technology, its utilization, the importance of inculcating these skills for their future jobs and selecting a job in the tech field. If the government, NGOs and corporates join hands together and aim to provide free access and necessary equipment, they can gradually overcome the digital divide.


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