Sunday, October 13, 2013

Human rights issues- Can technology help?

Technology/Internet is silently transforming the world into an inclusive world.  Technology by itself is a great leveler;  when used appropriately it is the biggest tool we have got in the developing world.  Human rights issues tend to get attention in a very anecdotal fashion because of media attention, activists groups etc.  In the bargain we tend to forget that human rights issues are universal.  The need for basic amenities and self empowerment are universal issues applicable to every human being.

That is where technology comes in as a great equalizer, as a "magic wand" capable of analyzing millions of statistics in a jiffy and as a tool provider which can literally work on the ground.

As human population increases, human rights issues in the developing worlds grow disproportionately as most of our developmental goals during the first and second industrial revolution focused on growth in terms of generating GDP for the country.  Individuals at the bottom of the pyramid get overlooked unless they manage to contribute their bit towards GDP.  A few rags to riches stories are hyped up by the media but the majority (especially in India) remain where they are, in abysmal conditions as far as human rights go.

Can technology come to their succor?  

Technology itself has not got out of the spiral of innovation and applications (the financial spiral) to be able to concentrate on "uses" of the various applications.  The technology savvy Indians barely got time to look up since the demand for their skills have been very high.  But things are changing, albeit slowly.  This is where the technology mission of Nandan Nilekani and Sam Pitroda in India score.  Sam Pitroda is the father of India's Telecom revolution.   He is behind the technological changes which ensured that sixty million of India's 100 million people remain connected through the mobile network.

Health care, critical weather information for agriculture,  basic education tools are some of the issues affecting the bottom of the pyramid that are getting disseminated through the vast mobile network in India.  India sells 8 million mobile phones a month,  90% of which are to pre-paid users representing unemployed  youth and unorganized labor sector).  This is the sector which is exploited, abused and form the majority  victims of human rights violations

Mr. Nandan Nilekani is currently the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)—which aims to provide a unique identification number for all residents of India. The unique identity scheme is at work connecting the billion people in a network which will one day achieve a hub and spoke delivery system based on actual need and devoid of spillages all along the way.  By 2014, 600 million out of 1000 million Indians would be covered by the scheme.  Armed with the unique id (Aadhar  card), bank account and a mobile the individual can transform himself to leverage technology for utilizing public services without a middle man and thus leapfrog into a new era.

The language spoken by these technology czars is Greek to many Indians even in the so called cream of society.  The criticism is harsh, the expectations sky high.  Terms like "hub and spoke delivery", "mentoring by sensors",etc are becoming part of the jargon in the third industrial revolution being witnessed by us.  The sooner the pessimists accept these, the better it will be for all of us.

Can Internet reach the grass roots?  At we have been using online tools (Internet and the social media) to reach out and motivate communities to protect wildlife and wild lands.

Membership profile of

Online environmental programs we promote have had good enrollment from second tier cities.  The wilderness volunteer program we promote has been getting volunteers from the unemployed youth as well as the highly educated urban youth.  A beginning is being made through these programs to bridge the chasm which today exists between the developed world and the so called under developed society.   As all of us know human rights violations occur when natural resources are plundered without a thought for the communities that thrive in these areas.  Understanding and caring for our natural resources is the beginning of wanting to protect them.

The Internet users in India are only about 150 million as of now.  With the rolling out of broad band Internet to reach the villages of India, the the message of volunteering for wilderness India is expected to spread far and wide.  Dreams and aspirations of the ordinary Indian are frustrated at almost every step, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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