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December 14, 2012

Technology takes a Cause

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:21 AM

hackathon.jpg

Over 100 software developers converged on the Pune campus of Infosys for Sanitation Hackathon 2012

A corporation's  social responsibility is no longer a point of contention. Now, more organizations are going beyond talking about it or donating to worthy social causes. Some organizations are taking greater ownership and are creating a visible impact by tackling some of the larger issues plaguing their societies.

A recent example is the Sanitation Hackathon, a collaborative effort from the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and Infosys, aimed at raising health standards among the populations of the developing world. Earlier this December, several teams of technology professionals participating in the Indian leg of this event worked with sanitation experts to find answers to what is one of the country's biggest problems - sanitation, which is so lacking that it causes over 768,000 deaths each year.

Another "obvious" cause that technology companies can take up is that of technical education. Countries in the developed world are struggling to shore up their technical human capital in the face of dwindling enrollment in related courses. Ironically, even India, where a college degree in science or engineering is highly prized, is facing a similar shortage. That's because only a small percentage of the over half a million engineers who graduate each year are readily employable. Since the problem is about industry relevance, many companies, including Infosys, have come up with some interesting ways to solve it. 

Collaboration with academic institutions and apprenticeship programs are two popular approaches.  In working with academic institutions, the company facilitates the creation and deployment of industry-relevant curricula. Apprenticeship programs, while by no means novel, are also proving useful for connecting the technology industry with its future workforce.

The next-generation workforce and society are not the only beneficiaries of such measures; the sponsor companies and the larger industry also gain from an improved talent pool.  In a way, the technology industry is only setting in motion a chain of events that will pay it forward, because it's well known that for the millennial generation, which is the beneficiary of such initiatives, doing meaningful work which makes a difference to society is as important a career objective as any other.

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