What happened at the India Social Good Summit today

21 September 2014

NEW DELHI: With Climate Week NYC and Social Good Summit beginning in New York this weekend, over in India, the first-of-its-kind India Social Good Summit 2014 took place in New Delhi today, to shine a spotlight on the role of technology and new media on global social good initiatives.

Organized by UNDP in collaboration with IIT Delhi, the summit was held on the sidelines of the already well-established Global Social Good Summit, an affiliate event of Climate Week NYC which is taking place in New York from September 22-28.

Studded with an array of young innovators and entrepreneurs, the event also boasted the attendance of renowned veteran Indian film maker Shekhar Kapur and Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput as special guests.

The event aimed to bring these diverse voices together to mull over the effective ways in which technology and social media can go hand-in-hand to create a better world by 2030.

Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative and presenter at the summit, kick-started the event by calling India a "hub for innovation" and demonstrating technologies that can improve public service delivery.

Emphasizing the penetration of social media in our daily lives, Shekhar Kapur, who presented the keynote address, commented: “Social media is changing the way we live and relate to each other. It’s sucking inertia out of the system. Before we know it ideas have spread and taken hold. Today Social media has become a stronger social influencer than films.”

This panel was followed by a public address and interactive session with a host of young social innovators from India, who showcased their landmark achievements in the field of low-cost technologies.

Dr. Rohan Paul of IIT-Delhi and co-founder of Assistive Technologies Group gave a vivid description of his innovative device, Smart Cane, which is designed to help visually impaired people. It is an affordable machine that detects obstacles above knee height through vibratory patterns. “Ninety per cent of visually impaired people live in the developing world; technologies need to be inclusive. Technology can play a pivotal role in preventing impairment from becoming a disability”, Dr. Paul said.

Bringing healthcare into focus, Anshu Bhardwaj from Open Source Drug Discovery, shared how open innovation can drive drug discovery. Explaining that the contemporary healthcare arrangement needs to be upgraded from disease management to actual disease treatment, Bhardwaj said, “Tuberculosis kills 5,000 people globally everyday and nearly three persons per five minutes in India. As a remedy, the scientific community, in general, needs to be empowered.”

Such startling numbers have led to the formation of Open Source Drug Discovery which is an Indian consortium that envisions providing affordable healthcare to the developing world by bring together a formidable mechanism of mind and infrastructure to cure diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.

Another unique innovation, Gram Vaani, by a young Indian innovator Aditeshwar Seth, was highlighted during the summit. The social innovation company aims to empower people by reversing the flow of information through a community radio. This innovation has already struck a chord with 15 Indian states, catering to the needs of nearly two million people, and has also spread to countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Namibia and South Africa.

Maintaining that Gram Vaani has become a tool for social and cultural expression, Seth said: “This innovation has become a platform for accountability. People can use this technology to mobilize corruption and other complaints. The forum has also been used to crowdsource information from pregnant women to report experiences in hospitals in rural areas.”

The summit also made the audience aware of Zerodor Waterless Urinals - a pioneering innovation to tackle the challenges related to sanitation and cleanliness. The brainchild of Prof. Vijaya Chariar, it is a low-cost technological solution that paves the way for a more sustainable way of life by cutting the need for water-pipes and mechanical or electrical parts in a toilet. Speaking at the event, the Professor pressed the need for sanitation engineering becoming a discipline in India.

The Climate Group's Bijli – Clean Energy for All program, which is principally funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, is also enhancing the lives of rural inhabitants in India, by deploying renewable energy technologies and improving infrastructure quality. Find out more about Bijli.

By Shuvait Koul

Follow the full conversation on Twitter @UNDP_India and #2030NOW.

For a full list of Climate Week NYC events, please visit ClimateWeekNYC.org and follow the conversation on Twitter using #CWNYC.

You can also see our Climate Week NYC media resources for press releases, contacts and more info.

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