Intel India is fostering a culture of ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ amongst its employees through helping employees with technology-based solutions for a socially relevant problem to obtain the technical support and funding needed to nurture it into a viable business model.
Social entrepreneurship ideas are not limited to only those based on Intel technologies. Instead, the intention is to create a environment where technology companies, Intel employees and volunteers, research institutions and incubators, investors and government departments can come together to bring these innovations into reality as socially and economically sustainable businesses.
The simple definition of Social Entrepreneurship is the use of entrepreneurial principles to achieve social change and Intel recognizes its responsibility to local and global communities to drive this change for future generations. Intel partners with organizations and entrepreneurs around the world to support and develop novel ideas that help tackle issues specific to their environment and community.
“Ideas from employees get reviewed, both by internal leaders and external experts from NGOs and academia, and we then provide them with technology and seed funding, similar to venture capitalists, to create a proof of concept,” says Praveen Vishakantaiah, President of Intel India.
As an example, Sonia Shrivastava proposed and idea whose inspiration came when injury forced her to attend work on crutches. This experience gave her a first-hand experience of the challenges facing those with all kinds of disability. Sonia says, “When I fractured my foot and came to work on crutches, I was unable to do so many routine things because of due to my ‘disability’, even very basic acts that I had always taken for granted. It made me realize what disabled people go through every day. It made me more sensitive to the issues that they face and more passionate about resolving them. Before this experience, it was merely an intellectual understanding… afterward, it became an experiential understanding.”
Sonia envisioned a low-cost solution that would help visually challenged people use computers for a wide variety of activities in their daily life. With Intel’s support, Sonia managed a team of internal and external experts who customized a set of freeware applications and utilities on a low cost Intel® Atom™ based netbook computer and created a solution that was 85% less expensive than any other solution in the marketplace.
The initial field test response has been overwhelmingly positive. The first 100 units to be produced for validating the devices sold out in only 3 days. The idea is now being developed into a viable business model and a Delhi-based NGO, Saksham, is implementing the project with continued support from Intel. The team is also receiving requests from organizations in Indonesia and Pakistan to expand the project to those countries.
Another example is the tiger sampling project developed by Praneet Goteti. Praneet has always been interested in the natural world and specifically in wildlife conservation. He had his idea for a social entrepreneurship project while discussing the role that Intel could play in tiger conservation with a key research organization. The NGO mentioned that they needed help with improving the efficiency of camera traps used to capture tiger images.
Supported by Intel, Praneet was able to bring Intel engineers together with the researchers to improve the collection of data on the tiger population. Because of its position as an apex predator, scientists focus on the tiger population in the wildlife sanctuaries as a gauge to determine the health of the ecosystem, assuming other threats such as poaching are kept in check. The cameras installations around the habitat help in capturing data required to estimate tiger density.
Praneet says, “Technology, used effectively, has a role to play in wildlife conservation. We need to encourage countries and corporations to invest in processes, products and technology that conserve and replenish natural resources. We need to overcome the shortsighted view that economic development can only take place through the exploitation of our natural wealth. We have to be more innovative and invest in technologies and industries that conserve and protect the earth, in all its beauty, for us and for future generations.”