December 11, 2022 by Maha Lakshme S
8th December, 2022 was an eventful day in my life. I went on a client visit to understand issues with the usage of one of our flagship software products, Avni. We were able to resolve some of the issues on the spot and made our client happy. No, it was not a foreign trip. Sorry our clients were not in suits. Nor we discussed in AC rooms.
It was a meeting with users who were mainly from different tribal communities, in a remote village in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha. And we discussed sitting on the floor of a building in the midst of PMGSY(The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) roads. Dry fields, narrow roads with cows, hens and goats blocking our car, kutcha homes, poor internet connectivity, bore wells, etc., etc., is the way to describe the place. Being from Bengaluru where roads generally are covered with cars, this was a different sight to eyes altogether.
My day started at 9 am. I, a product engineer from Samanvay Research and Development Foundation, accompanied two other employees from Azim Premji Foundation(APF). APF had partnered with us for providing tech solution for their nutrition programme. We travelled to Mayurbhanj district where the Ekjut NGO office was located. APF had partnered with local NGOs of the state to implement welfare programmes on the ground. A 45 minute trip to the interiors of the Mayurbhanj district took us to the place where the actual users of our app were located. They were called POSHAN Sathi users. They use the Avni app to track nutritional status of children and pregnant women, to schedule future checkups in their homes, to refer high-risk children/pregnant women to hospitals etc.,
On reaching there it was sad to hear demise of the mother of a 4 months child tracked in the app. We gathered and resolved the problems they were facing with the app by interacting with them. Employees of Ekjut and APF helped me understand their issues since most of them knew only Odia language. Being themselves not very tech-savvy users, their eyes brimmed with happiness when the issues they faced with the app were resolved.
Social development sector is plagued with several issues. One of the main issues is the dearth of software developers. Shouldn’t the best things in this world be used for solving the worst problems on our planet? This makes me wonder how most of the best software developers join just the corporate sector and not the social impact sector which attempts to solve some of the worst issues plaguing our country like malnutrition, poverty, and many more. If we want to make our country a Goldilocks habitat for everyone, it requires joint effort. How can I not quote Gandhiji's Talisman here!
"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."
-One of the last notes left behind by Gandhi in 1948, expressing his deepest social thought.
Source: Mahatma Gandhi - The Last Phase, Vol. II (1958), p.65
Next day, after having discussions with other partner NGOs, WOSCA and Disha who had also partnered with APF in the implementation of the nutrition programme, I left to Bengaluru seeking blessings from Lord Jagannath for the malnourished children and high risk pregnant women. I am not sure if my prayers were heard, but hope the issue that I have raised here is understood.