Friday, January 11, 2008

Social Responsiblity - Utilize Your Expertise

Last month, while facilitating a brainstorming session on how we can be more socially responsible, I had a chance to interact with Jeff Wishnie. That gave me an opportunity not only to know more about Jeff but also how he has been able to play an active role in social development and has contributed to it. Jeff, who is a well know paraglider and the CTO of Inveneo, has helped many rural communities in countries of Africa get ICT. An interesting twist to the scenario, however, is the low energy consumption computers and wireless equipment that Inveneo has designed, which are extremely rugged, easy to install and maintain and utilize open source solutions.

A bit into the discussions, the obvious question got posed to him. Why technology when these communities can use monetary donations, free vaccinations, microfinance, etc? This question, as absurd as it may seem, is a very good one. In one of the previous posts ( Technology and Development - Response Strategy for Economic Growth ) I have talked about how the generous masses in the developed west and technologically advanced countries can help with Microfinance. Simplicity of the concept and its economic impact directly to the needy but deserving citizens helps strengthen the economic development of community and builds capacity. In response to that Jeff's answer was very interesting. His rationale was simple and appealing - there's nothing wrong with donating money, food, clothes, installing play pump or anything other than what he is doing. He has put a lot of work and effort in building up his skills working in California for which people pay him a lot of money. The aim, therefore, is to use that expertise to help the masses. I think, that's a fantastic approach to social responsibility. Most of the woes of the underdeveloped world can be solved only if we all can use our expertise for social causes. That's what you are good at, that's where your heart is and that's what you, probably, know the most about. The trick, nonetheless, is to blend that knowledge with low cost, affordable, robust, and userproof solutions that are sustainable. And that's what Jeff is out doing most days of the year in Africa.


Anonymous said...

i could not get an entire picture of what Mr. Jeff is doing exactly. Can you please elaborate on that?

Rajeev Singh said...

I would encourage you to visit Inveneo's website at to find out more about what Steve is doing. That'd be you most accurate source of information.

Thanks for taking interest in it.