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A GREEN SIGNAL FOR DIGITAL LITERACY

On Feb 8, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved an outlay of Rs 2,351.38 crore as ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ (PMGDISHA) to make 6 crore rural households digitally literate by March 2019. Under the scheme, 25 lakh candidates will be digitally trained in the fiscal year 2016-17, 275 lakh in FY 2017-18 and 300 lakh in FY 2018-19.

In this breakneck technology pace, Anudip Foundation’s unique online skill development initiative Digital Inclusion of Young Aspirants or DIYA (meaning “lamp” in Sanksrit) launched almost a year back through its two innovative platforms – Digital Learning Centres and Digital Academies equip marginalized youth with impactful digital-age employment skills and scalable livelihood opportunities. DIYA covers an array of professional courses using cutting-edge technology which will hone young talents from the rural and peri-urban locations of the country for a digital career.

Furthering its benefits, Dipak Basu, Chairman and CEO of Anudip assures that DIYA “intends to kindle India into a digitally enlightened society and knowledge economy and we are happy to find that Anudip’s vision to create digital livelihoods aligns with the Government’s digital momentum in India’s hinterland.”

(Source: The Hindu)

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LITTLE FOOTPRINTS IN ANUDIP

Came December 10th, Saturday, the sound of buckling spring keys of laptops, long hours of meetings, mails and the humdrum cacophony all came to a pause across Anudip Headquarters and regional centres, when wards and kids of Anudip and iMerit employees were invited at the office premises for Srishti, a painting competition organized by the PR & Corporate Communication Department of Anudip, commemorating the Children’s Day in India. Themed as ‘the world of computers”, Srishti gathered more than 70 participants from both the organization aged between 3 to 12 years, all sketching enthusiastically their imagination of a digital srishti-2-collageworld.

While the young artists enjoyed painting sitting in the cubicles of their parents, the employees were overjoyed to see their kids bring out myriad usage of computers in the modern day through their sketches. Members from the Anudip and iMerit Senior Management, who were the judges on the panel for the day, faced a real challenge choosing the best ones and ended up going beyond the target-awarding 16 best paintings which would be later framed as Anudip New Year Calendars and Greeting Cards. Srishti 2016 ended with fun, refreshments and adieu from the children leaving the Anudip Canvas with hues of prosperity and technology for the coming year.

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WHY IS THE GRASS GREEN?

Rina Samanta, a student from Anudip’s Harindanga Centre located in rural Bengal, offers a vivid and fundamental science report on an interesting question: – “Why is the grass green?” Her research, triggered by the question any four-year-old would ask, – takes us back to an important science lesson we learnt in school. Rina’s colourful depiction of the project will grab your attention and make you smile with nostalgia.

Click here to read the student’s project report.

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CSR’S NEW RULE APPLICABLE IN FULL LETTER AND SPIRIT

A fresh perspective in Section 135 of the new Companies Act 2013 which mandates corporate India to work for the promotion of socio-economic growth grabs attention.

The influx of the new CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) rule under section 135 and sub-sections (1) and (2) notified on 23rd of May, 2016 now allows corporate bodies to undertake its philanthropic activities through “a company established under section 8 of the Act or a registered trust or a registered society, established by the central government or state government or any entity established under an Act of Parliament or a State legislature.” Prior to this, only those companies having three years of established track record in similar programs or projects were permitted to carry out CSR works on behalf of companies. Now, only section 8 firms, registered trusts and societies which are set up by governments have been exempted from this three-year track record requirement, hence propelling more flexibility to the corporates. However according to the law notified on May 23rd 2016 for entities that are not set up by the governments or the company concerned, they should compulsorily have an established three-year track record to carry out CSR work. The latest amendment to this CSR Rule also resolves the element of ambiguity arising by removing the word “and otherwise” which previously allowed for an interpretation that the objective of CSR could be met via a company, not necessarily a Section 8 company, so long as it had the established track record of three years.
In this changing pace, Anudip Foundation, nonprofit company, registered under Section 8 of the Indian Companies Act, 2013 completely fits in the above-mentioned criteria with more than 9 years of track-record in working in vocational skill development and economic growth of under-privileged sections of the society. Anudip anticipates becoming a game-changer in the skilling sector while uplifting society and carrying out CSR activities for corporate India in full letter and spirit.

( Source: http://finance.bih.nic.in/Documents/CSR-Policy.pdf )

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AN EVENING WITH TAGORE

In their traditional Indian attires, Anudip & iMerit employees gathered after work in our office premises to commemorate the 155th birth anniversary of poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The celebration started with the quintessential prayer-song  Anando Loke Mongolaloke (Abode of Joy), evoking an ambience of music and verse. This was followed by open discussions on the life of Tagore and and a quiz on various  art pieces of the great poet.  The evening went more magical with a very popular song from “Bhanusinher  Padabali”, one of Tagore’s masterpieces narrating chronicles of the romance between Radha and Krishna which is a traditional theme of Indian folklore.

The audience enjoyed and applauded their co-workers’ performances with their best creative juices , a picture very rare in their busy schedule.  The last performance — a final group song  “ Purano se Diner Katha ( Good old days)”  took everyone down memory lane to the launch of the very first Anudip training centre back on this day in 2006.

 

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WHO IS ANUDIP’S MOST WANTED?

Come 9.30 am and the second floor at Vishnu Chamber in Salt Lake, Kolkata sprouts  with phone calls, conferences and the flickering sounds of the mutiple keybaords. Amidst busy faces and piles of files in the Anudip and iMerit Headquarters, one name distinctly sounds familiar from every corner –  “Swapan Da”.  Soon arrives Swapan with a steaming hot cup on a tray, assuring “Enaou Didi tomar chaa” – which in Bengali reassures Big Sister [iMerit CEO],that her tea is ready.

Not just chaa, Swapan Mondal keeps a note of every little detail of all his Dada’s and Didi’s at  the office.  To this 30-year-old-man, Anudip is a family. Swapan’s journey  with Anudip started way back in 2007 at a 3 bedroom flat in FD Block of Salt Lake which was Anudip’s address then with only fifteen employees . Rightly claiming himself  to be one of the oldest employee of Anudip, Swapan is proud of seeing Anudip grow.

Mondol clan with Anudip visitors at Swapan's house in Hingalganj - his father next to DB, wife in dark yellow sari (2)

Anudip Team visits Swapan’s village in the rural north Sundarbans, West Bengal

“One of our most memorable field trips was to Swapan’s new house in rural north Sundarbans, the one that he built after Cyclone Ayla destroyed his former home in 2009,” says Dipak Basu, Anudip CEO. “We were impressed to hear that Swapan respectfully called “Mondal Moshai” by everyone in his community, and that he was responsible for setting up an Anudip training center in his village. The Mondal family made an enormous lunch for the visiting Anudip team and ensured we had every comfort.”

On asking his experience,  Swapan recalls  “ Radha Didi once made us sit and served Nayya (his co-worker) and me food with her own hands. I can never forget that day ,” subtly wiping a tear at a hidden corner of his eye. Today, Swapan and his wife Anamika are both working at Anudip, happily catering to all in the office. To Swapan and his family, their world is Anudip and to all employees here, their “Swapan Da” is indeed the most wanted!!

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SHE IS A WONDER!!

DSCN0201While the men at Anudip and iMerit headquarters were busy in the midst of the daily mails and meetings….women workers at the two companies left no stone unturned to celebrate International Women’s Day in the office premises.  Jubilant ladies, dressed in their best, cherished their day, merrymaking about the multiple roles they play both at work and home.

Ladies from both the organizations assembled together taking pride on being strong for one another and pledged to make themselves stronger and bolder than they were yesterday. The celebration continued with music, dance, cake-cutting, and recounting of awesome experiences from each lady, making all of them cheer that truly at Anudip & iMerit, “She is a wonder!!”

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A REWARDING 2015 AND AN EXCITING YEAR AHEAD – A NOTE FROM THE CEO

Dear friends and supporters of Anudip,

Your company had a successful 2015 that was highlighted by our:

• expanding training capacity
• entering service for high risk populations like persons with disabilities and political refugees
• building an online learning system in partnership with Udemy
• establishing a presence at the nation’s capital, and
• improving gender ratio of beneficiaries from 30% women to 40%.

We brought on board a new financial controller who has rich experience in nonprofit compChandanaliance, and a new director who is an acknowledgef leader in technology for education.

Early in 2016 Anudip will enter two new states, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, in our push to ultimately cover the country. We have an ambitious technology driven plan to revamp our training model that will be implemented in phases during the year.

I would like to dwell a bit on our program for people with disabilties called SAVE – specially abled vocational education. There is absolutely no higher happiness than in seeing a bright individual, hitherto held back by a physical or visual disability, finish our training program and secure a job and a steady future, In a country which is pathetically disabled-unfriendly both in societal stigma and access to services, our rural beneficiaries are heroes at the start by securing a high school education. Their relief, and that of their parents, when they get a job offer and start work, is reward many times over for our SAVE program.

Thank you once again for your support through the years.

Happy New Year!

Dipak Basu, CEO

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WHAT THE GEM TECH AWARD MEANS TO ME

blog-imageIn late October 2014, I traveled to Busan, Republic of Korea, to collect one of the first GEM-Tech Awards at ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference. I was deeply honored to accept the award on behalf of the 40,000 marginalized young students of iMerit and our sister company, Anudip Foundation, who have been mainstreamed into digital jobs and now benefit from sustainable livelihoods in the fast-growing digital economy.

The annual awards, jointly organized by ITU and UN Women, recognize and celebrate outstanding performers and role models in gender equality and mainstreaming in information and communication technology (ICT).  ‘Gender equality and mainstreaming’ is as much about ICT, government and development actors who are mainstreaming gender equality perspectives in their work, as ICT and gender advocates who are seeking to ‘mainstream’ gender equality into a larger context.

A video of the finalists presented at the awards ceremony showed just how strong the competition was – every project and individual was inspiring, doing work that is setting new standards for the ICT sector. The 2014 GEM-Tech Award winners – UNESCO, Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool (Africa); BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT (UK); the Research Center for Feminist Action (CIPAF) (Dominican Republic); Telecentre.org Foundation, Telecentre Women (Philippines); the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Take Back the Tech! (South Africa); and the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology(Nigeria) – all have their own inspiring stories of working towards gender mainstreaming in technology.

iMerit specializes in the provision of digital services coupled with the creation of significant social impact, and we received the award for the category ‘ICT Applications, Content, Production Capacities and Skills for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction’.

Participation in the digital economy isn’t simply about access, it’s equally tied to education and awareness. Our focus is on upskilling and mainstreaming marginalized youth, with an emphasis on women from rural areas, bringing them into the global workforce for the first time.  We use an integrated business model with a four-step process of empowering disadvantaged youth through mobilization, training, employment, and up-skilling in IT project services.

As a woman in my second CEO role, I hope that this award provides encouragement to women everywhere to realize their full potential. The global recognition that the award conferred has enabled us to secure digital services projects from large technology companies and allowed us to substantially increase the skills and earnings of our women. Governments and NGOs from many countries have approached us to replicate our integrated model of technology skilling, micro-entrepreneurship and digital services.

The women at iMerit believe strongly in market-based solutions to promote equality. They do not wish to be beneficiaries of UN agencies and large corporations – they want these organizations to become clients for our world class digital services. Our dream is to become a mini-Facebook, eBay or Alibaba, with women as equal shareholders in the global Internet economy.

That is real digital gender mainstreaming.

Radha Basu, founder and CEO of iMerit

Radha Ramaswami Basu has over 30 years’ experience in executive management and is widely recognized as a leading woman technology entrepreneur and a pioneer in the Indian software business. Radha grew Hewlett Packard’s electronic business software division into a $1.5 billion business. Radha then held the position of Chairman & CEO of Support.com, a Nasdaq-listed company, which she led through initial and secondary public offerings. After retiring from SupportSoft, Radha and her husband Dipak Basu launched Anudip Foundation, a social enterprise in India with the mission of generating livelihood opportunities for the unemployed and marginalized poor through training in information technology.

A note from ITU:

2015 is an important year for gender equality. It marks the 20 year anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action which will look at efforts that have used ICTs to mobilize progress in its implementation. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)will be agreed on by the international community in September, outlining a new era for global development. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a central goal and ICTs have been recognized as a key means of implementation in its current draft. The GEM-Tech Awards highlight international best practices, illustrating where initiatives can be scaled-up and further investments should be made.

Don’t miss the 31 July 2015 deadline for your chance to nominate yourself or others who have done exceptional work in the area of gender equality and mainstreaming in/through technology for a GEM-TECH 2015 Award. Nominations can be submitted to three categories: application of technology for women’s empowerment; promotion of women in the technology sector; and development of gender responsive ICT governance, policy and access.

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OUR VISIT TO RAIDIGHI

jayshreeWe enjoyed a very informative and enjoyable visit to Anudip’s Raidighi training center.

Dr. Jayashree Ghose (Trustee, Ankur Trust) and I accompanied Tirthankar Chakraborty and Arindam Saha to Raidighi. Inspite of disruptive heavy rain on March 4th morning, we had a very smooth journey with Bhola Dada at the wheel.

Both Dr. Ghose and I came away with a real appreciation of the accomplishment and pride that the instructors and students expressed so clearly. We were warmly received with flowers and “chandan tika”. We spent some time to get to know the students and they had a chance to ask us some quite insightful and bold questions. It was pleasure interacting with them! They showed us some of their practical work and then we observed a mock class taught by the Anudip IT expert. We got a sense of the basic market aligned skills training (MAST) and some insight into the more advanced workshops such as entrepreneur development.

We were most impressed by the dedication and quality of the instructors and Tirthankar was really down to earth and very well connected with every aspect of the Anudip program.

Thanks once again for a most enlightening and pleasant visit. We have come away very impressed with the whole program