New Delhi: Twenty-six social entrepreneurs from South Asia and Asia-Pacific were given the Manthan awards on Friday for their efforts in improving the lives of people using digital technologies.

The awards, organized by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), completed 10 years this year, and saw 430 nominations from countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Nepal and Australia. The awards were given in several fields—health, agriculture, financial inclusion, community broadcasting, journalism, science, governance, and culture and tourism. Mint is the strategic partner of DEF, which hosts the Manthan Award.

Product: Kumaon Vani

Promoter: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)

Category: e-Community Broadcasting

Kumaon Vani is a public radio station started by TERI in Uttarakhand in 2010. It reaches at least 500 villages in the Kumaon region, promoting information on agriculture, social issues and governance in villages. Operated and owned by local communities in Mukteshwar, Kumaon Vani covers an estimated population of 200,000 people in a radius of 20km. Although communities in these areas had access to various means of mass communication, there was a lack of resources to provide knowledge related to agriculture and sustainable development.

The radio has farmers from various villages sharing their problems and solutions; the youth learn about various employment opportunities through the broadcasts, and there are interactive shows for children as well on health and hygiene.

The radio station has gained much popularity and now receives 80 phone calls and 250 text messages a week on an average. After starting with daily shows spanning over an hour, the radio station now runs a four-hour show that is repeated again in the day.

Product: Monuments In Delhi

Promoter: DKRS Group

Category: e-Culture and Tourism

Monuments In Delhi, a travel website, was started in 2010 to provide a guide to various heritage sites in the national capital. It has recognized 325 sites till now. The website has multiple options to search for heritage sites using combinations such as year and location.

Monuments In Delhi aims to become the biggest online heritage travel guide for Delhi, and in six months aims to list about 500 heritage sites. “During the Commonwealth Games, I felt that the government was not able to promote the heritage of Delhi. When I started this as a Sunday project, it was very hard to come across information regarding various heritage sites in Delhi and I had to do quite some research," said Rahul Malik, founder of the website. He aims to find as many heritage sites as possible, which are lost to tourists due to lack of information. “Back in 1857, Delhi had more than 1,000 heritage sites. Today, according to ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) there are 175," Malik said. He aims to find the rest and catalogue them on his website.

Product: e-safeT

Promoter: Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)

Category: e-Science and Technology

The e-safeT device is used to monitor the quality of perishable life-saving items such as blood bags, vaccines and medicines. The device, developed C-DAC, consists of a high resolution temperature sensor, and memory and visual indicators to track the thermal history of items. It helps hospitals and authorities assess whether an item is fit to be used, and allows them to take timely corrective actions.

“Quality of items like blood can get damaged for use even after minor changes in temperature, hence there is a need for these temperatures to be monitored," said Sanjat Kumar Panigrahi, project engineer at C-DAC. “Currently, as India has a major scarcity of food due to lack of preservation, this device can help in that direction."

E-safeT is becoming popular in Rajasthan, where 500,000 blood bags monitored by the device are issued to patients in hospitals.

Product: TDIL-DC

Promoter: C-DAC, Pune

Category: e-Inclusion and Localization

The Technology Development for Indian Languages (TDIL) programme, started by the government’s department of electronics and information technology, develops information-processing tools to make knowledge resources in various Indian languages accessible to people. The base of its technologies is optical character recognition, using which TDIL-DC has provided end-to-end software to various non-profits and other government services to get text editing options in images.

“We’re digitizing newspapers also, so that we can search index information in that. Our country has many researchers working on numerous technologies. These technologies are not having a social impact because of language barrier, as most people in India do not speak English. But technology should be available to all of us," said Bhupendra Kumar, senior technical officer at C-DAC.

The benefits of information technology can reach the public only when software tools and human machine interface systems are available in local languages, he added.

The initiative aims to develop a machine translation system that will translate data available in English to other languages, an online handwriting recognition system to recognize handwritten documents, and a speech processing system.

Product: HalaBol

Promoter: HalaBol Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Category: e-News and Journalism

HalaBol is an online platform for social activism. The website uses various tools such as campaigns, petitions and pledges, allowing people to put up their causes and gain supporters. “There are a lot of social activities happening on the ground, but no medium is there to connect them for social causes. Even though there is an e-commerce boom and social network boom on the Internet, it is not being used for social issues," said Ajay Kapoor, business development and marketing executive, based in Gurgaon.

The website provides information to its 100,000 members using articles and blogs on a media platform called ‘Voices’.

Product: Birthday Forest

Promoter: Birthday Forest

Category: e-Agriculture and Ecology

Birthday Forest, a not-for-profit company based in Nepal, provides the service of planting trees on behalf of people and companies on their birthdays and anniversaries. The website takes requests online and accordingly plants trees in community forests run by the Nepal government, street areas, and on national heritage sites. Birthday Forest then takes a guarantee to maintain the plant for three years after plantation and provides biannual updates to the person or organization placing the request about the health of the trees.

“Many calamities take place in Nepal as the global climate crisis gets worse. If we are not accountable, then who is," said Anuj Mahat, co-founder. “We have tied up your occasions with nature, so that you celebrate your birthday with nature, you grow with the nature, and make a social impact."

The founders have been spreading awareness of Birthday Forest in rural areas and outside Nepal, and the website, which charges a fee for its services, is available in other Asian countries as well.

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