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Leveraging impact sourcing

Impact sourcing would not only make India self-reliant but also less dependent on global economic trends

Impact sourcing should be less based on employment generation and more about using naturally existing resources to create impact on the local economy. But what is impact sourcing?

Out of 42 million population of Kenya, 25 million carry mobile phones and 12 million of them use it to access the Internet. Kenya is also known for several innovations including m-Pesa, which is a mobile-based payment system. There are 17 million m-Pesa account holders, making it the most trusted and used platform for all kinds of money transfers. It is believed that the reason for the success of m-Pesa is because carrying cash in Kenya is risky. Ushahidi is another internationally acclaimed online platform for information collation, crowdsourcing, visualization and interactive mapping. Ushahidi has also emerged as a result of a disputed 2007 presidential election that collected eyewitness reports of violence crowdsourced from emails, texts, and pictures and mapped them on Google maps.

Kenya has come a long way and there is a lot to learn from the African nation. Its economy is on the rise, so is corruption and gated colonies. I visited Nairobi earlier this year on the invitation of Leaders Quest for Rockefeller Foundation’s PRIDE (Poverty Reduction through Information and Digital Employment) programme, where 20 fellows from all over the world had gathered to have an on-the-ground experiential meeting on impact sourcing. If you search impact sourcing on Google, you will invariably find all the results showing association with the Rockefeller Foundation, as if it had coined the phrase. All the researches and reports would be funded by Rockefeller—Exploring the Value Proposition for Impact Sourcing, a report by Accenture; and Job Creation through Building the Field of Impact Sourcing by Monitor Inclusive Market.

Let me share how Rockefeller and its funded research define impact sourcing: “Impact sourcing is outsourcing that benefits disadvantaged individuals in low-employment areas." Interestingly, Rockefeller-funded reports estimate the size of impact sourcing as merely $4.5 billion (around 24,435 crore today), which is expected to rise to $20 billion by 2015 and would employ more than 780,000 people. This estimate is taken from the business process outsourcing (BPO) market size, which is currently close to $512 billion and according to Gartner Inc., would go up to $574 billion by 2015. At the moment, India is the leader in BPO marketplace. Impact sourcing only takes into consideration those who are employing socio-economically disadvantaged people. Incidentally, Kenya is a lab for impact sourcing for Rockefeller and they have been supporting several projects.

However, one of the best projects that I interacted with was Nairobits. Targeting hundreds of slum youth, Nairobits ICT trains 500 youth annually and helps them find jobs. Nairobits’ success factor is based on working with community in selection of the slum youth, and based on their appetite they are trained for jobs that would require anything from data entry to website development to software programming. All the employees and trainers of Nairobits are its own alumni. We need to emulate such examples.

However, I am keen to discuss how India is naturally a country of impact sourcing at each and every stage and how the model would not only make the country self-reliant but also less dependent on global economic trends. In any case, the global BPO market is largely dominated by India, but new emerging markets are Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Philippines, Brazil, Mauritius, Bangladesh and Egypt.

I see India not only as one of the biggest skilled labour suppliers to the global economic marketplace but also using its natural resources as a source of creating economic impact on the ground. For me, impact sourcing is about using local resources, assets, skills, culture, tradition, art, music, craft, history, heritage, knowledge, and wisdom and provide them as cashable commodities to strengthen the local economy. Digital technologies and new media can leverage our assets and resources to create a bigger impact, if used intelligently.

Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chairman of the Manthan Award. He is member of a working group for Internet proliferation and governance at the ministry of communications and information technology.

Follow him on twitter @osamamanzar

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