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Government departments may look to startups for innovative solutions for waste management and other social issues. (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Government departments may look to startups for innovative solutions for waste management and other social issues. (Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

Karnataka government to collaborate with startups to tackle social issues

  • There are plans to collaborate with startups in other states, to introduce some of the solutions in Karnataka
  • A new initiative seeks to build momentum in using digital technologies and startups to solve societal issues.

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government plans to collaborate with startups in Bengaluru and other cities to find innovative and effective solutions for malnutrition, disability, waste management and other issues affecting society.

Uma Mahadevan, Karnataka’s principal secretary, (Panchayat Raj), said startups can play a big role in coming up with better solutions for social issues such as malnutrition, menstrual hygiene for teenage girls, and disability.

In Panchayat Raj too, she said, "we have tremendous potential to use the energy and innovativeness of startups to improve rural governance, and we are looking at ways to take that further."

Mahadevan and her team plan to explore ways to leverage the IT sector to collaborate around an accounting platform built by National Informatics Centre and used by over 6,000 gram panchayats in Karnataka. “We are now thinking of developing this further and making it an end-to-end platform, which will not only help them in managing their double entry accounting system but also help in planning, works management and online payments. We plan to see if we can improve rural governance itself, in terms of their meetings, their meeting decisions, and making it available for those who need it, via the platform," she said.

The state's Women and Child Development (WCD) department had commissioned an integrated tech platform called Solution for Nutrition And Effective Health Access (SNEHA), built by not-for-profit research organisation CSTEP, to collate data on health, nutrition and other parameters for service delivery programs aimed at improving outcomes for mothers and children.

“We've been trying to see how we can take this platform and allow startups to leverage the platform, and build on top of it so it becomes one integrated platform for providing better health services to women and children, and track other aspects as well," said Nipun Mehrotra, a former corporate technology executive, who is spearheading the Social Innovation for India initiative.

The six-month old initiative seeks to build momentum in using digital technologies and India's startups ecosystem to solve societal issues. It is a collaborative effort, involving industry associations such as NASSCOM, TiE, global foundations, non-profit organisations, the government, social incubators, and startups.

"We will also help these companies understand how to build viable business models, allowing them to scale 10X and build a more inclusive India," Mehrotra added.

There are plans to collaborate with startups in other states, to introduce some of the solutions in Karnataka.

Udaipur-based Khushi Baby, for instance, has created a near field communication (NFC) technology-based system to store health-related data of mothers and children in India. It has created a necklace with a computer chip inside that stores the patient's medical history and the information is sent and received via a smartphone.

Ruchit Nagar, chief executive officer and co-founder of Khushi Baby, said his company was trying to improve the way maternal and child health in India is tracked. “There are 25 million pregnancies in India every year. Five lakh babies under the age of five die from vaccine-preventable diseases. 60,000 mothers are dying from pregnancy related deaths," he said.

This tracking is mostly done by the government, and they maintain paper-based records.

“States have slowly started to come up with digital solutions, but a lot of the field level data is not reliable. We have come up with a technology solution to address the accountability gap so we can better understand which mothers and children are falling through the cracks and we can ensure everybody has access to primary healthcare," he said. Governments in Mexico, France and Germany have implemented NFC-based health tracking, he added.

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