Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged techies from across the country to use emerging and advanced technologies to provide affordable and sustainable solutions in all walks of life.
From conservation of natural resources to keeping the country spick and span, the technology backbone had to be strong enough to meet the vision carved out by Mahatma Gandhi, he said at a town-hall meet held in New Delhi with techies from Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities joining the programme via video conferencing.
PM’s interaction with IT professionals on Self4Society began with opening remarks by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and the launch of the portal that seeks to emphasise the shift from ‘I’ to ‘We.’ The new portal ‘self4society.mygov.in’ – named as ‘Main Nahi Hum’ – will be a platform for companies to contribute their technology, skills and HR resources towards various social causes, including financial literacy, financial inclusion, small business enablement, and Swachh Bharat.
Interspersed with questions from business honchos such as Sudha Murthy and Anand Mahindra and volunteers, the more than two-hour session gave an overview of the collaborative approach that the current government is keen to project with industry participation in improving the quality of life for the citizens.
Modi cited examples to motivate people to get into mission mode, when it comes to volunteering and social enterprise. With India Inc mandated on the CSR front, the PM sought to highlight the need to use the technology tentacles in a way that would make a total transformation, a reality.
The symbol of the Swachh Bharat Mission is the spectacles of Mahatma Gandhi, who is the inspiration for a clean India. “We are fulfilling Bapu’s vision,” he said. In 2019, to mark Gandhi’s 150th anniversary, the country should be free of open defecation. That goal can be achieved only if the technology engineering is done to provide low-cost and affordable solutions. Be it animated messaging to take up clean campaigns or using technology to monitor the efficacy of programmes, the focus must be on taking the lead to build socially relevant start-ups.
He wanted citizens to not just pay their taxes honestly but do their bit for social transformation. “I appreciate honest tax payers whose numbers have increased. But tax that is paid is part of the system. Social service is tax-plus something. We need to create that,” Modi said, noting that the taxpayer base in India had risen not due to threat of penal action but because taxpayers have faith that their money is being used properly and for the welfare of people. “Paying tax is ‘prakriti’ (natural), not paying tax is ‘vikriti’ (deformity). But paying tax plus doing more is ‘sanskriti’ (culture)….On many occasions, what sarkar (government) can’t do, sanskar (culture) can do. Let us make cleanliness a part of our value systems,” he said as he asked citizens and the tech community to think how they can add value to society through social efforts.
“In our country, the general image is to abuse businessmen, industrialists. I don’t know why it is so but it has become a fashion. This is not a line of thought I agree with,” Modi said, addressing 2000-plus IT professionals and tech honchos at the town-hall, where he urged tech companies to contribute their expertise and manpower to bring social change. “We have seen today, in this townhall programme, how leading IT corporates are doing excellent social work, urging their employees to contribute to the society,” he added.
With the recent spike in international oil prices creating a mini-panic on retail fuel prices in the country, Modi said moving to electric vehicles is an answer and wanted domestic social entrepreneurs to develop a low-cost model that is supported by affordable and easily chargeable battery.
The future, he said, lies in technology, which will empower India. “We are living in an era of start-ups,” he said. “Today, the world wants India to lead.” But saving natural resources is a responsibility, he said.