ICA Raises $60K for India Development Projects Several of ICA’s projects become economically self-sustaining, or find a steady source of income after just a few years of financial support from the organization,Abhay Bhushan, chair of ICA’s fundraising committee, told India-West. The evening also featured a “social innovation” panel discussion, highlighting four young social entrepreneurs developing
products and services for the Indian market. ICA, founded by a group of UC Berkeley students in 1965, supports community development projects in India, aimed at empowering low-income people.
“ICA is very good at incubating ideas, and very good at connecting people to serve the underprivileged of India,” Bhupen Mehta, president of ICA, told India-West after the banquet. At the evening gala, Bedi, who along with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah received the 2010 ICA Social Entrepreneur Award, spoke of the need to scale up India’s education budget to nine percent of its GDP, and simultaneously
create several thousand community colleges to provide vocational training to India’s youth. “India needs 450 million jobs,” asserted Bedi, adding that the government, India’s largest employer, could only employ 11 million. She spoke of creating a nation of entrepreneurs, who could create jobs rather than simply seeking employment. Bedi has founded two NGOs, including India Vision and the Navjyoti Foundation, which supports her community college scheme, among other projects. In 1994, Bedi received the Ramon Magsayay Award for her work in reforming Indian prisons and treating drug-addicted prisoners. Shah, the highest-ranking Indian American in the Obama administration, sent a video message, which was played before his father, Janardhan Shah, accepted the award on his son’s behalf.
Rajiv Shah spoke of the role of innovative technology in bettering the lives of poor people throughout the world. He highlighted Ushahidi, which allows people to gather data via text, e-mail or the Web, and aggregate that information from the public for use in crisis response. Ushahidi was used extensively during the massive Haiti earthquake, allowing rescuers to contact survivors trapped under the rubble, via their mobile phones. Shah was confirmed three weeks before a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti Jan. 12, killing more than 230,000 people, and became the U.S. point person for the disaster.
The social innovation panel highlighted the work of PlanetRead, founded by Brij Kothari, which uses “same language subtitling” to improve literacy rates; Neil Patel, who – with panel moderator Tapan Parikh – founded Avaaj Otalo, which helps farmers get answers to agricultural questions, via their mobile phones; Selvam Velmurugan, founder of Kiirti, which provides real-time traffic information for Bangalore, along with election fraud and corruption information; and Balchander Vishwanath, who created United Prosperity, which allows online users to guarantee bank loans to India’s poor. A bank will typically offer twice the loan amount once it is guaranteed by United Prosperity, said Vishwanath, noting that loan amounts are small, with interest rates of up to 35 percent. Three hundred million Indians are “weak” readers, said Kothari, who uses subtitles for the lyrics to popular Bollywood songs on television to dramatically improve literacy rates. Kothari and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad, tested the idea on 13,000 weak readers in four states, and found improved literacy rates within one year. The dance troupe Taala rounded out the evening, with a classically- based contemporary dance medley. Dancers dressed in the white and gold sarees typical to Kerala, showcased the eight aspects of Lakshmi, bearing tiny, lit diyas in their hands. Local favorite
Jeff Whittier gave a bansuri recital during the dinner service.
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