This is part of a series of YouthSpark profiles where we highlight young people in Asia who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.
Ask yourself a simple question – How many Presidents of India have I met to date?
Meet Harkesh Kataria: student, teacher, innovator and much more, who has met three. Not just met them, but been feted by 3 Presidents of India, from APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibaha Patil to Pranab Mukherjee.
Harkesh hails from a small village called Gharauli Khurd in rural Harayana where his father used to run a small business renting out tents and chairs for marriages and events. The family was business oriented with little emphasis on education. So it was a surprise when little Harkesh started tinkering around to make small but useful gadgets around the house. His first device was an electric crane that he fashioned out of scrap metal found around the village.
Since then Harkesh has designed many devices including a musical water fountain which can be operated through a mobile phone, an automatic clothes line that shades clothes in case of rain and a device to prevent wrongful use of train alarms (a common problem in rural India). Hearing him talk about capacitors, resistors and circuits, one often forgets the fact that Harkesh has had absolutely no formal training in engineering and technology. As he said, “Even I don’t know how I know these things. Some I learn by watching others. The rest I just know.”
Unfortunately, family circumstances have forced Harkesh to put aside his research and focus all energies on contributing to his family income. After completing his computer course at the local Community Technology Learning Center run by Microsoft India partner Aide et Action, he has now started a small teaching center of his own where he teaches rural children spoken English and other jobs oriented toward soft skills. He says that if he cannot do his research, then he would rather teach, because without education everything else is useless. He wants the children of his village to understand the importance of technology in today’s world. His dream is to eventually set up a free school that promotes science and research, where others like him can expand their knowledge and continue innovating till their heart’s content.
His father, though initially skeptical, has come around to appreciate Harkesh’s talents. “Sometimes we wonder if Harkesh hasn’t been born in the wrong family. Had he been born as a Tata or a Birla, his success, his achievements would have known no boundaries.”
But, for now, Harkesh is waiting to put together enough money to expand his training center to include computer education. He came to the Microsoft Innovate for Good event quite unsure about what to expect. But now he says that while the SPROUT training will definitely help him in streamlining his training center business, the friends he’s made and the discussions during the event have given him even more ideas to work on. He has already been granted patents for some of his inventions. He hopes that once his computer center is up and running he can return to his first love – invention and innovation.
We wish Harkesh all the very best in his future endeavors and adventures.
Microsoft Innovate for Good, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, is a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities.
For more information visit YouthSpark.
On 19 April, Microsoft partnered with the ASEAN Foundation and the Thailand Research Centre of Communications and Development Knowledge Management (CCDKM) to jointly launch a training programme aimed at enhancing the information and communication technology (ICT) skills of new business startups and young entrepreneurs in the Southeast Asia region.
Part of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative, the new ‘Enhancing ICT Skills of Small Medium Enterprises in ASEAN’ programme will provide aspiring entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 25 with improved access to technology to empower them to start their own business or create their own opportunities. A grant amounting to USD300,000 has been reserved to support the needs and provide training resources for the entrepreneurs taking part in this programme — with the ultimate goal of addressing unemployment rates among youth in Southeast Asia.
The pilot phase of the programme, which would span a period of 24 months, is expected to reach more than 20,000 people and close to 1,000 businesses in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
In Thailand, the training programme will be conducted by ASEAN Foundation and the CCDKM in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where the development and delivery of the curriculum is tailored to empower young entrepreneurs with technology skills to grow and sustain their ventures.
“Since its establishment in Thailand 20 years ago, Microsoft has been committed to developing and improving lives through technology. The implementation of this project allows us to take the next step in closing the opportunity gap by providing young people with the access, skills and opportunities to be successful entrepreneurs,” said Siriporn Pajharawat, Developer and Platform Strategy Director of Microsoft Thailand.
The young entrepreneurs that display the most potential, as nominated by the CCDKM, will be selected for an e-Business Incubation Programme, through which they will receive further mentorship and assistance. The top-performing entrepreneurs also have the chance to showcase their projects in Indonesia at the end of the programme.
Ajie Akhmad Wahidin, Senior Programme Officer of the ASEAN Foundation, said, “We recognise the significance of technology and ICT skills to addressing unemployment rates among young people in the region. Through this partnership with Microsoft and CCDKM, the ASEAN Foundation will be able to extend the reach of the programme and provide young entrepreneurs across the region with the basic skills training they need.”
“This project allows us to provide young people with the access, skills and opportunities to be successful entrepreneurs.”
Siriporn Pajharawat, Developer and Platform Strategy Director, Microsoft Thailand
Microsoft has broadened their partnership with TechSoup to facilitate software donation for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), extending the TechSoup Asia partner network to Indonesia and Vietnam. Nonprofits in these two countries can now gain easier access to Microsoft products and other technology that will help them build their information technology (IT) infrastructure and enhance their ability to achieve their mission.
Under the software donation scheme, qualified NGOs are able to acquire a wide range of donated and discounted technology products at a nominal administrative fee, which is only a small percentage of the estimated retail price. NGOs will also receive specific guidance for choosing, implementing and utilising the Microsoft product donations.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Microsoft to launch TechSoup Asia in Indonesia and Vietnam. With this launch, we will be bringing to life a nonprofit collaborative venture that will deliver technology and other capacity-building donations to the NGO and charity sector in these two countries in a more streamlined way than ever before — providing NGOs with the necessary resources to address social challenges,” said Mike Yeaton, Vice President of TechSoup Asia.
The Indonesia launch took place on 15 May at NGO Connection Day 2013, co-organised by Microsoft Indonesia and the ASEAN Foundation in Jakarta. As a strategic partner, Microsoft will be supporting TechSoup Asia in delivering services and programmes that contribute to social and economic developments in Indonesia.
Andreas Diantoro, President Director of Microsoft Indonesia, said, “We are very excited to see the launch of TechSoup Asia in Indonesia. Since 2000, Microsoft has donated $6 million worth of software to more than 150 NGOs in the country. The partnership with TechSoup will enable us to help many more, and the TechSoup Asia launch is designed to make the programme more relevant and accessible to a larger number of nonprofits.”
The TechSoup Asia programme was also the highlight at the second NGO Connection Day in Vietnam, held in Hanoi on 29 May. More than 100 NGO representatives attended the event to discuss the use of technology and Microsoft’s role in providing NGOs with improved access to technology resources.
“The challenges faced by NGOs in Vietnam are similar to others around the world. While this sector in Vietnam is still nascent and requires a lot of support from the public and private sectors, the NGOs here are being asked to improve productivity but reducing their costs. Our technology support helps them deliver more efficient services to the communities they serve. Through this support, Microsoft aims to make a positive contribution and improve the lives in the communities in which we work,” said Clair Deevy, Citizenship Lead of Microsoft Asia Pacific, during the event.
For more information, please visit www.techsoup.asia
Team Firebirds, made up of four students from the Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), is this year’s winner in the Imagine Cup Sri Lanka Finals with the development of an application that helps blind and visually impaired people conduct their daily activities with greater ease.
A total of 14 student teams were selected to compete in this year’s Sri Lanka Finals, held on 10 April at the University of Colombo, School of Computing.
Named ‘I-Chum’, the winning project is a mobile app equipped with the latest motion sensors and sonars — sound navigation devices — that enable visually impaired people to detect the presence of physical objects for easier navigation of their surroundings. For example, the app allows the user to know or sense the proximity of a bench. The ultimate aim of the project is to equip visually impaired people with the means to interact with their physical environment without compromising their personal safety.
In creating their winning app, the four IIT students focused their efforts on addressing the lack of technologies that are specifically developed to improve the lifestyle of people suffering from visual impairment. The students visited the School for Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana to conduct initial research, and they were greatly encouraged by how well the application was received.
More than 8,000 Sri Lankan students have participated in the annual competition since the Imagine Cup was first launched in the country in 2005. This year, more than 700 students from both public and private universities took part in the competition, and Microsoft provided these students with free access to the latest tools and technologies to make a positive contribution.
Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka, said, “The Imagine Cup competition provides the platform for young University students in Sri Lanka to leverage the power of technology to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. By competing against other teams, these young people also gain firsthand experience in interacting with other student innovators. This year’s winning project by Team Firebirds is a great example of how the Imagine Cup competition can help students bring their inventive ideas to fruition.”
Following their victory, Team Firebirds will be representing Sri Lanka in the Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals, which will take place in July in Russia.
For more information, please visit www.imaginecup.com
“This year’s winning project by Team Firebirds is a great example of how the Imagine Cup competition can help students bring their ideas to fruition.”
- Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka
TechSoup Asia announced its highly anticipated expansion into Indonesia through a partnership with PT Microsoft Indonesia. TechSoup Asia is part of the TechSoup Global Network, which partners with corporate donors to provide technology product donations to NGOs and nonprofit organizations in over 50 countries. Qualified charitable organizations have access to a wide range of donated and discounted technology products, including operating system software, productivity software such as Microsoft Office, publishing software and server products.
The launch was announced in Jakarta at the NGO Connection Day 2013, co-organized by Microsoft Indonesia and the ASEAN Foundation. This year’s theme was “Utilizing Technology for Improving Social and Economic Development.” In the era of globalization, technology is required to assist communities to better improve their well-being. This event provides a platform through which nonprofit organizations (NGOs) share and learn from one another about the latest in technology and innovation.
With the launch of TechSoup Asia, NGOs in Indonesia now have access to Microsoft products and other technology donations that will help build their IT infrastructure and enhance their ability to achieve their missions.
“We are really excited to be partnering with Microsoft to launch TechSoup Asia in Indonesia. We will be bringing to life a nonprofit collaborative venture that will deliver technology and other capacity-building donations to the NGO and charity sector in Indonesia in a more streamlined way than ever before,” said Mike Yeaton, Vice President of TechSoup Asia.
“It’s not just about the donations though, TechSoup Asia will also provide online resources to support effective use of everything from routers and social media to face-to-face collaboration around using technology to address social challenges. We look forward to this partnership with Microsoft and serving the needs of NGOs in Indonesia,” added Yeaton.
Andreas Diantoro, President Director of Microsoft Indonesia, said that Microsoft is focused on capacity building for the nonprofit sector as part of the company’s Corporate Citizenship work, and TechSoup Asia is a strategic partner in delivering that programme around the world. The nonprofit sector is contributing to social and economic development in Indonesia, delivering crucial social services and programmes essential to improving the lives and livelihoods of Indonesians.
“In 2012, Microsoft donated over US$800 million worth of software globally to over 60,000 nonprofits. In Indonesia alone, $6 million worth of software has been donated since 2000 to more than 150 NGOs. We want to help many more, and the partnership with TechSoup is designed to make the programme more relevant and accessible to a larger number of nonprofits, which will in turn have a positive impact in the local community. We are very excited to see the launch of TechSoup Asia in Indonesia,” said Andreas.
NGOs will invest an administrative fee to cover the costs of the programme, which is a small percentage of the estimated retail price. The fee is charged by TechSoup Asia as part of their social enterprise model to remain sustainable; it is not a fee charged by or returned to Microsoft. NGOs will have direct access to a wide array of technology planning resources through TechSoup Asia that provides specific guidance for best choosing, implementing and using the Microsoft product donations.
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