In a world with over 6 billion mobiles in a population of 7 billion, 4 billion people across the globe remain unreached. Communication at best can be an enabler and cannot be a provider. Unreached has traditionally been treated outside the government and the business domains and specialized non-state organizations treat this sector as their core domain and also their competency. Beyond the realm of varieties of NGO’s, we have organizations which are considered as charitable and religious institutions. The sum total of all these, is to provide succor to teeming billions below the human existential levels.
Unreached though has been understood as an economic concept, it is comprehensive in nature, directly related to the lack of fulfillment of nationally/globally accepted parameters of human existence. The unreached can be divided on various parameters, most critical of which being economic and social, political and geographic and based on health and education. There is also a sector which remains unreached because of gender and age, as in the case of women and children. And above and beyond all unreached because of attitude, can be of any number of varieties but the best exemplified would be apartheid and the Indian caste system, which continues to play havoc to the modern Indian society as well.
The paramount question is why we need to reach them today, they have been on the periphery of human existence since ages. The concept of a Welfare State is totally different from all other political and administrative mechanisms which have existed in the history of mankind. Welfare State aims at social, economic and political equity. The NGOs got created to fill the void in the governmental depth of functioning and effectiveness in this sector and have tended to specialize during their process of gaining maturity. As the concept of business went beyond business, there emerged the concept and necessity of Corporate Social Responsibility, which slowly has got legally mandated. Seeing this trend, large number of organizations, religious and otherwise are jumping on to the social bandwagon in a big way.
The Social Service Sector
The govt. is the biggest social service organisation in this country, which is permanent in nature and is guided by the constitution. As per Economic Survey 2010-11, the total funding to social services between the centre and the states was about 25% of all our budgetary allocation, on education, health and other related sectors. That figure is Rs 5,22,492 crore for 2010-11. To express it internationally, this translates to $115 billion or $100 per person per year. Education accounts for 45% of this allocation and the share of the health sector is 19%. This huge funding can be utilized more efficiently with a much better impact on the target group, if all stakeholders opine for structural and procedural changes. This is a criti-cal issue as not only the quantum of funding is very huge, so is its growth rate. The figures quoted have doubled in the four years preceding that financial year referred to!
Non Governmental Organizations
Professor Akira Iriye defines NGO as “a voluntary non-state, non-profit, non-religious, and non-military association.” One of the earliest mentions of the acronym “NGO” was in 1945, when the UN was created. These ac-tivities might include human rights, environmental or development work. The number of NGOs operating in the United States is estimated at 40,000, Russia has 2,77,000 NGOs, India is estimated to have around 3.3 million NGOs in the year 2009, which is just over one NGO per 400 Indians. The best represented sub-sectors overall were Development, followed by Health, Education, Children & Youth, Environment and Peace-building. In the multilateral context alone, the number of UN-accredited NGOs had ris-en from 40 in 1945 to 3,536 by the end of 2011.
Governmental funding for NGOs from my point of view is a debatable is-sue, the basic differentiation between and State and Non-State sectors gets completely lost, this differentiation has been at the genesis of these organizations. Recent years are replete with instances of outright misuse of government funds, audit reports to prove the same and efforts to keep out large portion of this funding outside the audit process. I have also con-tended that Audit should be a monopoly State function, wherever public money is put to use, in an article recently written on that subject.
Though UNO is not a NGO and plays multifarious roles in world’s polity, society and economy and also set standards for lot many world issues and documents and monitors world major issues in every sphere of life. Nonetheless, it has been playing a major role in reaching to the unreached across the globe very effectively and help build capacity in such areas and sectors for sustainable growth and poverty alleviation and empowerment of such sector through its agencies, UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, WFO, FAO, worldwide. Its global peacekeeping operations provides for the security in war torn areas before, even the work can be initiated in the social sector. It sets the stage to reach the unreached in a meaningful manner.
Corporate Social Responsibility
“Corporate Social Responsibility” refers to all activities undertaken by the corporate entity to subserve common good, to serve the society which is its customer or provides for the ecosystem which sustains it or both. Legality has crept in CSR over the years. CSR, the acronym by which it is generally known, came into vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and international norms. The concept of stakeholder has slowly been growing and today this all comprehensive concept has become a part of the business model and a stage further the DNA of the Corporations – Indians or MNCs. It encourages a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities and stakeholders. A more common approach to CSR is corporate philanthropy.
Business beyond CSR, the Rural Poor!
Around 60% of India’s GDP is generated in rural areas. The critical barrier is not the purchasing power but the distribution access. New information technology and communications are breaking the barriers in a manner our generation had not imagined. Clearly, the poor communities are ready to adopt new technologies and in return the technologies should improve their economic opportunities and their quality of life. This is the trade off they are looking for.
The choice is between Microfinance and Moneylender. The issue revolves around the thriving informal economies and MNCs working on acceptable return on investment for goods and services. This model outbeats the goods and services in quality and is an excellent sustainable business model. The experience of NGOs, entrepreneurial start ups and few MNCs are a proof of concept for this model. Business can gain three advantages by serving the poor namely:
• A new source of revenue growth
• Greater efficiency
• Access to Innovation
Consortia is being suggested to leverage the inadequacies of the purchasing power and the market mechanism. Imagine sharing the cost of a build-ing for a rural network with the communications company that would operate it, a consumer goods company seeking channels to expand its sales and a bank that would be financing the construction and wants to give loans to and collect deposits from rural customers.
The tall claims of organizations of every type, its leaders and of nations of bringing in a world order, based on equity is still miles and miles away from reality. Milestones have been achieved undeniably but what is disturbing is the nature and cost of the progress towards this goal. The cost benefit analysis portrays a very bleak picture as well. It’s never too late, for all stakeholders: Governments, NGOs, Charitable Organizations to re-write and execute their strategies to bring transformational change for the positive, in the lives of the unreached.