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Tsunami: How IT firms made a difference

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December 05, 2005 13:13 IST
It has been nearly a year since the tsunami devastation hit India's southern shores. No one knows exactly how many people died. The official figures stands at around 16,000 in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The devastation caused also was beyond any reasonable estimation because of the sheer magnitude of the tragedy.

However, the greatest tragedy in recent times received great response of human solidarity and humanitarian assistance. People across the globe came together along with international agencies to provide food, shelter and medicine.

Efforts to provide housing, livelihood support, education and socio-psychological support to the affected still continue.

Impact on IT sector

Did the tsunami affect the IT industry in India?

After a scrutiny of local Indian firms, American firms with Indian operations, and other IT/BPO offshore providers over the impact of tsunami, India's apex IT body, Nasscom (the National Association of Software and Service Companies) said that the tragedy did not have any financial impact on the IT industry.

The only major IT/BPO centre to bear the brunt of the tsunami fury was Chennai, but IT operations were not affected.

So how has India's IT industry responded to one of the deadliest disasters in modern history?

In the last 11 months, several information technology companies and IT professionals across the country -- especially those based in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad -- embarked on a unique relief and rehabilitation initiative to help the tsunami victims.

Exact data of which company did what kind of tsunami rehabilitation work is not available. But here is a checklist of what Nasscom, in collaboration with several IT firms, did for the tsunami victims and also the tsunami action plan of major IT companies.

Nasscom's role

  • The biggest tsunami rehabilitation initiative from the IT industry was taken up by Nasscom, especially in the worst affected state, Tamil Nadu.
  • Nasscom Foundation joined hands with the Chennai-based M S Swaminathan Research Foundation to build rural knowledge centres in some of the affected areas.
  • These Nasscom centres, known as Village Knowledge Centres, are being built in three districts and 30 villages across Tamil Nadu.
  • VKCs are multipurpose resource centres and single window service delivery mechanisms for training and capacity building, knowledge and information systems, linked to life skill education, livelihood, e-learning, community-based disaster preparedness activities targetting women, children and young people.
  • Nasscom is promoting VKCs as resource centres for communities and service outreach centres for local government and Panchayati Raj bodies. VKCs are to expected to cover a population of 85,000 in Tamil Nadu.
  • Nasscom launched a fund-raising programme through its member companies and a corpus was established from donations made by member companies and Nasscom to support ICT-based intervention in tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu.
  • According to a Nasscom spokesperson, the organisation is now implementing an integrated programme approach, linking ecological restoration, livelihoods and community initiatives with emphasis on training and life skill capacity building for the tsunami victims.

  • Nasscom's partners in tsunami rehabilitation: Hewlett Packard, Tamil Nadu government, UNDP, UNICEF and XANSA.

Twenty-four IT companies have participated in Nasscom's tsunami rehabilitation programme.

What Infosys did

  • Infosys Foundation, the social services division of software giant Infosys Technologies, says it embarked on one of the biggest relief/rehabilitation operations in the aftermath of the tsunami.
  • Infosys contributed Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.
  • The company collected an undisclosed amount from employees across its various global offices to make monetary and material contributions towards aid operations.
  • Initially, the Infosys Foundation distributed food, utensils and clothes to the victims. But after assessing the needs of those affected, a survival kit was put together, which included essential supplies and medicines. More than 1,500 kits were distributed in six villages of Tamil Nadu.
  • Infosys Foundation works in the villages of Tamil Nadu and the Andamans these days, providing shelter to the thousands of homeless people.

Wipro's relief measures

  • Wipro Technologies in collaboration with the Birla Institute of Science & Technology, Pilani is carrying out a Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) integrated development project in tsunami-hit villages.
  • It is being implemented through rehabilitation schemes such as building houses, schools and health clinics, supplying boats and fishing nets to fishermen and training village folk in disaster management and sanitation.
  • They have planted 174,422 saplings along the southern Indian coast in Tamil Nadu in memory of tsunami victims.

Role of Tata Consultancy Services

  • Every week, 10 TCS employees volunteer to help at the TCS tsunami base camp at Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu.
  • Maitree, a support group formed and led by spouses of TCS employees around the world, is involved in collecting relief materials from within TCS and coordinating with the base camp, besides support in counselling services and teaching in balwadis (kindergartens).
  • Over 23,500 TCS employees have pledged a part of their salary in support of the effort.
George Iype