Technology giant Microsoft India and the social arm of National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM Foundation) have launched ‘Innovate for Accessible India,’ a campaign to promote the use of technology to empower people with disabilities.
Some 2.68 crore people in India, or 2.2% of the total population, suffer from some form of disability.
The new programme is looking for solutions developed using Microsoft cloud, artificial intelligence and other technologies that address gaps faced by people with disabilities.
Innovate for Accessible India has now invited applications from students, citizens and social impact organisations to build these solutions.
The key areas of focus that developers are encouraged to address include mobility, e-governance and access, education, skilling and livelihood and health.
The applications will be screened and the top 10 ideas will be selected as the winning innovations. After a six-month screening process, finalists will be provided support for another six months to roll out their solutions in the market.
The winning innovations stand to win a grant of Rs 10 lakhs each in the established projects category (pilot testing with a group of more than 25 beneficiaries) and a grant of Rs 5 lakhs each in the early stage category (working prototype tested by less than 25 people).
“We may soon be able to replace braille dots with electrostatic charges allowing the visually impaired to use touch screen smartphones; facial recognition software coupled with home assistants may now help reveal who else is in the room; sounds and vibrations may be used to tell if there is danger ahead and with the Internet of Things (IoT), the objects may soon be able to describe themselves,” Ashok Pamidi, CEO of NASSCOM Foundation said.
The Redmond, Washington based technology giant launched AI for Accessibility in 2018, pledging $25 million over a five-year period. Its talking camera app Seeing AI, for example, can help visually impaired users read banknotes.
The new programme is launched in partnership with the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (DEPwD), ministry of social justice and empowerment, department of science and technology (DST), ministry of science and technology and ERNET (National Research and Education Network under MeitY), Microsoft said in a statement.