Interview: Jerry Rao, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation, IndiaInterview: Jerry Rao, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation, India

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Jerry Rao talks about how NASSCOM Foundation promotes linkages between NGOs and the IT industry and the role both can play in the nation’s development

What are the main aims of the NASSCOM Foundation?

The NASSCOM Foundation, focuses on two key areas. One, how do the NASSCOM members themselves benefit from the foundation, and two, how do we impact the society at large outside our foundation. In this perspective, I could say that we have two main motives. The first, is a very selfish one where we look at our members’ benefits, looking at ways to increase the usage of computers etc, and the other, is a broader aspect which is to be there at the forefront and play an extremely important role that translates to enhancing lives of the less-privileged people. Ultimately, by expanding the eco-system of IT in India.

Already our reach is exceeding beyond our grasp. The digital divide is an issue. But I think it is only a sub-theme. The main issue is  – can we  impact the lives of our citizens the way its happening in other parts of the world? That is the main issue here and that is what we are ultimately looking at.

What is the change that NASSCOM is looking at?

India is a developing country, but we are going up the ladder. We see the opportunities expanding, the average spending increasing and India essentially getting richer. There is that change that India is headed towards and NASSCOM will be ready by then. 

What’s the role of NASSCOM members in the aspect of CSR?

We are mainly engaged in the linkage programme. Linkages between NGOs that are doing great work and the organisations that  can invest in the goal of development. A small state in the USA spends more than a couple of Indian states put together. Today, the same trend is being witnessed in India where the IT  sector is spending more on development to ensure that awareness increases, and that’s how I hope to see it expanding.

How are the participants of the ‘NASSCOM Foundation’s National Consultation 2008′ linked to your organisation?

The participants were telecentre practitioners from different states of India. They were here to discuss and find solutions to various problems. And the main problem is of infrastructure, which includes power supply, bandwidth, connectivity etc.  Technology is not the solution to all problems. Basic issues need to be resolved first. I think that ICTs can help when you  have reached a certain level of development. This is just a platform for people with similar issues and concerns to come together and discuss.

In India, do you see yourself playing a larger role? Do you see India as a potential resource?

Yes. Certainly. All the statistics of our work done in member countries have proved what we aimed to achieve and India is certainly a resource that holds immense potential.

As you said, a state in the USA spends more than many states put together in India. Could you elaborate on that in the light of ICTs?

Yes. People have to realise that using ICTs creates a lot of advantages. For instance, it helps in improving citizen’s lives, policing, taxation, healthcare etc. That realisation is very important. Its an increase in the use of ICTs that sees the change. The Supreme Court of India has used IT in a major way, the Election Commission is doing an excellent job of it too. Its one of the best in the world where you have access to it (ICT tools) without electricity in the remotest of areas. Different Government agencies are slowly realising it’s potential and hence I expect a lot of growth in a big way.

What is the situation like in the face of the ongoing economic recession?

We are having a lot of discussions with the Central and State Governments. So, you could see in the next level an explosion in the usage of IT. As long as good business and service is there, its alright. Since, that’s what matters.

What’s the thought behind the creation of NASSCOM Foundation? What’s the big picture 5 years from now?

We have three audiences, that we cater to. First, the NASSCOM members themselves. They have to learn how to monitor, which are the NGOs to be selected, which are the ones that need help in volunteering etc.

The second audience is the NGO. We aim to help them by making them connect with us and to enable them to use their ICT skills. And our third audience is the Government, where we demonstrate the fact to the Government that NASSCOM Foundation is going to be a major catalyst for the overall development of the nation.

At present what else is in the focus area of NASSCOM?

We have set up a portal and have knowledge centers in several areas. Along with this we are also providing training to the NGOs. Thus, if you look at it at a broader sense, we are into a variety of service areas, working with different types of institutions, with the same underlying theme but with different outcomes.

Do you see a gap or a vacuum in India’s voluntary service sector?

No. Not at all. In fact, I think that India has a vigorous voluntary service sector. The problem of our country is poverty. We have to acknowledge that. Our country is poor and, honestly, computer education can’t help in solving the basic issue of malnutrition. The basic infrastructure is poor. But having said that, I see the voluntary sector is quite active and doing a good job.

NASSCOM assesses Indian BPO workforce

NASSCOM, the chamber of commerce and the ‘voice’ of the Indian IT software and services industry launched the pilot of its NASSCOM Assessment of Competence (NAC) programme in August 2007. The programme is aimed at the potential employees of the booming BPO industry and is an industry standard assessment and certification programme that aims to ensure the transformation of a ‘trainable’ workforce into an ’employable workforce’. The programme tests the aptitude of a candidate on different skill sets and includes listening and keyboard skills, verbal ability, spoken English, comprehension and writing ability, office software usage, numerical and analytical skills and concentration and accuracy.

With the participation of Hewitt Associates, around 22 key ITES-BPO companies, state governments, educational institutions and 6,000 graduates, the pilot was run in 3 cities (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore) which  started on August 20, 2005. After the successful implementation of the Pilot, NAC is currently being rolled out in partnership with multiple states in India.

The National roll-out of NAC started from the state of Rajasthan and the first administration under NAC which took place in Jaipur and Ajmer on 18th November 2006 saw over 2,500 candidates being tested on that day. A job fair was organised at Jaipur between 31st March – 1st April 2007 for the candidates who took the NAC test. Eleven of the top ITES-BPO companies participated in the job fair and some of the candidates also got on-the-spot offers by these companies.

The Government of Mizoram also conducted the NAC test in November 2007. The Government of Gujarat organised the second round of NAC on 28th December 2008 at Ahmedabad, Baroda, Adipur and Gandhidham. Similarly, the Government of Orissa is also scheduling its first NAC test on 10-11 January 2009 which will be conducted simultaneously in Bhubaneshwar, Rourkela, Balasore, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Koraput. Over the period of one year, NAC is expected to spread to 25-30 Indian cities.

More information about the NAC is available at

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