SEDS, the Social Education and Development Society, was founded in 1980 by Rajen Joshua and Manil Jayasena as a grassroots development NGO, motivated by the desire to help the poorest of the poor in the drought-prone area of Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh. In the early days, the main focus of the work was on community development by way of non-formal education and small loans to skilled target communities like cobblers, basket weavers, blanket weavers and others.

As Anantapur is the second most drought prone area in India and much of its natural resources are depleted, it soon became clear that environmental problems would have to be tackled first, if peoples’ livelihoods were to be made sustainable. Starting in 10 villages near the small town of Penukonda a scheme of pioneering work was developed which aimed to empower local communities and improve their environment. Initially small nurseries were started for homestead plantations and planting of avenue trees along village roads. Re-a-forestation and more sustainable agricultural practices were introduced. From 1990, SEDS started using a more participatory approach, through the formation of Community Based Organizations. Involving the communities more in the effort made them actual stakeholders in the development process of the region. Throughout the years the scope and area of the work increased and the fruits of the sustained efforts became visible in the greener environment and the enthusiasm of the communities.

Today, SEDS is working through an integrated rural development approach with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, watersheds, re-a-forestation and natural resource management. This is within five Mandals in the southern part of Anantapur District, in south western Andhra Pradesh namely, Penukonda, Roddam, Gorantla, Somandepalli and Chilamathur. In these 5 mandals SEDS currently supports 125 villages, being some 12000 women and their families, 980 Self Help Groups (SHGs), 120 Village Organisations (VOs) & 5 Mandal Samakyas (MMSs) .

Through its sustained efforts SEDS has made a significant impact on the lives of the people in the area and the local environment. The SEDS slogan “Towards a greener tomorrow” has become a reality.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SEDS in the news.

Dataquest has done a cover story on UID's. As a part of a larger story they have covered Wolf & SED's and their role in Anantpur's UID Journey.

Please click on the picture to enlarge.

SEDS in the news: UIDs Go The SaaS Way In AP Villages

By: Abhishek Raval | May 12, 2010

"All the people in this room have access to everything they want, but there are a large number of people who don't have access to basic services like an ID, birth certificate, something as basic as an address and there are 75 million homeless people in this country. They are not able to get basic public services like opening a bank account, a mobile connection and a ration card." This was Nandan Nilekani, Chairman – UIDAI, speaking at this year's NASSCOM conference on the challenges faced due to the lack of proper identity.

Despite such a situation, there are certain institutions already working towards resolving these issues for people at the bottom of the pyramid, who are deprived of the aforesaid services. Technology is an indispensable component of their service delivery model. One such institution is the Social Education and Development Society (SEDS) in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh. The society under its flagship Census Information Management (CIM) programme, is providing unique identities in about 150 villages, via the SaaS model provided by Wolf Frameworks. Through this model, it is managing the information of about 40,000 people with a data size of about 800 mb.

Reasons for building this system include managing villager profiles and measuring the effectiveness of SED programmes. The system covers the chain, right from the donor, SEDS’ business, right up to the beneficiary whose profile is being managed.

SEDS is running its women empowerment programme as well, which tracks the progress of various initiatives taken under it, using SaaS. This in turn passes on the loan request to the potential donor who further takes a call after going through the villager profile.

Why SaaS?

"When working with dynamic data such as population and resources, our needs for capturing, analysing and disseminating this data were not being met with any of the current technology offerings. With SaaS, I foresaw a technology that could bridge this widening gap," said Manil Joshua, CEO - SEDS.Due to the widespread nature of the operations and lack of skilled IT staff, there was no structure to the data gathering in the past. The field staff utilised a mix of spreadsheets, databases and even paper records for capturing this data, which was then brought back to the central office for consolidation.

After the data collection, the staff used manual methods for data analysis, which was both time consuming and highly error prone. Reports and statistics were then snail-mailed or emailed to donors and other interested parties sitting in different parts of the globe.

Moving To SaaS

"All you need is a browser and internet connection," said Sunny Ghosh, CEO - Wolf Frameworks.
SED uses the system in two of its centres in Penukonda, a small town in the Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The system has been kept simple with only the essential features so that it does not become too heavy to run the application at 113 - 140 Kbps internet speed.

'Census Information Management Solution' (CIMS), is a customised web Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that captures SED data and a specific program processes uniquely and generates analytical reports. CIMS allows SEDS to collect and relate consolidated data into a central repository and automates the process of data analysis, presenting reports and charts on different metrics at the click of a button. It also generates a Unique Identification Number, which helps locate and track individual data. The application imports previous data records of the last 5 years, maintained in Microsoft Access databases and spreadsheets and was built keeping in mind the future growth of SEDS and its operations.

The total cost of the application, including the services to get it up and running was 2 lakhs. The cost also includes monthly payments of the user base.

Security Concerns Mitigated

SaaS has its own concerns on security. The CIMS system has a 128 bit encryption. On the technology side, the data is replicated at multiple databases at the back end.

"There is always a concern on the data being not close to the parent organisation," said Ghosh. In the area of security, Wolf replicates the data with an automated back-up without human intervention, taking place in an automated encrypted fashion. It is backed up in two large cloud centres - one in India and the other in the US. "We also have no clue about what data is sitting in which part of the world," said Ghosh.

In the case of the platform, data can be extracted and downloaded from the back-end. It can be kept in CDs, disk drives, private servers etc. That is a crucial part of our system that keeps our clients rest assured about their data. Wolf also has control over the copy of the data with it.

Looking Beyond

SEDS is very ambitious in its plans and is not willing to restrict itself only to 150 villages. As part of this endeavour, it is looking providing unique identities to more villages in Andhra Pradesh.