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Sherrell Dorsey headshot

Millionaire’s Social Mission Pushes Tech Geeks to Think Local, Hack Global


Technology has significantly impacted the way that we live our lives in the 21st century, making most traditional systems more efficient or distilling antiquated systems. The privilege of having access to a wealth of information at any given time has also made us a global society that is plugged in to other people’s problems. In this interconnected landscape, it is the tech geeks who are using their superior skills for good by posing as the new wave of activists challenging systems of injustice and oppression with something as small as a carefully designed smartphone app.

Take for instance tech millionaire Karl Mehta, who sold his online payment business Playsap to Visa back in 2011 for a hefty $240 million. In lieu of retirement and endless leisure on a private island, Mehta made better use of his time and his talent by launching Code for India — an initiative that partners with nonprofits and NGOs to help solve critical issues in India.

Housed in Mountain View and Bangalore, India, Code for India kicked off a 24-hour hackathon in early May that brought together more than 224 programmers to address a variety of challenges facing the country including financial literacy, girls’ education, voting and natural disaster management, among other things.

“Code for India is special because hundreds and hundreds of NGO’s in India, and instead of starting another NGO to try to focus on education, or healthcare, or crime, or women’s issues, we can cut across horizontally, and provide a technology backbone to dozens or even hundreds of NGOs that are already doing wonderful work,” Mehta told Business Insider.

Code for India, and other programs that have adopted the “code for” moniker and skills-based volunteering model, are increasingly providing new opportunities for those in the tech field to lend their talents to social solutions without having to give up their day jobs. Highly skilled and talented computer professionals are trading a stint in the Peace Corps for a laptop and air-conditioned offices without sacrificing their ability to contribute positively to the world around them.

Similar organizations that are brilliantly tapping into this growing talent pool of high-tech volunteers to assist nonprofits already doing good work in brainstorming ways to scale their businesses include Goodie Hack, Code for America and Random Hacks of Kindness, among others.

As is the case for Code for India, the hackathon was only the first phase of several projects that were sprung from the 24-hour ideation session. While there is no predicting what level of influence will spur from such initiatives, the partnering of tech talent, large companies and entrepreneurs to solve global issues will rest at the epicenter of innovation in the way we think about creating sustainable change.

Image courtesy of Menlo Ventures

Sherrell Dorsey headshotSherrell Dorsey

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

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