World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. With rapid ageing of the global population and the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, this number is set to increase. According to WHO, by 2030, at least two billion people worldwide will need some form of assistive technology.
Assistive technologies can go a long way in empowering persons with disabilities and enabling them to contribute to society. A good example is a humble eyeglass. Today, six in ten people use spectacles or contact lenses to counteract poor vision – a condition that used to be considered a serious disability up until a few hundred years ago.
In India, there are over 70 million persons living with some form of disability. However, due to low literacy levels, social stigma, and lack of opportunities, they remain one of the most excluded members of Indian society. As a result, a large number of children with disabilities stay out of school, disabled adults are likely to be unemployed, and families with a disabled member tend to be economically weaker. Coupled with a geriatric population of over 140 million people, a system that is under tremendous financial stress at both the household and national levels.
Despite this need, India lacks a vibrant market for disruptive assistive technology solutions that can support persons with disabilities. The assistive technology industry’s value chain is broken — distribution, sales, and service mechanisms are scarcely established, and in many cases, non-existent. Additionally, the disabled population is highly fragmented across the country and their access to assistive technologies is restricted due to a lack of formalised market channels or unaffordability of products.
To support entrepreneurs and technologies that help persons with disabilities lead an empowered life, Prosus launched the Social Impact Challenge for Accessibility (SICA) in partnership with Startup India and Social Alpha (Tata Trusts) in 2020.
SICA is a great example of how we invest deeply in the communities in which we operate. We look for ways to have a sustainable impact and reward the best entrepreneurs by helping them succeed.
Sehraj Singh, Managing Director and Head of Corporate Affairs India, Prosus