Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, has provided Rs 54 million (US $800,000) worth of grant funding to three Indian non-profit organizations for disabled people: The Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust, the Leprosy Mission Trust India, and the Public Health Foundation India. The first two organizations will use their grant money to develop 3D printing and scanning technology. The announcement was made at TechShare India, a conference on accessibility and inclusion which took place in New Delhi.
The large grants from Google’s philanthropic arm were delivered with the express purpose of helping disabled people by improving the technological capacities of the three recipient nonprofits. The grants are part of the Google Impact Challenge for disabilities, a global initiative investing $20 million in nonprofit organizations to empower disabled people through technology. NGOs from across the world were invited to participate by proposing ways in which technology could be used to make a positive impact on the lives of disabled people, with the three selected organizations offering the most convincing proposals within India.
“Innovative technologies are already helping to improve everyday life for people living with disabilities,” said Rajan Anandan, Vice President and Managing Director, Google India and Southeast Asia. “Through these grants, we want to empower organizations to build impactful solutions that will create better access for people living with disabilities in India.”
Each of the three NGOs is aiming to improve the lives of disabled people in a different way. The Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust, established over 20 years ago by Mahendra Mehta, originally focused on tackling the problems of poverty amongst children in Mumbai, but now operates in many locations and focuses on both children and the disabled. The organization will use the grant from Google.org to provide person-specific, 3D printed artificial legs, designed with the help of 3D scanning technology.
For a few years now, 3D printing has been effectively used by many organizations to provide disabled people with functional, well-fitting prostheses. Organizations such as Limbitless Solutions and Open Bionics have demonstrated that 3D printed prostheses can function as effectively as traditionally made alternatives, and that there is overwhelming public support for doing so. Last year, the Google Impact Challenge pledged a $600,000 grant to e-NABLE, a trailblazing 3D printed prosthetics organization which specializes in an ultra-simple robotic hand design (below) that can be 3D printed and assembled by non-experts at home.
The Leprosy Mission Trust India has been charting an altogether different course. With 140 years of charitable history behind it, the organization is currently seeking ways to create high quality, customized footwear for leprosy sufferers. To make the special shoes, the Trust will make use of 3D technology. A handful of large footwear manufacturers like Nike and New Balance have already successfully 3D printed sections of footwear which can support the wearer’s feet and improve balance. The Leprosy Mission Trust India project would be of much greater importance, but the path trodden by those footwear giants shows that footwear can benefit from 3D printing technology.
The third NGO to benefit from the Google.org grant, the Public Health Foundation of India, aims to improve public health in the country via promotive, preventive, and therapeutic methods. With the grant money, the organization will develop a mobile app with which village healthcare workers can assess eligibility for government disability benefits for particular patients. This will give disabled people a quick and reliable method of discovering how and to what extent the Indian government can help them with their disabilities.
Last year, Google.org donated over $100 million in grants and $1 billion in technology resources.