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Profile: Harshad Oak – Conferences, Tech Portals, and bringing technology to NGOs

(In this article, Nina Mukherji profiles Harshad Oak, who is very active in the tech community in Pune, who has done many things rather different from what most software technologists usually do, and who has started a number of interesting initiatives. Specifically, we would like to draw our readers’ attention to the TechNoProfits initiative, and his work with the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, which, we hope, at least some of our readers will get involved with.)

Harshad Oak has always chosen the road less travelled. After completing Computer Management in 2001 he worked for IT firms like I-flex & Cognizant for about two years. But he’d always felt a strong urge to venture out and do something on his own. He wrote tech based articles for many newspapers and magazines and even managed to get a number of certifications under his belt.

Harshad then decided to quit his job and set up Rightrix Solutions, a software development firm. By this time, he had also authored a few books on Java and Oracle. This gave him additional credibility and helped him land some good projects for his newly set up firm.

He was invited to participate and speak at various technology conferences abroad. This made him realize the criticality of having such forums in India – such independent conferences were non-existent till then. So with zero experience in the field, he launched the first Annual IndicThreads Conference on Java in 2006. After that they have had many more conferences in the different areas like Mobile Application Development, Upcoming Technology & Software Quality.

Now Rightrix does IT research and advisory services, software outsourcing services, technology portal (IndicThreads), 4 different and technology conferences every year.

Another recent initiative on his part has been starting TechnoProfits – a non-profit entity dedicated to connecting software professionals and NGOs. TechnoProfits enables volunteers to make a positive contribution to society and also come out feeling enriched from the experience. Harshad believes that technology today can connect and enhance lives like never before. “However, most non-profit organisations use no technology beyond making calls from a cell phone. The overwhelming majority of organizations run on passion & dedication but no technology” says Harshad. Please register as a volunteer.

Being of an analytical and rational mind, Harshad abhors superstitious and credulous behaviour. That a ring or pendant will ensure success or modifying their homes so that a bathroom faces X direction will end marital disputes were beliefs that left Harshad feeling frustrated and irritated. “A bathroom door can affect my health only if I accidentally bang into it” he jokes. But this was a serious matter to him and he decided to do something about it.

He started working with Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANiS) a 20 year old organisation. Though they have done remarkable work in Maharashtra towards eradicating blind faith and promoting scientific temperament amongst the youth, Harshad believes that technology awareness is very low. “At the recent ANiS 20 year anniversary event, more than a thousand people from all over Maharashtra turned up, but I probably was the only one using the web and writing about the event on my smartphone. I have been pushing for some kind of an Internet awareness workshop so that the ANiS team can not only leverage the net to reach more people but also be able to convey it’s point of view swiftly and accurately” says Harshad

In order to address this need, TechnoProfits is conducting an Internet Awareness Workshop for ANiS this Saturday the 19th of February (1-5 pm). The topics for the workshop include Internet Basics, Search, Email, Chat, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Using Indian languages Online, and How to make best use of the Internet for social work. Harshad told me: “While the workshop is planned for ANiS, anyone else wishing to use this learning for social good is most welcome”

(You can get in touch with Harshad by emailing harshad aT rightrix doT com)

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Comments

3 responses to Profile: Harshad Oak – Conferences, Tech Portals, and bringing technology to NGOs

  1. Raghavan says:

    Harshad’s work for non-profits is laudable. However his comments about “modifying homes” is silly. Is he pooh-poohing the whole ancient science of Vaastu ? Everything that is ancient is not “andha vishwaas”. You have to know “everything” about a subject to ridicule it effectively. Superficial knowledge is not enough. Though I agree that there are many superstitions in society, not all beliefs are wrong.

  2. Harshad Oak says:

    Hi Raghavan,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Vaastu Shastra is a collection of popular beliefs. It not only fails on tests of “what can be termed as a science”, but IMHO even fails on several common sense parameters. A pseudo science is what it perhaps can be described as.

    Kind of strange that you use the term “ancient science” . While on the one hand we dump creations of science like mobile phones, etc. within a few years, here we are advocating something that’s “ancient”.

    Linking something with religion & culture is a common ploy used to stop any protests or legal action as well as easily dupe the masses. Vaastu Shastra has little to do with religion or culture.

    IMHO at least the well educated amongst us need to be capable of scientifically examining beliefs like Vaastu Shastra, Feng Shui, Numerology… before adopting them.

    Such beliefs probably would have provided some comfort & security to man 500 years back when he was ignorant about even things like whether the sun revolved around the earth or the other way round.

    Many thought that the modern man of science would automatically shed all unscientific beliefs. However that isn’t happening due to various reasons & vested interests. So there’s a need for action, education, awareness and at times some ridicule. The ridicule is not aimed at any believer but at the pseudo science & the scamsters.

    Talk to believers in a Godman or a pseudo science and they invariably say that superstitions are bad & need to be checked. However their particular Godman & their belief is 100% real & correct, beyond scientific examination & definitely not a superstition. However that’s a natural human reaction. They are often victims themselves of a form of mental slavery where they gradually lose the ability to question.

    A person just needs to stay open to critically & scientifically examine all things in his/her life. Vaastu Shastra, Astrology, Numerology, FengShui… fail quite miserably when put to any scientific examination.

    Thanks,
    Harshad

  3. Raghavan says:

    Thanks for responding Harshal. A few comments of mine.

    “Vaastu Shastra is a collection of popular beliefs. It not only fails on tests of “what can be termed as a science”, but IMHO even fails on several common sense parameters. A pseudo science is what it perhaps can be described as. ”

    What is popularly known as “science” (an English word) is a creation of the last 3-4 centuries of western thought. Vastu and other aspects of the Vedic system have existed for thousands of years in erstwhile India before that. Also who is to say that what existed then was not “science”. The English word “science” did not even exist then. Is modern science perfect ? I am sure you would agree it is not and it is certainly not yet capable of evaluating what existed for thousands of years prior to it. It is only now that ancient systems such as yoga, meditation (and perhaps vastu) etc. are being subjected to “scientific” experiments. The benefits of these system from a human experiential aspect are only now beginning to unfold.

    “here we are advocating something that’s “ancient”.
    What is all modern is not good and all that is old is not to be discarded so easily unless there is demonstrable harm in using it. Only an in-depth “scientific” study (by a currently flawed science?) could discard it. Have you performed such a study or do you know of an exhaustive study conducted on this system ? (I am not talking of biased opinions on web pages).

    “Such beliefs probably would have provided some comfort & security to man 500 years back when he was ignorant about even things like whether the sun revolved around the earth or the other way round. ”

    Interestingly it was western science that grappled with this problem. Ancient Indian astronomers were never in doubt about who revolved around whom. And it is this western science that we are ready to accept so quickly easily.

    Yes there are superstitions in society but all that is ancient cannot be called superstitious because some people don’t like it or because it is not western enough and simply because nobody has taken the trouble to validate it.

    “A person just needs to stay open to critically & scientifically examine all things in his/her life.”

    True.

    Vaastu Shastra, Astrology, Numerology, FengShui… fail quite miserably when put to any scientific examination.

    And you have adopted the above approach to these practices ? Have you been open minded and have you examined Vastu critically and scientifically deep enough to dismiss the entire practice as one of “modifying homes”. Have you studied every aspect of how the environment affects health ? Have you understood every aspect of how the various directions impact various aspects of a person’s life ?

    Well neither have I ! But I won’t dismiss something without the evidence just like you won’t accept it without the evidence.

    I’ll end my comments once for all here. This debate can go on for ever. I wish you luck with your endeavours eradicating the “real superstitions” in society which do exist and which do need addressing.

    Best,

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