Rajiv Ramakrishnan, an undergraduate at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, has been doing his bit to help the United Nations achieve its Millennium Development Goals for the advancement of the world's poor. This includes eradication of poverty and provision of health and education to all.
Through the Positive Foundations at the university, of which he is the executive director, Ramakrishnan has worked on programmes that help provide education and medicine and clean water to the poor people in Africa and Central America. Because his academic interests lie in political science, economics and international studies, he has also researched various tools that can be used for social empowerment.
Thanks to his strong track record, Ramakrishnan was invited last year to the Global Youth Forum in Geneva, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs-Global Alliance for Information and Communications Technology for Development. On various panels, he stressed the need for including young people in development initiatives.
This year, UNDESA-GAID has appointed him to a Committee of eLeaders for ICT and Youth, to help support its efforts in promoting the use of information and communication technologies to eradicate poverty and advance development.
Ramakrishnan is one of 10 young leaders from around the world appointed to the committee, which is composed of one regional youth representative from each region and other selected successful youth leaders from various fields. The committee will work under UNDESA-GAID, and will report to the Strategy Council and Steering Committee of GAID. The appointment is for two years.
The eLeaders for ICT and Youth will oversee and coordinate the work of the Global Youth Coalition/Network for ICT. The coalition provides a venue for young peoples to share knowledge and experiences on ICT-for-development and youth issues.
"I am honoured to serve on the Committee of eLeaders for ICT and Youth. I have worked with UNDESA-GAID in the past and they are a dedicated team of professionals who are passionate about using ICT for development," Ramakrishnan told India Abroad.
"With so much of the world's population under the age of 30, every development initiative must involve young people. Health, education and the environment all present challenges to youth," he said.
"ICTs have a great potential to bring better healthcare, education and employment opportunities to these young people. ICTs serve as a force multiplier and can overcome barriers to development. I look forward to working with my colleagues to connect youth to ICTs around the world," he said.
"Each committee member will serve as a UN 'expert on mission' in the field of ICT and youth. We will meet over the course of the next two years to implement programmes designed to bring young entrepreneurs, governments and the private sector together," Ramakrishnan said.
The Positive Foundations, which he heads, is a premier student-led campus organization, dedicated to making development and the Millennium Development Goals an academic and political priority. Through the organization, he has worked with Columbia University's Earth Institute, Millennium Promise, The One Campaign and other international organizations to provide anti-malarial bed nets and tablets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Positive Foundations' current projects include implementing clean water initiatives in Africa and Central America, and raising funds to support female primary and secondary education in Senegal.
Ramakrishnan also serves on the board of directors of the Millennium Campus Network, a Boston area consortium of universities working to challenge university administrations to raise funds for development. He said he had studied microfinance extensively, and hopes to work to increase the rate of investment into microfinancial institutions, changing these organisations from donor dependent charities to self-sufficient, profitable financial institutions, with humanitarian interests.
His current research focus is the Millennium Development Goals, and the role of institutions, stakeholder integration and trade on development, he said. Specifically, he studies political economy and the impact of varied political and economic interests, and the institutional framework they operate in, and the implications of these processes for development, Ramakrishnan said.
His diverse leadership background, includes entrepreneurship, international humanitarian relief and local community development. His social entrepreneurship projects included collecting and sending over 3,500 articles of clothing to victims of the 2004 South Asian tsunami and providing on-going support to the affected communities.
He was also a Core Team member of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District Strategic Planning Committee, and helped rewrite the district's mission statement and educational goals.
Today, the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District is one of the best districts in the nation, with its two high schools winning the Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School title, the most prestigious award given to secondary schools, he noted.
Ramakrishnan was born in New Delhi, and his family has lived in New Jersey since 1992.