Teens Now is a new series by Grace Lee that features teens around the world who have inspired others in creative ways. This week’s article highlights Shubh Khanna and William Das, co-founders of Coding for Impact, an organization that aims to eradicate socioeconomic barriers through technology.
When Shubh Khanna and William Das took a Computer Science class as freshmen in 2017, they hoped to learn about computer programming and its uses but found there was no instruction on applying that knowledge to the real world.
This was the genesis of Coding for Impact. Using their unique skill sets and passions, Khanna and Das co-founded Coding for Impact in 2017.
“Shubh and I were just two 9th graders, and we founded this organization to tangibly apply our skills and leverage the power, knowledge and passion of Gen Z to drive a positive and significant change in our society using technology,” Das said.
Khanna is a senior and the Executive Director, working in terms of economic policy, vision, and operations. Das is also a senior and the Director of Technology, working in operations and leading technological projects.
“William has always been passionate about technology and computer science. I’ve been more focused on international development and how we can leverage unique policies to drive international development. We both merged our passions to build an organization that leverages technology for international development,” Khanna said.
The co-founders undertook their first project in summer 2017 in partnership with the NYC Government’s Open Data Initiative to create an online application, NYC Connector. This platform enabled over 1,000 high school and college students to connect with hundreds of nonprofits and charities in the greater New York area. The project is featured on the NYC Open Data Initiative platform.
“One summer I was looking to volunteer and donate to places. I was looking online, and it was an extremely cumbersome and hard process. There wasn’t really a set website, in terms of connecting me with volunteer opportunities,” Das said. “That was where NYC Connector was born.”
Bridging the gap between underfunded charities and volunteers, NYC Connector gives charities and nonprofit organizations that are on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum a platform to connect with potential volunteers. With a simple click, the map displays the locations of different organizations ranging from clothing charities to homeless shelters that individuals can volunteer with.
“There are a lot of underfunded and small charities in the greater New York area that lack funding, visibility and overall have an operational structure that doesn’t succeed in the 21st century. So, we built NYC Connector with the objective of helping the socioeconomically struggling charities and nonprofits,” Khanna said.
NYC Connector marked the beginning of countless projects. From there, Coding for Impact has not only started their own initiatives but has established partnerships with various NGOs across the world to create meaningful change through technological advancements.
“We partner and work with leading nonprofits across the globe to build applications and create technological backing and infrastructure that increases the impact and proliferation of nonprofit work,” Das said.
Coding For Impact’s team recently set out on a new partnership with ArdenVent, a New Zealand-based NGO. At the beginning of the pandemic, one problem Khanna noticed was the costly ventilators being exported in Europe and North America. This poses a problem for developing countries, as they do not have the money or medical expertise to operate these ventilators.
“In the heart of Africa and Southeast Asia, there’s one ventilator per 1-2 million people,” Khanna said. “The price of ventilators is also extremely highly valued, and they’re unable to afford the expensive ventilators that are from Europe and North America.”
To combat this issue, Coding with Impact partnered with ArdenVent to build low-cost ventilators for these developing communities.
“The developing communities have extremely weak medical infrastructure. So, [the ventilators] allow individuals who don’t have high levels of training in [in medicine], to be able to operate them,” Khanna said. “We’re saving millions of lives.”
Also, Coding for Impact worked with Guyana Economic Development Trust, an organization that works to advance Guyana through scientific and technological research.
“The young people in Coding for Impact are an upgrade, and they can do more than just help with your mobile phone that’s on the fritz,” Oslene Carrington, Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Economic Development Trust, said.
“Seeing a picture of them finally having purified water was really inspiring, and for me, it solidified why I do what I do. Behind a computer, it’s hard to see whom you’re impacting, but when you see photos of them you realize the difference you’re making across the world,” Khanna said.
The team has partnered with organizations in all continents, except Australia and Africa. Other NGOs that Coding for Impact has partnered with include Democracy Across Borders, a United Nations-affiliated organization that works to spread campaigns of democracy across the world, and Seattle Against Slavery, an organization that works to stop the practice of sex-trafficking in the United States.
“Together, we’ve helped drive an impact alongside 45+ NGOs across the world, ranging from Haiti, Columbia, Cambodia, Uganda, Gaia and Greece,” Khanna said.
As the co-founders are still high school students, they have had trouble with building their reputation when partnering with NGOs. However, the kindness of the NGO field has allowed them to branch their connections and make a difference in the world while being high school students.
“There’s so many people and voices in our society that we don’t know of, but they’re driving such a huge impact. Being able to partner with them and trusting us to help scale their organization is amazing,” Khanna said. “This organization allowed us to expand that horizon in that high school students can apply what they learn in the classroom to drive a change in their society.”
Khanna and Das attribute much of their success to the dedicated members of their team.
Coding for Impact’s team includes a global team of 75+ high school and college students with international and domestic chapters. The recruitment process includes filling out an interest form, sending a resume or cover letter and setting up an interview with the co-founders.
Although it is a rigorous process, Khanna and Das have been able to recruit dedicated individuals who truly want to make a difference in their society.
“It’s not about patting your resume, or doing anything for college, but it’s about the individual’s genuine interest and passion in technology and being able to leverage that to help others. In that respect, we’re really fortunate to have an extremely dedicated team,” Das said.
Going forward, the co-founders have comprehensive plans to broaden the organization’s impact on the world. They have been in talks with the California Community Colleges to integrate Coding for Impact in the Computer Science and Economic coursework.
“A student can learn Computer Science at school, but if they don’t have that connection to apply that to economic development, there’s no point. We had a call with a representative from the California Community Colleges, and we’re looking to move forward in integrating that in the community college system,” Khanna said.
The co-founders hope to create more partnerships with NGOs across the world to create lasting footprints. Through Coding for Impact, they hope to give students a platform for them to make a difference in the world.
“Our vision and objective is creating a Gen Z movement of using our skills, knowledge and technology to drive an impact in our world and social good,” Das said.