Community Information Resource Centres
Serving community information & resource needs since 2007
Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) are community-oriented infrastructure and information hubs built to create digitally literate, information-empowered and equitable communities across the country. The CIRCs primarily offer digital literacy, digital services, information services, citizen services and business development services to create information-rich society under a sustainable model.
Lack of access to ICTs is a major developmental challenge as recognised by various national and global mandates such as the Digital India programme or the World Summit on Information Society. Digital inclusion of marginalised communities can eradicate poverty and help achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
CIRC may be considered as DEF’s flagship project for providing access to the digital world by creating the basic digital infrastructure. Since 2007, DEF has been setting up CIRCs in rural and semi-urban areas as its main vehicle for achieving digital inclusion, spreading digital literacy and rolling out its various ICTD interventions. CIRCs are community-driven and community-run, bottom-up public spaces that seek to bridge the information and access divide and transform under-served communities into information-empowered communities. As of March 2018, DEF has set up as many as 191 CIRCs across 95 districts of 23 states and union territories of India.
A typical CIRC is enabled with computers, cameras, printers, projectors, scanners, internet, Wi-Fi and broadband. They are run by enthusiastic, young and passionate community members who understand the meaning of information and how it can empower communities of all class and cadre through all possible means like digital literacy, ICT skills, employable skills, English language, entertainment, health, agriculture, entrepreneurship, RTI, e-Governance services, digital services and so on.
CIRCs at different locations may undertake different kinds of activities and offer different packages of services but all of them facilitate digital access for all and allow the community to avail their daily needs using digital and communication tools. CIRCs enable DEF to undertake a multi-dimensional approach to the task of digital inclusion. They also provide the basic infrastructure needed to roll out various other DEF projects to address various programmatic verticals.
CIRCs are also self-sustaining revenue earning entities. They earn revenues by offering various kinds of digital services.
Read more about the project on www.circindia.org
- 45,20,550+ made digitally literate
- 25,00,000+ women digitally enabled
- 5,00,000+ have availed various digital services
- 3,000+ women entrepreneurs
- 10 government schools transformed into model digital schools
Wireless for Communities
Connecting rural communities in India through unlicensed spectrum since 2010
Wireless for Communities (W4C) is an initiative that aims to connect rural and remote locations of India, where mainstream Internet Service Providers are not willing to provide Internet connectivity, through frugal technology and unlicensed spectrum bands.
In many rural and semi-urban areas – whether remote or not-so-remote – mainstream Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not provide connectivity as they feel their operations would not be commercially viable. To overcome this problem, DEF in partnership with first Ford Foundation (for pilot project to provide proof of concept) and then global non-profit Internet Society (ISOC) has used free and unlicensed spectrum provided by the government in the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands, and inexpensive Wi-Fi equipment, to connect as many as 38 districts and 18 states. It is now planning to connect more CIRCs located in areas where mainstream or Class A ISPs do not provide any service by using wireless technology based on free, unlicensed spectrum bands. In India, DEF has pioneered the use of free, unlicensed wireless technologies which have emerged as one of the least expensive technologies to bridge the connectivity gap in remote areas. These wireless technologies have created much interest within the international-development community.
Interestingly, DEF has trained people from the local community to operate and maintain all the wireless facilities that it has set up. Over the last four years, as many as 170 barefoot engineers have been trained. Of these, a total of 20 engineers were trained in Nepal and Bangladesh – 10 in each country.
In its latest phase, the project has brought Internet connectivity to salt farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch—an unsurveyed piece of land that accounts for 37 per cent of the Gujarat’s total salt production and is home to 3,500 Agariya families—through an innovatively designed van to bring broadband Internet connectivity from far flung locations to different parts of the Little Rann of Kutch through diverse wireless technologies, line of site and unlicensed spectrum. As the van is driven around the region, it reaches out to individuals, households, groups, schools, health centres and panchayat ghar, among other institutions, providing digital literacy, digital services and access to wireless Internet connectivity. The map on the right indicates families and public institutions that have been mapped that have been brought under the umbrella of digital inclusion.
Read more about the project on www.wforc.in
- 30,000 households inhabiting information dark rural and semi-urban areas provided infrastructure to access the Internet
- 146 locations provided wireless Internet connectivity
- 8 handloom clusters digitally enabled through a Wi-Fi-enabled ecosystem
- 100 schools provided Internet connectivity; 17 connected in the Little Rann of Kutch alone
- 50 panchayat and government schools provided Internet connectivity
- 177 Agariya families have been surveyed and mapped to enable them access to government schemes and entitlements
Internet in a Box
Bringing access to information dark areas through rural a ISP-based model since 2017
Launched under Phase VII of the Wireless for Communities project, Internet in a Box is a unique concept that offers Internet in a box, literally. Internet in a Box is an innovative and cost-effective concept designed by DEF that intends to bring into market a plug-and-play configurable networking solution for deploying a wireless network to people in pre-defined small-range coverage areas.
The box comes designed with built-in equipment and technology — including ethernet cables, relay cables, modems, connectors and user manuals — to deliver Internet connectivity at the last mile and, subsequently, promote adoption of the Internet for digital services related to information and entitlements, primarily in the area of livelihood, education and entertainment. By means of putting a completely localised user manual along with wireless equipment, radio, antenna, devices for measuring line of site, modems, accessories and toolkit to enable the use unlicensed spectrum packed in a physical box. The Internet in a Box can be used and installed by anyone and in any location with the help of a simple DIY manual.
The objective of the project is to create rural entrepreneurs who not only sustain themselves as rural Internet service providers but also cater to the information and digital services needs of their community members.
At the moment, Internet in a Box has in pilot mode in Ananthpur in Andhra Pradesh and Tain in Haryana.
Read more about the project on www.wforc.in/internet-in-a-box
In pilot mode
A rural entrepreneurship-based model designed to create ideal smart villages in India
Smartpur is a concept designed for a sampoorna gram (holistic village) or a digitally integrated ecosystem where people leverage digital tools to bring efficiency in daily lives, transparency in governance, economic prosperity for households, and ease of access to various kinds of services and information.
The concept of Smartpur emerges from the underlying idea of integrating technology in the existing practices and processes in an effort to enable communities to make their lives better and contribute to the overall well-being of the village. We believe that the mere availability of digital tools and Internet connectivity does not make a village smart; instead, it is the integration and optimum utilisation of these resources for social, ecological and economic impact that truly makes a smart village, and digitally strengthens six pillars of development.
With these guiding principles, Smartpur has adopted a rural entrepreneurial-based approach under which the project seeks to create a social enterprise model driven by rural youth and supported by community members, government bodies, private institutions and other relevant stakeholders. Under Smartpur, two under-developed hubs—Tain in Haryana and Asoor in Tamil Nadu—have been identified, and each linked to nine spoke villages. While rural entrepreneurs at the hub centre provide primary services under the pillars of education, health, governance, livelihood, finance and entertainment; rural entrepreneurs in the spoke centres will further redistribute these services in their respective villages. Together, the hub and spoke entrepreneurs will create a digitally-equipped and information-rich community setting an example of a model smart village.
Read more about the project on https://smartpur.in/
Minority Cyber Gram Yojana
Ensuring digital literacy for minority communities since 2014
Keeping in view the low literacy level among the backward sections of the minorities, the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India in partnership with DEF launched the Minority Cyber Gram Yojana in February 2014. Chandauli, a rural hamlet some 12 kilometres from Alwar by road and about 7 kilometres as the crow flies, was selected for implementing a pilot project for one year as the village and surrounding areas had a high concentration of the minority community and also because the whole area had become notorious for high crime rate due to low literacy levels and the consequent lack of livelihoods.
In just one year after DEF’s intervention, the whole situation changed in Chandauli. Of the 3,500 households in the area, 2,650 households now have at least one person who is digitally literate. Almost all the children of the village have taken to computers just as ducks take to water. Parents and guardians who would have never allowed their young female wards to go out of the house earlier, except for school, now allow them to frequent the CIRC set up by DEF. Farmers are using the Internet to learn about best practices in farming for their chosen crops. Businessmen and traders are using the Internet to make good use of knowledge and information to expand and flourish.
Now functional from a third location, MCGY was first launched at the Rajiv Gandhi Gram Seva Kendra with more than 40 computers to enable the gram panchayat to become digitally empowered. But it never became functional as there was no Internet connectivity. None of the mainstream ISPs provide Internet connectivity in Chandauli. When DEF proposed they would connect Chandauli using wireless technology, the authorities were happy to hand over the Rajiv Gandhi Gram Seva Kendra to them to set up a CIRC. DEF already had a functioning CIRC at Alwar. Using the back-end connectivity provided by BSNL at Alwar, DEF first converted its Alwar CIRC into a Wi-Fi enabled entity and then connected CIRC Chandauli using wireless technology.
Today, Chandauli has become an astounding success story for DEF as it allows one and all to see how DEF’s vision and mission can be realised in reality. Even Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg was left “amazed” when he visited Chandauli late in October 2014.
Read more about the project on www.minoritycybergram.in
- 2,650 households have at least one digitally literate person individual each
- 3,000 youth, women and children made digitally literate within one year
- 1,000 farmers use the Internet to learn about best practices in farming, input pricing and sources, and market prices
- 250+ businessmen and traders use the Internet to source products, know about market trends and buy or sell products online
Empowering community radio stations across India since 2011
DEF along with the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) pioneered the concept of facilitating the set-up of community radio stations, content development and technology facilitation. Later, DEF along with CEMCA and other partners such as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, set up a Community Radio Facilitation Centre to train people in setting up community radio stations and helping in the process of applying for and obtaining Community radio licenses. DEF has now switched to the next phase of trying to help community radio stations use digital technologies and digital media. It stresses on the use of mobile, SMS and the Internet as tools to enhance the effectiveness of community radio stations. The foundation helps community radio stations in understanding the benefits of new media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Photo Stream, Podcast, e-radio, e-books etc., which can provide a common platform to a number of community radio stations to benefit from each other.
The project has also leveraged collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India to train community radio stations across India in using digital tools, building a website and integrating social media for community radio stations
Further, Radio Jagriti in Birni village of district Giridih in Jharkhand and Radio Bulbul in Bhadrak district of Odisha are two other community radio stations for which DEF provides financial, technical, strategic and content support. Henvalvani Community Radio in Chamba region of Uttarakhand is also a partner for DEF’s Soochna Seva programme in the state. Over the years, DEF has also recognised the efforts of at least 25 others by awarding them with Manthan Awards under the category of Community Radio, which was introduced in 2007 to encourage such initiatives.
- 5 community radio stations funded
- 10 community radio stations taken online with exclusive websites
- 1,250 people from 50 community radio stations trained in using digital tools for outreach
Promoting better management of water resources through a drinking water and sanitation Information system since 2009
Neerjaal is a water mapping website that is controlled and managed exclusively by rural communities. It is an ICT-enabled water resource management system for grassroots communities. It collates groundwater-related information and organises water resources with the available information. The Neerjaal software facilitates generating, storing and making public water related information in a village. Above all, Neerjaal helps manage scarce water resources across communities in India. It is the first village-based interactive website that catalogues data and information on water tables and water sources in villages. It has been designed to map water sources, water bodies, consumption, harvesting, shortages and needs at a national level.
Read more about the project on www.neerjaal.org
Villages of India Network
Connecting rural communities in India through unlicensed spectrum since 2015
Villages of India Network Pvt. Ltd. (VOIN) is a social enterprise founded by DEF to facilitate Internet connectivity services in underserved areas using the low-cost wireless network and affordable but innovative ICT solution — until the last mile — to build information-powered societies in underserved communities. We have adopted a community based approach providing services on the basis of users’ demand and need with qualitative customer-care service. Working with a multi-stakeholder approach, VOIN is aiming to make inclusive and equitable communities where access to information, knowledge and experience services is for all, at all times and at all places. VOIN is now awaiting an ISP license from the government.
Connecting villagers to the external and internal knowledge ecosystem since 2019
An initiative of Intel and Digital Empowerment Foundation, IP Ville or Internet Protocol Ville has been envisioned as a digitally integrated and connected group of villages in Bakhtiyarpur district of Bihar.
IP Ville is a cluster of five villages, one Hub and four Spoke, with a well-equipped digital resource centre for each of the clusters and a common server linking the five. Every Hub and Spoke centre will provide a range of digital services and information to community members in their respective vicinity. Digitally-enabled public institutions, on the other hand, will be able to increase their productivity and efficiency by leveraging digital tools and technologies, thus improving delivery of public welfare schemes and services. Continuous efforts in the areas of Education, Health, Governance, Finance, Livelihood and Entertainement will ensure citizens have access to quality information.
In IP Ville, every household and public institution is connected to the outside world via Internet and to the inside world via Intranet. While the Internet offers community members to access an almost infinite world of relevant information and opportunities, Intranet offers villagers a chance to exchange contextual and traditional information in their local language to fight information poverty. This will eventually strengthen localised content on the server, building a digital repository of local traditions, cultures, folk music, folk tales and knowledge on traditional health, agriculture and other practices.
Access & Infrastructure
One of the primary goals of DEF that flows from its Mission and Vision statements is providing access for all to the Internet. This goal is also fully aligned with global and ational mandates with regard to digital inclusion and bridging the digital divide. All projects in this programmatic area have the overarching goal of achieving access — for all — to information and knowledge from the Internet and creating the infrastructure needed to do so.
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