Over the last seven years DEF has created a network of SoochnaPreneurs who serve their villages by providing digital services like access to government entitlements, digital financial services, tele-health services and computer classes. During the pandemic they became more active and spread information related to COVID-19, social distancing, the importance of masks and vaccination. In fact, many of them played a huge role in the vaccination drives that were held in rural parts of Barabanki.
These entrepreneurs have become the only point of access to government schemes, financial services and even education for many people in their respective villages. These SoochnaPreneurs are provided with laptops, a mobile phone and a printer from DEF, and using these devices their job is to serve the community while earning a decent livelihood for themselves.
Speaking with one of them it was evident that their work had become essential in the region. Mamtavati said “our village is in a very remote region; the closest photocopy shop is 3 kilometers away.” She was right, the journey to her village seemed like a road to nowhere. The agricultural fields slowly became denser and as the village came closer it became a forest until a few fields started opening up again as the village started. “People here are so happy since I have started working here. They come to me for not only photocopying but advice for anything. I have become like a village level influencer” she said smiling widely.
Through a network of 35 women and 25 men, DEF has been able to reach 60 villages in the district of Barabanki. In the cases of digital entrepreneurs DEF provides them digital infrastructure and training to run a successful Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC) and in the cases of tailors and weavers Digikargha, DEF’s partner places orders providing them with a livelihood and selling the products online or in their physical store in Delhi.
These 60 entrepreneurs supported by DEF have become leaders who are approached for all issues in the village; they help people avail government entitlements, they become mobile banks providing financial services at people’s doorstep, they provide tele-health services so that people don’t have to travel to cities, they become hubs for students who attend online classes but can’t afford a digital device and now because of their dedication towards their communities they have become highly respected members of their communities and people seek their advice for issues they face. Each of them serves at least 1,000 people every month. Through constant support, guidance and mentorship DEF has been using its network to reach thousands of people every month through these entrepreneurs. With 1,000 such entrepreneurs across the country DEF serves 1,000,000 people every month.