Vol 4 Issue 2 | March - April 2015
  Internet proliferation & Net neutrality
Letter From the Editor
Dear Readers,

DEF founder and director Osama Manzar has written an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg regarding his visit to a village in Rajasthan in India and how his Internet.Org initiative may not be ideal when it comes to ensuring Net neutrality.

Zuckerberg's claim that Internet.org ensured Net neutrality was made in an article that was widely circulated in India through India's second largest business newspaper Mint (16 April, mintne.ws/1yudRTC ) and its sister publication Hindustan Times, the second largest English mainstream daily in India.

A few days after Zuckerberg's article, (Mint on April 20 published an open letter from Manzar to Zuckerberg pointing out how Internet.org actually violates the basic tenets of net neutrality.

Within minutes, Manzar's Open Letter became the biggest talking point among all stakeholders on the subject of net neutrality and got even more widely circulated not only just in India but across the world reaching millions through social media sharing. It was shared 519 times on Twitter, 721 times on Facebook, 8 times on Google+ and 48 times on LinkedIn.

What is most outstanding is, if you had any doubts about what is the crux of the net neutrality issue, all you need to do is read Manzar's Open Letter. And lo and behold, all will be clear to you. The veil in front of your eyes will drop in a jiffy. In case you have missed Manzar's Open Letter please read it in this newsletter titled An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Net neutrality.

Perhaps nothing more than this "little" incident highlights how the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) continues to lead from the front the march towards digital inclusion and digital empowerment of all.

For instance, DEF has now taken the lead to provide NGOs working in the development sector a new currency for establishing their reputation as a trusted NGO in the crowded market place of hundreds of thousands of NGOs working in India. Yes, we are talking about the new top level domain - .ngo – that DEF on behalf of Public Interest Registry (PIR) is now offering to NGOs working in India. NGOs can avail this top level domain as a package that includes not only providing them with a website with global reach with the suffix .ngo but also the great benefit of being known to the world of funding agencies in particular and the not-for-profit support ecosystem in general as a validated NGO. Read more on this in our report Launching .NGO-An Exclusive portal for NGOs worldwide.

Our Soochna Seva programme aimed at providing backward communities information about their rights and entitlements under various Central and state government welfare schemes has taken wings. Not only have we set up Soochna Seva Kendras in more than 30 rural and semi-urban areas in backward districts but the process of establishing more such Kendras is on in full swing. In March we organised a two-day Training and Capacity Building workshop attended by more than 800 of our field staff. The objective was to augment their capacity to disseminate information about the rights and entitlements of people under various government schemes. Read more about this in our Soochna Seva Bulletin.

Meanwhile, preparations are on to organise the sixth edition of the mBillionth Award South Asia, now a highly coveted global award in the "mobile for development" space. This year too, we have received more than 300 nominations from across 8 South Asian countries. Please check our report on the event titled 6th Edition Of mBillionth Awards..

India's public libraries are in a state of disrepair. DEF with the support of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken the lead to rejuvenate these libraries as vibrant public spaces for learning and for acquiring and disseminating knowledge and information using digital tools. DEF recognises this as yet another way of empowering communities with the power of knowledge. DEF successfully organised a three day global conference cum workshop titled India Public Libraries Conference 2015 on the theme "Transforming Public Libraries in India: Envisioning the Future". The conference was attended by more than 200 experts in the public library space, public library officials as well as policy makers. Among the experts were several internationally acclaimed public library officials who have successfully reinvigorated public libraries that were on the wane in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. They shared their experiences as to how use of digital tools and ICT have helped to make these public libraries once again popular in their respective communities as public spaces for learning and knowledge acquisition and dissemination. Know more about this from our report India Public Libraries Conference.

As usual this Newsletter brings to you reports on several other DEF initiatives. Please read about them and feel free to let us know your views, comments and criticisms. Wish you happy reading, dear readers!

On March 19 2015, Soochna Seva conducted a two-day Training and Capacity Building workshop specially designed for the field team. Held in Donbosco Technical Institute in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, the workshop saw a turnout of 80 people including each and every field staff – District Managers, Block Manager, Block Coordinators, and Fellows across five districts – Guna (Madhya Pradesh), Barmer (Rajasthan), Tehri Garhwal (Uttarakhand), West Champaran (Bihar), and Ranchi (Jharkhand) participated. Read more
Recent Activities
6th Edition Of mBillionth Awards
As in the past 5 years, DEF is once again ready to present the 6th mBillionth Award in 2015. This highly influential and leading platform for exploring, recognising and honouring best practices in the mobile and telecom industry has closed its nominations on 29th April, 2015. The awards honour excellence in use of mobile communications for development and empowerment in the eight South Asian countries across 11 core categories. In its last five years, mBilionth received over 2000+ innovative applications from 8 South Asian countries which include Corporate initiatives, NGOs advancement innovation. Read more
eAssam Challenge: Digital Innovation Summit 2015
eAssam Challenge: Digital Innovation Summit raised its curtain on 10thApril 2015 amidst the presence of an esteemed august audience of social entrepreneurs, academicians, industrialists, bureaucrats and students. This first of its kind event was inaugurated at NEDFI Convention Centre by a team of eminent panelists with a welcome address offered by Dr. Syed S Kazi, Executive Director, NEDF. This was followed by an introduction of the panel members to the delegates. The panel was chaired by none other than Shri Rajiv Bora (IAS), Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Education, Admin & Reforms,Govt. of Assam. Read more
Launching .NGO-An Exclusive portal for NGOs worldwide
With great enthusiasm, we would like to apprise you that India has entered the next phase of Digital Revolution with the launch of .NGO domain and we are very excited to get all the eNGO network organizations on .NGO domain to gain GLOBAL Trust and Visibility through this revolutionary tool specifically designed for the NGO Community across the globe. Here is the basic information that will help you understand the .NGO and its services. .NGO is not just a domain; it is the future Currency for NGOs to earn the reputation of a Trusted NGO in the crowded market place of lakh of NGOs in India Read more
Digital Community Information Resource Centre: Training the Trainers
A 2 day orientation training was conducted in Guna, Madhya Pradesh on 18th-19th April for the CIRC & dCIRC coordinators. The training focused on acquainting coordinators with reporting, accounting and HR mechanisms essential for managing and running the CIRCs at the ground level. Group work exercises including a visit to the Guna CIRC was also organised to make the training more interactive and engaging for the participants. The training was attended by 80 people including internal and external facilitators. Introductory sessions on Soochna Seva programme and community mobilization were the highlights of the second day. Overall the training received an enthusiastic response from all. Trainings like these not only capacitate the people but also provides a platform for team building and knowledge sharing.
India Public Libraries Conference
To discuss how public libraries can be regained as public places for seeking information and knowledge, for the first time in India, an international conference-cum-workshop on public libraries was organised. The three day event 'India Public Libraries Conference 2015' (www.iplc.in) was held at India International Centre (IIC), Lodi Estate in New Delhi during March 17-19, 2015, comprising of a two day conference on the theme "Transforming Public Libraries in India: Envisioning the Future" and a day long parallel workshops for library officials and professionals. Read more
Social Media : Paving way towards digital integration
Social media has drastically changed the style of communication. Not too long ago, communication was a cumbersome and slow process. But today the Internet has redefined communication. Digital Empowerment Foundation with American Centre as an Outreach Partner are doing Social Media for Empowerment Awards, where we recognize and felicitate organizations and individuals who have initiated exemplary ventures using social media for development. . And to focus on North-east to increase the effective and intelligent use of social media as a tool for development is a part of the project. Read more
ITE Teacher Training
The teacher training programme for the ITE teacher/trainer was conducted for three days at Hotel Sunview where the project teams from West Garo Hills (Meghalaya) and Nagaon (Assam) jointly undergone training. The West Garo Hills team comprised of four (4) members converging from two (2) locations ; Jengjal and Tura. On the other hand the Nagaon team comprised of fourteen (14) members converging from four location; Juria, Alitengoni, Dagaon and Batadrava. The training workshop was attended by teacher/trainers, community mobilizes and the Programme Coordinators from the project locations. Read more
Mobile For Social Behavioural Change In Guwahati: An Insight
UNICEF India and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) co-organized the state consultation "Mobile Phones: A Tool for Social & Behaviour Change" on 10th April,2015 at Hotel Royale De Casa, Guwahati, Assam. The consultation was the fifth and last consultation in the series of the state-level consultations under the ambit of 'Mobile Phone as a Tool for Social & Behaviour Change." This programme is a joint effort of UNICEF India and Digital Empowerment Foundation. The consultation aimed at exploring the various projects where women, Read more
eNGO Meerut Workshop
The workshop on "eNGO" organized by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) & Public Interest Registry (PIR) with local support of Disha Sewa Sansthan at Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh on 23rd February, 2015 to promote NGOs through using ICT tools. Also there we had introduced about .NGO domain benefits and OnGood community services for NGOs. Here 50 NGO, 15 Teachers and 25 MSW students have participated from different parts of Meerut district. The eNGO programme, a national movement, is a joint effort of Digital Empowerment Foundation (www.pirengo.org) and Public Interest Registry (www.pir.org). Read more
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF): A victory for freedom of expression
"Freedom of expression can be defined in three aspects: Discussion, Advocacy and Incitement." This historic statement was made today by Justice Nariman, declaring the complete victory of freedom of speech in India. Today – 24 March 2015 – we got a landmark decision from the Supreme Court, when it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act. The draconian law had been reason for many internet users to be jailed for either Facebook posts or publishing cartoons. The Supreme Court declared Section 66A of the IT Act unconstitutional and ruled against the central government which had defended the Section. The Supreme Court also addressed another two sections of the law: Section 79, which forces intermediaries to take down online content, and Section 69, which deals with blocking of online content. Read more
An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Net neutrality
Dear Mark, I read your article in Mint (16 April, mintne.ws/1yudRTC ) and realized that you are in the dark about Net neutrality as much as I am but you have also violated it. The reason I'm responding to your article is because you mentioned your trip to Chandauli in Alwar district in Rajasthan last year and used the example of the villagers to explain how to connect the disconnected people, who would benefit from free content on the World Wide Web.As far as Internet.org is concerned, please concentrate on ensuring open access and widespread network access, which will not only secure you more business, . Warmly, Osama Manzar.Read more
Needed: free public access to Internet
You live in a city, have a job, walk into your office and fire up your computer. It's connected and you access the Internet—everything from email to entertainment to news to general information appears on your screen. You are happy because you have not paid for the computer, or access to the Internet, or even for the information that you are consuming or are being entertained with. Even at home, you have seamless Internet connectivity through cable or Wi-Fi. All your devices are automatically connected and you have access to free or paid information. Obviously, access to the Internet or information in your case is like basic infrastructure.Read more
Mobile phones empower women
Is using a mobile phone a symbol of independence? Is it a simple tool of communication or a medium that provides rights? Why do women lag behind among those who use cellphones? Why do women have to take permission from men before buying a mobile phone that connects them to the world out there? The answers to these questions may seem to be self-evident to many people, but remain relevant as ground reality in much of India. Some recent news reports reveal the bizarre restrictions on women using mobile phones in rural India. In Bihar's Phulwaria— the ancestral village of Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad. Read more
स्त्री सशक्तीकरण में मोबाइल की भूमिका
क्या मोबाइल का इस्तेमाल आजादी का प्रतीक है? यह महज संचार का एक माध्यम है या अधिकार संपन्न करने का जरिया भी? आखिर औरतों को मोबाइल खरीदने से पहले मर्दों की इजाजत क्यों लेनी पड़ती है, जबकि यह उन्हें बाहरी दुनिया से जोड़ता है? इन सवालों के जवाब देश के जमीनी हालात के लिहाज से काफी महत्व रखते हैं। हाल की कई रिपोर्टों ने हमें उन विचित्र प्रतिबंधों के बारे में बताया, जो ग्रामीण भारत में औरतों के मोबाइल फोन के इस्तेमाल पर रोक से संबंधित थे। बिहार के फुलवरिया गांव में, जो राजद सुप्रीमो लालू प्रसाद यादव का पैतृक गांव है, पंचायत ने औरतों के मोबाइल फोन इस्तेमाल करने पर रोक लगाने का फैसला किया। राजस्थान में बाड़मेर के गररिया गांव में तो मोबाइल को समाज का दुश्मन करार देते हुए मुस्लिम महिलाओं के लिए इसके इस्तेमाल पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया गया। बिहार के किशनगंज जिले के एक गांव में पंचायत ने बिनब्याही लड़कियों के मोबाइल इस्तेमाल करने पर 10,000 रुपये के जुर्माने का फरमान सुनाया।Read more
Helping farmers in identifying problems and improving produce
Even India's population increases rapidly, the growth in food production is lagging behind. Some entrepreneurs think technology holds the answer: Krishna Kumar, an engineer and an entrepreneur, has co-founded CropIn Technology Solutions along with Kunal Prasad to help increase farm productivity by making every farm and crop traceable and export-worthy. Established in August 2010, CropIn has developed a cloud-based app that brings together farms and organisations supporting them to enhance productivity.The company sells the app to food companies and seed production companies such as McCain Foods, Godfrey Phillips India Ltd and the Imperial Tobacco.Read more
Mobile apps that make learning fun for children
Technology is no child's play, but here's a mobile app that says it can be part of children's life and add fun to their learning. Mumbai-based mobile phone developer WITS Interactive is in the third leg of developing a series of interactive mobile phone apps for kids after the successful launch of 'Discover English with Ben & Bella: At the Zoo' in 2013. The company is now gearing up to launch its third app called 'Pop-up Book' in the Ben & Bella series.To develop the apps, the company had partnered with Germany-based publisher Early Learning Group. As part of the tie-up, the mobile app developer sources content from the German publisher, which releases books for children in preschool and school, and also has the licence to use its characters in the apps. Read more
Awareness of rights
Although the awareness of rights that Indian citizens are entitled to was found to be quite high in the surveyed villages and suburban areas, the exercise of the right to information is still to take off optimally. The study was conducted with 600 respondents (373 women and 227 men) in rural and peri-urban areas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Telangana and Rajasthan to assess the knowledge of certain rights amongst the population. Most of the respondents were below 40 years of age. Read more
Gender divide in mobile usage
With a population of more than 1.3 billion and a gender gap of 36%, India has an estimated 114 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone. Bridging the ownership gap represents a significant revenue opportunity. With India's large population, reaching the unconnected women should also be a focus for mobile stakeholders. Read more
Circ Updates
An IIT Classroom in the village
An IIT Classroom in the village Newton formulated the law of gravity by speculating sitting under an apple tree after he saw an apple falling from the tree. IIT Guwahati is one of the pioneers in technological education. However, geniuses cannot sit in a closed room and create such technology which will impact the targeted masses. Young students such as those studying in premier institutions like IITs will to become tomorrow's leaders. It is important that they understand their social responsibilities. In order to shoulder and channelize these responsibilities it is very important that our leaders understand the dynamics of the societies living in the rural areas which of course outnumbers those in the urban areas. Read more
A Dialogue on Women Empowerment: Challenges & Opportunities
Women are an integral part of the society contributing to its function and prosperity. However, women do not have an equal place in most societies around the world. ''A Dialogue on Women Empowerment: Challenges & Opportunities" was the theme for CIRC Batadrava's women's day celebration. All around the world, International Women's Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. Each year International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women's Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Read more
Learning in English: Setting the Goal
Setting a higher goal with Manzil. Students from the community in Dimoria block are coming forth to brush up their soft skills. They are out to set higher goals in life by making themselves job ready. "Let's learn English with MANZIL" is a British Council programme implemented by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) through its Community Information Resource Centres (CIRC). It is a digital English course taught through the medium of interactive multimedia, it aims at easy and higher level of learning among students. Read more
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
CIRC Sonapur elaborately celebrated Women's Day on 8th March 2015. It was a day long affair successfully conducted with active participation from CIRC team members and students. It was an involved affair with the CIRC students and the general public of Sonapur. The programme was conducted in three phases namely: i] An inaugural session ii] A peaceful protest rally iii] Street play The session was inaugurated with an inspirational speech by the centre manager Syeda Asma Kazi followed by screening of a short documentary on women empowerment named 'Half the Sky,' supplemented with refreshments. Read more
For farmers, a switch to horticulture is just a click away
Indian farmers have historically struggled with prolonged droughts that parch the farmland, followed by heavy rains and floods that destroy crops. In an attempt to protect farmers from the vagaries of weather, the Indian government introduced the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) in 2003. encouraging them to shift to horticulture crops such as fruits, vegetables, spices, flowers and plantation crops. In 2013, NHM was subsumed into the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). States that implement this centrally sponsored mission are helped in this task by Hortnet, a software solution that automates the workflow process in the sector. Read more
Virtual assistant Akeira helps farmers boost productivity
Veeramani Kuppuswamy, a farmer in Kovilpatti in the coastal district of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu wants to know whether he needs to cover his young cotton saplings, so he calls Akeira, a virtual assistant on his mobile phone. Akeira is similar to Siri, a virtual assistant available on iPhones. Akeira realizes that the farmer wants to know whether it will rain or not and immediately responds with a yes in Tamil. This virtual assistant can be used in any basic mobile phone. Uniphore Software Services Ltd has developed this virtual assistant, an upgraded version of its earlier one called Voicenet. Read more
News to Know from https://www.facebook.com/DEFIndia
Telcos may hike call rates to recover spectrum cost: Moody's
New Delhi, Mar 30: Indian telecom operators are expected to gradually increase rates to recover Rs 1.1 lakh crore they bid for spectrum in the auction that concluded last week, Moody's said today. Read more
Should India have licensing of Internet services? Net Neutrality? TRAI wants your views
The Indian telecom regulator has proposed 20 questions for your views on two basic topics: should there be licensing of Internet services, and should there be non-discrimination of Internet access via telecom operators. Download the complicated. Read more
'SC's striking down 66A of IT Act victory for 300mn Net users'
The Supreme Court judgement rendering a provision of the IT Act as unconstitutional is a momentous victory for more than 300 million Net users in the country, Internet and Mobile Association of India said today. Read more
डीटीएच के 65 फीसदी ग्राहक ग्रामीण
डायरेक्ट टू होम (डीटीएच) सेवा उपग्रह से सीधे टीवी प्रसारण प्राप्त करने की सुविधा है। इसमें उपभोक्ता को अपने घर में डिश व एक सेट टॉप बॉक्स लगाना होता है। इस प्रसारण में केबल टीवी ऑपरेटर की भूमिका खत्म हो जाती है और प्रसारणकत्र्ता सीधे उपभोक्ताओं को सेवा प्रदान करता है। Read more
Nine years and counting
At our nine-year mark, we continue to say that Twitter is what it is because of the people who use it. After all, it's because of you that we have product features like hashtags and best practices like live-Tweeting. Today, these are deeply rooted elements of Twitter and part of mainstream cultural vernacular.Read more
MAIT forms think tank to accelerate Digital India mission
IT hardware body MAIT has launched 'Digital India Action Group' -- a think tank for ideating and monitoring policy initiatives to support government mission of Digital India. Drawing its members from major ICT companies as well as from the government.Read more
Introducing Hello
Billions of calls are made everyday on mobile phones and people often have very little information about who's calling them. Today we are starting to test Hello, a new app built by the Messenger team. Hello connects with Facebook so you can see who's calling, block unwanted calls and search for people and places.Read more
Twitter Discover: website ditches mostly-useless button, but still lots of ways to find good tweets
Twitter has ditched the 'Discover' button on the website, weeks after dropping it from the phone app, and has moved its features to other parts of the site.Read more
Review: Moto E (2nd Gen): Very Good, Moto, But We Wanted
When Motorola announced the price of the original Moto E last year, I remember several hard-nosed media people bursting into instinctive applause. The idea of getting a device running the latest version of Android with a decent display and processor and 1 GB RAM for as little as Rs 6,999 was music to the ears of all. Read more
The Distant Dream of eGovernance
"After joining the IAS, my first district posting was in Baroda as the District Development Officer. During those days, personal computers were a rarity. Hardly any government office had one," reminisces Tapan Ray, Additional Secretary, Department of Electronics & IT (DeitY). But despite the low level of computerisation, Ray was fascinated by computers. Read more
Spectrum money can aid Net Neutrality in India
After a painful scandal that paralysed India's parliament for years, involved the Supreme Court and catapaulted a new prime minister into power, the spectrum saga reached a Bollywood-style. Read more
The Man Who Is Using Cameras To Revolutionize Agriculture In India
Here's how Digital Green is enabling farmers to become video filmmakers, which is turning them into more productive farmers and more confident human beings. All of this has been made possible by Rikin Gandhi, an Indian-American aerospace engineer. Read more
सोशल मीडिया के पोस्ट पर नहीं होगी जेल
सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने आईटी क़ानून की धारा 66ए को रद्द कर दिया है. इस धारा में पुलिस को इस बात का अधिकार था कि वो किसी व्यक्ति को आपत्तिजनक ऑनलाइन कंटेंट के लिए गिरफ्तार कर सकती थी. इस क़ानून को क़ानून की एक छात्रा और कुछ स्वंयसेवी संस्थाओं ने चैलेंज किया था. Read more
How Twitter Is Beautiful, Terrible and Addictive All at Once
Of all the apps and services I've ever signed up for, the only one I remember plugging my username into for the first time is Twitter. It was May 2007, and I was about to quit a job full of people I loved working with to move across the country. Read more
10 Great Ways the Internet Is Empowering Women Around the World
This year, International Women's Day will focus on the empowerment of women, highlighting the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was signed 20 years ago by 189 governments to establish an agenda for realizing women's rights. Read more
Facebook rolls out video calls on Messenger
San Francisco: Facebook on Monday began rolling out video calling on its Messenger mobile application, enabling face-to-face conversations among users of the app around the world. With the new feature, users can add video to calls. Read more
Internet.Org offers free access to over 800 million: Mark Zuckerberg
New Delhi: Even as the debate on Facebook's Internet.Org initiative violating net neutrality rages on, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the platform has made free basic Internet services available to more than 800 million people. Read more
Why India's Net Neutrality Activists Hate Facebook
As the fight over net neutrality in the U.S. reaches the litigation phase, India's version of the battle over Internet rules is just heating up. The situation on the subcontinent shares some similarities with its American counterpart: a backlash against a regulator. Read more
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg hits back in Internet.org India row
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has defended the aims of his Internet.org initiative after several Indian firms decided to pull out of the project. In a blog post, Mr Zuckerberg argued that Internet.org's basic free services were not incompatible with net neutrality - the principle that all web services. Read more
Karnataka shows the way - One app, access 4,281 services
Imagine this: A slumdweller checking his passport application status using his mobile phone. A bus conductor paying his electricity bill on his low-priced smartphone while issuing tickets. A school teacher checking her heart rate by swiping her finger on her mobile phone while in the classroom. Well, this is all set to become reality as Karnataka. Read more
Stay connected with us
With the motto of 'Inform, Communicate and Empower,' Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) started its journey in the month of December, 2002. Based out of New Delhi and registered as not-for-profit under the "Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, the effort at DEF has been to find sustainable Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions including digital and new media to address digital divide in under-served and unreached regions and communities. With a non-political approach, it was founded to contribute to an enabling social and economic order in India as well as in developing societies with the need based support of ICT tools and means. With ground work since 2003, DEF has reached over 22 States and 8 countries.
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