Soochna Seva

Facilitating and strengthening public scheme information dissem­ination and citizen entitlements since 2014

The Soochna Seva project is a joint initiative of DEF & the European Union. The objectives are to aggregate information on all kinds of central and state government schemes and entitlements, and improve access to this information for people and communities living in backward districts of India. The project involves setting up 1,200 public scheme information delivery and access points (Panchayat Soochna Seva Kendras) for final gains in entitlements in five identi­fied backward districts — in six key areas of education, health, livelihood, em­ployment, financial inclusion and social security. Apart from setting up the 1,200 public scheme information delivery and access points (Panchayat Soochna Seva Kendras), it includes a ‘Soochna Vahan’ (Information Van)” that disseminates information about public schemes on-the-go.

The prime objective of the project is to address the larger issues of poverty, social exclusion and inequity among marginalised groups through information empowerment on public schemes towards entitlement gains and, thereby, promote and strengthen good governance practices by the local administration. This will lead to improved access to public scheme information in complete life cycle (information access and gains in government entitlements) in identified areas.Read more about the project on



  • 91,066 people reached out with information and awareness about government schemes
  • 76,997 helped avail benefits under various government schemes and entitlements

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Providing citizen services at the doorstep through new-age rural entrepreneurs since 2016

As much as 67 per cent of India’s population lives in rural India. This population is largely dependent on government services for some of their most basic needs and livelihood. Soochnapreneur is a rural entrepreneurship-based project initiated by DEF in partnership with Qualcomm under it’s wireless reach programme to empower the youth in the villages of India to sustain their livelihood by providing information to those living in information darkness. Under this project, SoochnaPreneurs (Informa­tion Entrepreneurs) have been identified and equipped with an Android app that holds a catalogue of welfare schemes, with comprehensive information on entitlements.

Realising the need to serve India’s rural, remote and marginalised population with relevant information about governments services, schemes and entitlements in a timely manner, DEF designed a mobile application called MeraApp as part of this project. Developed using cutting edge technology, the Android-based app provides rural India’s vulnerable population with a catalogue of welfare schemes, with comprehensive information on entitlements, in an effort to empower them with access to rights and benefits. Users, assisted by Soochnapreneurs, can either view the information categorised by provinces and welfare area or enter their socio-economic details to allow the app to display a list of schemes that suits the information fed into it.

A bilingual app that runs on online and offline modes, MeraApp has been en­visioned as a platform to empower rural and remote populations with access to information and bring them closer to their rightful entitlements, thus bridging the digital divide and encouraging social and financial inclusion. Further, the app also allows users to submit grievances directed at various government portals and track the status of the complaint.

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  • 100 SoochnaPreneurs trained in information-based entrepreneurship
  • 30,496 persons registered under various schemes and entitlements or pro­vided digital service
  • 4,104 beneficiaries facilitated with access to with public schemes and entitlements
  • 100 rural women SoochnaPreneurs join the bandwagon in Phase II of the project

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Digital Panchayat

Connecting panchayats for good governance since 2010

DEF initiated and rolled out the Digital Panchayat project in collaboration with National Internet Exchange of India in 2010. The project was launched keeping in mind that ICT usage is largely missing among elected represen­tatives at the parliamentary, state and panchayat level. The Digital Panchayat programme was designed to revolutionise information sharing, good gover­nance, transparency and publishing information on development indicators through a Web portal for every panchayat. The web-based dynamic digital interface at the panchayat level connected to the electorate and citizens has tremendous relevance and utility in overall governance and development of our grassroots constituencies. It facilitates and improves the day-to-day func­tioning of panchayats through a two-way flow of information and content. Moreover, information on decisions taken at gram sabha meetings get record­ed and shared through the panchayat websites. This enhances transparency as higher level officials and bureaucrats cannot change decisions at will.

The initiative aims to empower citizens of every panchayat with bottom-up and top-down information and content; improve development and governance public service delivery at panchayat level through information on policy programmes and implementation; create a digital data house at every panchayat level; facilitate growth of pancha­yat economy through promo­tion of tourism, e-Commerce of local produce; put every panchayat on the global digital map; generate an ICT environment in every panchayat; and give fillip to the Right to Information campaign.

While the deliverables have been met and the project closed, the vision of the project— to digitally enable panchayats and panchayat members—is being carried forward by projects like CIRC, Soochna Seva, Smartpur and W4C.

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  • 500+ panchayats have been digitally enabled and have online presence
  • 5,000+ gram panchayat members have been made digitally literate
  • 50+ CIRCs in 10 states have digital panchayat centres which help panchayats go online
  • 2000+ villages can access panchayat information through panchayat websites; achieved transparency of governance at grassroots level

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Samarth Soochnapreneur

Uplifting the socio-economic status of Differently-Abled people

India has about 80 million persons with disability. But low literacy, few jobs and widespread social stigma are making disabled people among the most excluded in India.  Then there is the social stigmatization and perception that persons with disability are not fit for work. Only about 0.1 million of 80 million disabled persons in India have succeeded in getting employment in the industries till now despite The People with Disabilities’ Act, which reserves 3 per cent of all categories of jobs in the government sector for disabled persons.

Under this programme, Digital Empowerment Foundation aims to identify 100 persons with physical disability across 7 states to digitally enable them to become sustainable village-level entrepreneurs who not only earn a livelihood for themselves but are also able to serve the community.  They will be trained in functional digital literacy. The person will then be equipped with a tablet phone and a printer-scanner, and encouraged to become an entrepreneur who can provide a wide range of digital services to community members. These services could range from digital literacy for community members; eTicketing facility; scanning, photocopying or printing services; information delivery on public schemes and entitlements; facilitation of application submission for public schemes and entitlements; etc.

Hence, this programme will provide the person with disability with an independent profession to support his or her family’s livelihood, subsequently providing them with respect and dignity to feel confident and valued.

Status: Ongoing

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About the program:

The project ‘Digital Sarthak’ supported by USAID and DAI aims to enable 10000 Women entrepreneurs to connect online and earn their livelihood through digital/ e-commerce platforms; also marketing their products and expanding their clientele whereas 500 Women led Community Development Organizations will be able to outreach effectively through online modes and monitor and supervise their work. They will be identified with the help of 100 Digital Sarthak selected from 10 districts located in seven states.

Digital Sarthak will set up 100 digital resource centres covering 50 blocks and 1500villages located in selected aspirational districts to build the capacity of the women entrepreneurs and CDOs and also will reach out to 300,000 individuals and impart knowledge through capacity building workshops to 100,000 individuals about digital and financial literacy.

Digital Sarthak are the foot soldiers who will be identified and selected from 10 selected districts to build the capacity of Women entrepreneurs and Women led CDOs and will also provide information to the individuals living in the villages.

Context and Scope of the program:

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown necessities have upended social and economic processes, access and delivery of services, trade and transactions and affected all segments of social and economic groups adversely in India, as in world over. The regressive impact has been unprecedented and paralyzing for the forward moving and emerging social and economic players until the Covid-19 posed a devastating roadblock.

The two important critical players, amongst others, that have faced major uncertainty and coping challenges in current scenario and in post current scenario are – (a) Micro, Small and Women Enterprises / Entrepreneurs (MSWEs); and (b) Out of mainstream Civil Society / Community Based and Development Organizations. For these India’ s two critical social and economic agencies, Covid-19 has forced to confront both – challenges and opportunities. As Covid-19 has / had necessitated to identify, access, deploy and use effective and relevant digital technology, tools, platforms and resources to keep going social and economic processes, for these two critical players, the challenges have been in – (a) Having effective and relevant digital skills and capacities to network, trade and transact, engage and partner with stakeholders; (b) Identify, access, negotiate, deploy and use digital tools, platforms, resources for its advantage and mainstreaming their activities on digital pathways / highways and stay relevant with appropriate information and communication processes.

For the Independent/Micro WEs, digital transformation is not just using apps or social media; it has to be aligned to the nature of business with clearly defined metrics to justify the efforts and the investment. Hence, there are reasons for the micro/independent entrepreneurs to embrace digital transformation which are crucial especially in the context of COVID 19. Technology adoption will be effective to identify new customers as existing customers may be cash-strapped, may have reduced demand or may have simply perished on account of COVID crisis. Strategic digital support would enable them to help generate new leads and also customize the solutions based on the new demands that bubble up. Adopting the digital journey can ensure that existing customers are serviced effectively, thus leading to harvesting of new opportunities.

Similarly, Community Development organizations (CDOs) have the requisite potential for bringing sustainable development to local communities in rural areas. These organizations are playing a critical role in supporting the health, safety, and wellness of people around the world but due to unprecedented times like these, half of the country working from home, organizations based within communities are facing challenges in delivering impact while keeping their workforce safe. The challenges include- technical capacity, scarcity of resources, and lack of digital technology solutions customized for their environment. Therefore, for these organizations to make the greatest impact on their missions, they must have easy access to digital technology and the ability to effectively utilize it.

Status: Ongoing


Digital Up-skilling of 10000 Women Entrepreneurs and 500 Women-led Community Development Organizations to help them access and use the digital tool safely, securelyand impactfully.

Capacity building of 100 Digital Sarthaks to reach out and engage with the Women Entrepreneurs and Women led CDOs

Establishing 100 Digital Resource Centres equipped with a multi-function printer and a smartphone with the help of Digital Sarthaks

To provide digital and entitlements services to the community with the help Digital Sarthaks.

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About the Program 

Internet Roshni is a program of the Digital Empowerment Foundation and Internet Society Foundation. This program focuses on access and inclusion of the Tea Tribe and Adivasi Community in Assam. The Adivasi Community in Assam has one of the lowest social and economic indicators. The Covid-19 pandemic affected the community as the production and demand decreased so the wages became irregular. With no steady, sustainable, affordable access to the internet, digital resources, opportunities, and welfare announcements, the community is further excluded and now faces challenges for response, recovery, and resilience. With the current focus on shifting all information, and services digitally and online, the community needs major access and digital inclusion support and mainstreaming.

Among the unconnected communities across the world and India, the communities who have been traditionally working in Tea Gardens, are mostly tribals of various origins, dialects and are remotely located, mostly unconnected from the power of information, knowledge and rights. At DEF we have excited to finally get a chance to engineer a project that is designed to create a model to link the tea garden communities to the information world and knowledge economy. The model is simple: identify a community leader, preferably a woman with entrepreneurial knack, train and capacitate her in all possible digital tools and linkages, give her connectivity to digital infrastructure, and means to empower at least 2,000 community members around her in one year. We have started with 50 Internet Roshni Entrepreneurs at as many locations in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tinshukia, Cachar and Hailakandi districts of Assam.

Under Phase 2, the project is extended to 50 more locations in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Sonitpur, Udalguri in Assam and Jalpaguri, Coochbihar, Alipur dubar and Darjelling of North Bengal of West Bengal.


  • Improving Access to connectivity and network in tea gardens for the community.
  • Meaningful connectivity and access to the internet through enhanced mobile data networks channeled
  • through Community Internet libraries.
  • Digital and Financial Literacy Mission for Adivasi and Tea Tribe community.
  • Digital empowerment through basic internet skills to explore, and navigate
  • meaningfully and beneficially. Improving and enabling access to
  • Critical Public Schemes Information and Entitlements including digital.

Brochure Design Tea Tribe- Click here

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Status: Ongoing

Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) with Digital Innovation Lab

Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) are conceived as digitally enabled resource centres that will be run by local community representatives to ensure empowerment of the entire local community through digital inclusion, access to the Internet and thereby access to various online services as well as by providing packaged information. They will be in areas primarily inhabited by socially marginalized local communities living in information darkness.

CIRCs provide one of the best ways to spread digital literacy among the youth living in information-dark rural and remote areas and thereby are highly effective tools for bridging the digital divide.


The main objective of setting up a community information centre with Digital Innovation Lab is to empower the local people by making them proficient in using computers and related technology to meet their daily needs. Some of the other objectives are: –

  • To connect rural voices to the mainstream
  • To empower rural communities with knowledge and information services
  • To enable marginalised people to access various government schemes and other regional developmental programs through the Internet
  • To offer facilities to various communities those empower them to learn how to use digital media to organise themselves and work together to bring about socio-economic transformation in their daily lives.

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Status: Ongoing

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Krisarthak is a program on financial education and counselling (FEC) of the farmers to be delivered digitally using ICT tools. Krisarthak (FEC) is one of the core components of the World Bank-funded Project APART (Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation). It aims at providing financial literacy to APART project beneficiaries across Assam. The program’s objective is to enhance financial inclusion among two lakh fifty thousand farmers by teaching and spreading awareness about financial products and services by 2024 and enhancing access of farm community to these services in APART recognised value chains such as Agriculture, Horticulture, Fishery, Dairy, Sericulture and Handloom.

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Status: Ongoing

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Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) implemented the project “Mission Corona Vijay – The First Million initiative – Supporting COVID Vaccination – Prioritizing & protecting the most vulnerable in India”. The project was supported by the American India Foundation. The project aimed to vaccinate 1 lakh persons with disabilities along with their caretaker across 6 cities of India (Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore). The project tied up with Apollo Hospitals and Government Vaccination centres for vaccination and Uber for city transportation.

Target Group:

  • Persons with disabilities along with their caretaker
  • Rural Women
  • Pregnant Women
  • SC & ST and Tribal Community

Status: Closed

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More than 250 million people have been classified as living below the poverty line (BPL). This is the same proportion of the population that relies directly on government schemes and benefits as basic rights.

While the government has many schemes available for disadvantaged populations, uptake is very low due to many bottlenecks such as low awareness and literacy among workers, bureaucratic delays, tedious documentation, depriving those in need of their entitlements and social protection.

To address this concern, DEF with CGF provided the community with timely information about government services, schemes, and entitlements through the use of MeraApp, which provided the community with a catalogue of welfare schemes, as well as comprehensive information about entitlements, in an effort to empower them with access to rights and benefits in the core areas of health, education, social security, finance, and livelihood.

Through MeraApp DEF’s Soochnapreneurs (Digital Entrepreneurs) assisted the local community (beneficiaries) in applying for various welfare schemes and documentation at numerous locations.

  • Bihar
  • Delhi
  • Haryana
  • Jharkhand
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Rajasthan
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Assam


  • Our Soochnapreneurs assisted the beneficiaries in registering on MeraApp and guiding them to suitable schemes based on their requirements. They got in touch with the community and educated them on welfare programs and digital literacy. It was done door-to-door, at community meetings, or when beneficiaries came to the Soochnapreneur’s Centers.
  • Soochnapreneurs thoroughly discussed their background and current status before suggesting which scheme would be most suitable.
  • Some of the beneficiaries can also enrolled for more than one scheme.
  • Soochnapreneurs carried out regular follow-ups with the concerned department for the welfare scheme to ensure that beneficiaries received the benefits of the scheme for which they enrolled.

Status: Ongoing

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Establishment of Community Information Resource Center (CIRC) and Strengthening the Local Digital Ecosystem

‘Soochna Adhikar Kendra’ is an initiative of TATA POWER and Digital Empowerment Foundation is the implementing partner for the project. We are working in partnership to implement a community-based program which focuses on livelihood, skill development and employability of rural women/youth in information economy while providing public and private information services to rural clients on need-based, relevant, and cost-effective manner.

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Status: Ongoing

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Governance & Citizen Services

One of the major goals that flows from DEF’s Vision and Mission statements is to ensure that digital interventions strengthen grassroots democracy, improve governance, bring efficiency in delivery of government services and give voice to the people. This programmatic area addresses this goal and all projects in this area are aimed at empowering people with regard to participatory democracy, governance and full and comprehensive realisation of their rights and entitlements.


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