Letter from the Editorial Team

Dear Readers,

July has been a busy and fruitful month for Digital Empowerment Foundation. On July 23, 2015, the Dot NGO domain was officially launched in India, exclusively for the verified non-profit in the country, in the presence of an esteemed panel at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

The launch of the .NGO domain has opened a window of opportunities for non-government organisations across the country. At a time when there is growing mistrust of NGOs in India, the need for a validated and verified identity had become all the more pertinent. This, and the incumbent central government’s vision for a Digital India, made it the best time to launch the .NGO domain. In fact, it is not just a domain but a platform for NGOs to earn the reputation of a validated organisation, come under a spotlight in the crowded digital world, get easy access to funding, call for partnerships and build a larger network.

On the same day, amid an audience of over 400 people, 24 mobile innovations from eight South Asian countries were felicitated at mBillionth Awards 2015 for showing excellence in the field of mobile technology for the development of the masses. The awards had received an overwhelming number of nominations — 320 to be precise — this year, and 53 finalists presented their applications ahead of the Jury’s final decision. On the occasion, DEF also unveiled its mBillionth Awards book for 2015, ‘You, Me & Mobile’, which gives detailed descriptions of the 53 top innovations.

July was also a month with a lot of travelling for team DEF. There were visits to various parts of the country. While some journeys brought back stories of development and self-sustenance in tribal blocks such as in Ghadchiroli (Maharashtra), others brought back tales of Odisha weavers who are living in information darkness and being exploited at the hands of middlemen.

DEF believes information darkness can be eliminated if people are taught how to access the information, and Internet has proved to be one of the key tools in this sphere. With this vision, new Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) were opened in Bengaluru (Karnataka), Timarpur (Delhi) and Bahadurpur (Rajasthan) in July.

Meanwhile, with the nominations closed for the eNGO Challenge South Asia 2015, DEF is now gearing up for the Grand Jury process, which will be held in Pondicherry on 18-19 August, 2015. And we’re sure that our esteemed Jury Panel, like always, will select the most deserving NGOs as winners.

Hightlight of the Month
The launch of .NGO domain

July 23, 2015, marked a leap for grassroots and digital community in the country when the .NGO domain was launched nation wide at Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi, by Osama Manzar, Founder & Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, in the presence of an esteemed panel that included CEO HelpAge India Mathew Cherian, Director General of IIMC Sunit Tandon, Convenor and Chief Programme Executive (CSR) at Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs Gayatri Subramaniam, CEO of GuideStar India Pushpa Aman Singh, Lead of Corporate Affairs/CSR at Microsoft India Manju Dhasmana, and Co-founder, MD and CEO of Head Held High Madan Padki.

The session kicked off with Mr. Mathew Cherian introducing the origin of the non-government organisations in India while shedding light on the issue of credibility and trust deficit. Conduct committee meetings, announce the accounts, pin them on a notice board or upload five- year previous accounts on the website”, suggested Cherian.

Mr. Sunit Tandon congratulated each and every NGO present for contributing to the development sector in some way or the other, and stressed on the point that NGOs need to get out of the vicious circle of insults and “come out clean”.

“Right to Information is often talked about across the NGO sector but to waive off dishonesty, Internet connectivity is important,” Tandon said.

Talking about the importance of CSR within the framework of an NGO, Gayatri Subramaniam remembered the ghastly past when the NGOs were merely grant based. “With the increased number of opportunities, NGOs will have to understand how the corporate world functions, how their lifecycle works and the need to do regular monitoring. Most NGOs are not aware of these aspects, thus, they lose a lot of opportunities”, remarked Subramaniam.Read More...

Column of the Month
Madanmohan Rao
Research Director, YourStory Media

India is now the fourth largest start-up hub in the world, with a wide range of project in mobile media, Internet of Things(IOT), analytics, edtech, food-tech and more. Social entrepreneurs and NGOs are also active on the mobile front, backed by a range of venture capitalists, government grants and impact investors.“India is fast becoming a nation of creators as well as consumers,” says Hindol Sengupta in his new book, ‘Recasting India'... Read more

DEF’s 6th mBillionth Award 2015 honours 24 Asian innovators

On July 23, 2015, New Delhi-based non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) announced 24 winners out of 320 nominations from eight South Asian countries at their 6th mBillionth Award 2015 Gala. The award salutes mobile-based innovations for development.

The winners were selected by a Grand Jury after two days of deliberations in June at the Nimrana Fort Resort in Rajasthan... Read More

Vimages: A visit to weaving clusters

A team from DEF was in Odisha last month to assess the situation of weavers in the villages of Attabira and Barapali in Bargarh district, and Nuapatna in Cuttack district. It is sad to know that despite the central and state governments’ cluster development programmes, the wages of weavers have only marginally increased since 2005. Adding to the woes of weavers is the role of middlemen who're pockting most profits by taking advantage of the lack of knowledge/education of weavers who are designing intricate patterns and weaving beautiful sarees day in and day out. Another issue that is ailing the weaver community is the migration of the youth to other professions, mostly labour work. Today, there are very few children and youth in the region who are actually interested in pursuing their traditional profession even though they've spent at least 10 years learning the art. DEF has thus, decided to adopt two clusters of weavers in Barpali and Nuapatna, in partnership with Microsoft Corporate Citizenship, to help improve the livelihood of weavers by giving them digital literacy for skill development and access to information... Read more

Scheme of the month: Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY)

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) is a skilling and placement initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development. DDU-GKY has its origins in the Aajeevika Skills programme and the ‘Special Projects’ component of the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY). The scheme focuses on catering to the occupational aspirations of rural youth and enhancing their skills for wage employment.

Website of the month: Madhya Pradesh Tourism

The Madhya Pradesh tourism website not only aims to inform tourists but also engage them through a lively modern-day layout. Besides information on sites for wildlife, heritage, pilgrimage and more, the mobile-compatible website gives details of upcoming cultural and tourism festivals, sound & light shows, cuisine and shopping. With options for live chat and a virtual tour, prospective tourists can be assured of getting complete and relevant information ahead of their visit. Visit the website at www.mptourism.com.

Podcast from Gadchiroli
DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar recounts what he saw in Ghadchiroli,
a tribal block in Maharashtra
Travelogues of the month

Bibipur's digitally-oriented nameplates

The week before last, I was having one of those regular conversations with Sunil Jaglan, the sarpanch who has been more in the news than perhaps our prime minister, more recently for his innovative idea of “Selfie with your daughter” campaign to save daughters and fight against female foeticide. Sunil and his panchayat village, Bibipur, Haryana have been part of our digital panchayat movement since 2011.... Read more

Life across the digital divide

Dear fellow Indians, I am Ramu and my wife’s name is Sita. I have two children, Prakash and Savitri. We live in Doudi, a small village located in a corner of Kesla, in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh. We are actually one of those 100 families who were displaced because of the Tawa dam that was constructed nearby. Actually, I would like to address this letter to those who are parliamentarians, members of the Legislative Assembly, members of panchayat and all those who are part of those 1% of Indians who own almost 50% of the country’s assets. (This article was first published in Mint)... Read more

Information darkness plagues weavers

Last month, a team from DEF visited Attabira and Barpali in Bargarh district, and Nuapatna in Cuttack district of Odisha to access the socio-economic condition of weavers. And we were particularly impressed by the weavers of Nuapatna.

Weavers in Nupatna, about 70 kilometres away from the state Capital of Bhubaneswar, actually experiment with patterns, and are more meticulous and traditional in their process of extracting thread, spinning yarn and weaving Bangalore silk, Malda silk or Tasar sarees. Yet, they are among the poorest weavers in Odisha. Their monthly household income is only Rs. 2,000 to 3,000.

Women in the clusters manually pull out Tasar yarn from the shells of Tasar silkworms after the worms are killed in their cocoon by the heat of a fire below. Children, on the other hand, help their fathers in applying starch to finished sarees. This way, the entire household is involved in the process of making a saree. Weaving is a skill that is passed down by generations. However, due to low individual income and a time-consuming process, most of the youth is migrating to other professions. In Nuatpatna, especially, children start learning the skill of weaving from a very young age. Master weavers in the cluster say, it takes 10 years to learn the art and skill of weaving. However, often these children grow up and decide to migrate to Pune and Surat in search of work in factories. Quitting the profession after learning the skill for 10 long years is not only a waste of time and energy but also a waste of talent for these youngsters... Read more

Revisiting Shahjahanabad with a new set of Fellows

In an endeavour to digitally document the heritage and history of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) and involve the community in the process, DEF in partnership with UNESCO India launched the e-Heritage Project Fellowship in 2014. A group of six fellows, all residents of Old Delhi, were selected for the pilot project. After a successful Fellowship programme in 2014, the second Fellowship programme was launched on August 1, 2015, with a new set of five new Fellows, handpicked for the project... Read more...

Digital Launch of Zila Pustakalay, Bettiah

Maharaja Harendra Kishore Kendriya Zila Pustakalay which was established more than hundred years ago has been functioning as a district public library for twenty-five years now. Until 2013, the library was not fully functional. Then came the Global Libraries (GL) pilot project in the library campus of Bettiah District Public Library, a project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in 2013 and implemented by the Digital Empowerment Foundation. Being the district library it had become imperative that it also became a centre for community interactions and this was made possible by DEF’s intervention under the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

July 3, 2015 marked the digital launch of this library. In a ribbon cutting ceremony, the Chief Guest Shri Lokesh Kumar Singh, I.A.S., District Magistrate, Bettiah, West Champaran inaugurated the Digital, Children & Competitive Sections of the library and the Soochna Seva Info desk. In his inaugural address, he highlighted the importance of libraries for the community and unveiled the library logo and the activity compendium on stage... Read more

Rural Focus: An update on CIRCs

CIRC in Bengaluru, Karnataka

Digital Empowerment Foundation partnered with Indus Towers to open a new CIRC centre on 29th June, 2015, at Najmussahar, Idgah campus, Bengaluru. The centre was inaugurated by B.S. Shantharaju (CEO, Indus Towers) and DEF Founder-Director Mr. Osama Manzar (Founder & Director-DEF). After an audio-visual presentation on DEF, Mr. Osama and Mr. Shantharaju addressed the gathering. At the end of the programme, student winners of a quiz competition were awarded.

CIRC in Timarpur, New Delhi

Digital Empowerment Foundation partnered with Indus to open a CIRC centre in Timarpur, New Delhi, on 26th July, 2015. Member of the Legislative Assembly from Timarpur Mr. Pankaj Pushkar and DEF Founder-Director Mr. Osama Manzar graced the occasion. Children in the locality were very excited about being able to use laptops and other digital equipment available at the centre.

CIRC in Bahadurpur, Rajasthan

On 3rd July, 2015, Digital Empowerment Foundation opened a new CIRC in Bahadurpur, Alwar. This was a special day for village community members who were closely involved in the setup of the centre, which was inaugurated by Mrs. Kela Devi (Village Sarpanch) and Dr. Munshi Khan (District Officer - Minority Dept). The centre is very well equipped with all the modern ICT tools. The community is thrilled to have such resource in their rustic rural space.

NDLM updates

Digital India Week was celebrated from 1st to 7th July, 2015, and around 224 students received training under the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) programme in Anjaiah Nagar, Gachibowli, Kakinada and Yamuna Nagar. The Digital India Week received tremendous support from the NASSCOM foundation.

Anjaiah Nagar CIRC (NDLM) on 6th July, 2015, organised an Aadhaar Card camp to issue identity cards to 350 women, men and children. This initiative, too, was supported by the NASSCOM Foundation and was appreciated by the community and authorities, alike.

Reviving languishing art and craft through a CIRC in Mungaska

On 26th July, 2015, CIRC in Mungaska spearheaded an activity to revive the languishing arts and crafts of Rajasthan. The activity was called ‘Culture of Rajasthan’. This activity encouraged the skills of local women to create magnificent handmade artifacts. Such platforms help in creating a window for community women to showcase their talent and build future business prospects. The event saw overwhelming response, and over 100 women and 50 children thronged the CIRC centre.

Workshop on Internet Rights and Human Rights

DEF, IRHR and CIRC team together conducted a workshop on Internet Rights and Human Rights with CIRC users and community members, in partnership with Tarang Kala Kendra. The entire workshop enabled users to understand the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools, the Internet and how technology can be utilised to exercise their basic human rights of freedom of expression, especially online. The workshop also focused on access to Internet for other information such as e-ticketing, banking and entertainment. The workshop was conducted on 29th July, 2015.

An update on Soochna Seva

Fulfilling a dream

Soochna Seva is helping Samsa Khatun fulfill her dream of living in a pucca house. Samsa lives in Pidri, Uttar Pradesh, with her three children. Both Samsa and her husband are daily wage labourers, and their only dream is to own a pucca house. A BPL card holder, Samsa was receiving financial assistance from the government to build a house until the payment abrupty stopped a few months ago. Samsa and her husband felt helpless as they didn’t know who to contact for help. Fortunately for them, a Soochna Seva team reached out to them and helped them get in touch with authorities concerned. Later, the Block Development Officer came to the Soochna Seva Kendra and assured Samsa that her pending instalments under the Indira Awaas Yojana will resume soon.

Giving hope in old age

In Guna, Madhya Pradesh, a 60-year-old widow was struggling to get benefits under the Widow Pension Scheme. Suggi Devi didn’t know the complete procedure for applying for the scheme. Due to this reason, coupled with minor errors in the form, her application had been rejected several times. It was then that Soochna Seva came to her rescue. The team sorted her documents, corrected the errors and assisted her in filing the application. Now, Suggi Devi is expected to receive her pension from October 31, 2015.

Clearing misconceptions

A resident of Tehri, Uttarakhand, Raju had not applied for an Aadhaar card because he had lost his index finger in an accident and assumed that he would not be able to pass the biometric identification process. Raju wanted to avail the benefits under the ‘Direct Benefits Transfer Scheme’ but the set of documents required to apply for the scheme was incomplete without an Aadhaar card. However, his confusion was resolved when he attended a Soochna Seva awareness camp.

Assisting those in need

Jitu Lohar and his wife Geta Devi were living a life of misery after the demise of their eldest son and sole breadwinner. The elderly couple neither had an Aadhaar card nor a Voter’s ID, and could have never possibly availed benefits under any government scheme without either. During a door-to-door awareness campaign, a Soochna Seva team met the Lohars and decided to assist them in getting their identity proofs. Once they got their ID proofs, the team helped them apply for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and Vridha Pension Yojana.

CIRC in Bengaluru, Karnataka

Palanhar Pension Yojana was the only source of financial assistance for Gavri Devi’s children after the death of their father. Gavri Devi’s three children were enrolled under the scheme and received Rs. 1,000 each. However, when the payment was suddenly discontinued, it caused severe financial crisis for her, who had no alternate source of income. Soochna Seva then helped her get a BPL card and took up the matter with the block development office. Today, Gavri Devi is receiving financial aid under the Palanhar Pension Yojana and the Widow Pension Scheme.

TMTW: Dot NGO domain keeps its foot on the Indian soil

The first regional launch of the .NGO domain was held on 7 July, 2015, at Galaxy Hotel, Gorakhpur. DEF in partnership with Yuva Vikas Samiti and Hindustan Chaturdik Vikas Samiti organised the event. The Chief Guest of the event was Mr. Vibhuti Kushvasha, MNERGA Lokpal, who was accompanied by Shashi Bhushan, Director – Pani organisation. Along with them was Mr. Devendra Singh Bhadauria, Project Manager, eNGO, and Anand Kumar, Sr. Project Executive, eNGO... Read more

Internet Rights

Digital Empowerment Foundation's Communication Information Resource Centre (CIRC) and IMPACT team conducted an Internet Rights Human Rights (IRHR) workshop with 46 participants at CIRC Kapashera, New Delhi, on July 29th, 2015. The team first introduced the IRHR initiative and what it meant within the context of freedom of expression, both offline and online, and particularly how individuals and communities behave and express offline and how it translates to online communication and behaviour... Read more

Video's from DEF archive

'Karat Chale Badhat Chale'

Empowering women via mobiles

Maternal health services winner

Data & Analysis
Columns & more

To stay updated with DEF Founder-Director's columns, featured this past month in Mint newspaper, click here.

To follow DEF's coverage in media, click here.

DEF statistics

Click here to read interesting facts and figures from the digital world, published in collaboration with Mint newspaper.

Our publication
News to know
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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