Letter from the Editorial Team

Dear Readers,

Let us first wish our readers a very happy and prosperous New Year. On its part, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) has chalked out plans to give farmers and people living in power-dark rural India some great news in 2016. Our Highlight of the Month informs you about two major initiatives that DEF is planning to launch this year.

In the first initiative, DEF will enable farmers to directly link with scientists using digital tools such as Skype. In the second initiative, DEF will energise power-dark rural areas by enabling people to tap solar energy to light up their homes or drive their irrigation pump sets or use solar power for whatever use they want.

The next big piece of heartening news is that DEF has made big plans for some recently launched new projects under the Digital Cluster Development Programme (DCDP), which will help several skill-based clusters in India to become digitally literate and avail digital tools. This will empower them to break the vicious circle of exploitation and low monthly incomes despite producing some of the finest handloom and handicraft products.

DEF has already shown the tremendous transformative potential of introducing digital tools to a similar weaver-cluster at Chanderi. Now the handloom weaver cluster in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, where weavers are producing exotic, high-quality Zardozi products, will benefit from DEF's digital intervention. Read our report on this in the Markets & Enterprises section in this newsletter.

In our Governance & Entitlements section, read about how our Soochna Seva team forced a Gram Sevak to return money he had been swindling from the entitlements of poor and uneducated villagers. The short story highlights a long tale – information poverty often leads to actual economic poverty.

Meanwhile, DEF completed 13 successful years on December 16, 2015. While we celebrated at our New Delhi headquarters a day later on December 17, CIRCs across the nation observed our Foundation Day with great gusto on December 16. Read our report on that and other reports on CIRCs in the section on Access & Infrastructure in this newsletter.

Apart from these reports, as promised last month, we have introduced a new section called Cyber Champ of the Month from this issue. Our exclusive story will focus on an individual in the field of Information & Communications Technology for Development. This time, we focus on 20-year-old Piyush Ghosh, who emerged as the youngest ever to win the prestigious Manthan Award for his newspaper The Optimist Citizen.

We have also repositioned a popular section, Digital Edge in Mint, to bring to you information on content being published by Mint newspaper in a weekly page created by DEF's Research & Advocacy team.

We hope to continuously improve the contents of this newsletter by bringing to you new sections that offer you interesting, informative and exclusive reports that you will not find anywhere else, including in the mainstream media. Please do give us your valued feedback so that we can make this newsletter more useful for all of you.

For the moment, happy reading!

Highlight of the Month
CIRCs going to the next level to link farmers with agro-scientists

DEF is planning to launch two major initiatives in 2016.

The first initiative will enable farmers to directly link up with scientists by using digital tools available at Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) set up by DEF in remote rural areas.

In the second initiative, DEF will set up a for-profit social enterprise to enable people living in unserved and underserved areas get electricity at affordable rates by tapping solar energy.

DEF is now in discussions with Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUAT) at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand to launch a pilot project across five districts in the Garhwal Division and one district in the Kumaon Division of the state to directly link farmers to the university's scientists and field extension staff through CIRCs set up by DEF in these six districts.

"The plan is to make the six CIRCs in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions work as hubs through which famers in the surrounding areas can directly talk to the university's scientists using digital tools such as Skype," said Shahid Siddiqui, head of DEF's Access & Infrastructure work area.

"The Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) run by the University will be used as resources. We will provide last mile delivery in remote rural areas to enable farmers to obtain information and technology inputs on seeds, package of practices for various crops, horticulture, animal husbandry, weather reports, pesticides, fertilizers, etc from the KVKs," he said.

Farmers will get the information free of cost as the University is unlikely to charge any fee for providing the information. Since the CIRCs already have the digital infrastructure for providing broadband Internet connectivity, there will be no other cost, he said. Read More

Enterprise & Markets

Work starts in Barabanki district to empower weaver clusters

After tasting success at digitally empowering the Chanderi weaving cluster through Chanderiyaan, DEF initiated several projects under Digital Cluster Development Programme in 2014 to digitally empower more such weaving clusters across India in villages like Barpali, Nuapatna and Narayanpet. DEF has now started work at Barabanki district's Saidanpur village, a zardozi and gamcha weaving cluster, with support from Ericsson India. In Saidanpur, DEF is setting up a digital skilling and design centre at a 100-year old heritage site, which is at present being restored for the scheduled inauguration later this month. Read more

Access & Infrastructure

CIRCs celebrate DEF Foundation Day on December 16

DEF completed 13 successful years on December 16, 2015. Over the years, the DEF family has become bigger, stronger and more diverse. Many CIRCs celebrated the day in their own ways. Some wrote wishes and messages on chart papers and shared photographs with the rest of the DEF family, some celebrated with cakes and candles, while others conducted meet-and-greet with community people. At all these CIRCs, not only the staff but also the community showed great interest in being part of the celebrations and wished wished many more victorious years to the 400-strong DEF family across the country.

Digital literacy made accessible to minority students of Anjaiahagar

On December 16, 2015, CIRC Anjaiahnagar in Hyderabad district launched special digital literacy classes at a government Urdu medium school at Sherilingampally Mandal. The community in this area is deprived of basic facilities and doesn’t have a separate school building where children can get computer education. Moreover, the community is quite conservative and is hesitant to send their children anywhere else. In this situation, the centre staff decided to start computer literacy classes within the school. Although it took six months to get permission from the authorities, the CIRC is now successfully delivering computer classes.

CIRC Halduchaur conducts community mobilisation workshops

CIRC Halduchaur in Uttarakhand conducted several mobilisation workshops at various institutions recently to make community youth aware of the importance of digital literacy and to bring about a positive change in their lives. The CIRC staff visited Lal Bahadur Shastri College, followed by GGIC Dauliya School and organised awareness sessions at both the institutions. These sessions were delivered by Centre Coordinator Naval and local partner Ravinder Sharma, along with Rohit Dumka, an ex-student from the centre. Motivational films and audio-visual presentations made the programme more interesting.

US film-makers visit CIRCs in Alwar to shoot ‘One Billion Stories’

US-based film-makers Daniel Oxenhandler and Will Sloan along with DEF team members Rohit Dhall and Udita Chaturvedi undertook a day-long visit to three CIRCs in Alwar district on December 19, 2015, to shoot for a documentary, called 'One Billion Stories', to explore the impact of India’s unprecedented expansion of network and digital technology around major social and environmental challenges. The duo had earlier interviewed DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar. It was during this interview that Daniel and Will were impressed by the mention of CIRCs and expressed the intention to visit one of them. Read more

Education & Empowerment

Training Unnao's librarians in essential digital tools

DEF organised a two-day workshop on 'Library Management and Community Engagement' on December 11-12, 2015, at the PDVT Government District Library in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. Some 35 librarians from Unnao district participated in the workshop organised in collaboration with TERI. The primary objective of the workshop was to train the participants about essential digital tools for better library management and higher community engagement. DEF has already helped digitise the PDVT Government District Library under its District Public Library project in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Governance & Entitlements

Soochna Seva participates in 100-day Javabdehi Yatra in Rajasthan

The Soochna Seva and the CIRC teams are participating in a 100-day 'Paardarsita Javaabdehi Yatra' (Transparency & Accountability Campaign) that started on December 1, 2015, and will cover more than 100 blocks across all the 33 districts of Rajasthan. The yatra is designed to raise awareness of the people about the RTI Act, the RTE Act and the Right to Health legislation. The yatra is being organised by the Soochana Evam Rozgaar Adhikar Abhiyan and Rajasthan Patrika. The Yatra will be accompanied by 'RTI on Wheels', a mobile RTI clinic from the Gujarat RTI Campaign, devoting three days to each block. Read more

Gram Sevak in Bihar forced to return swindled pension money

Intervention by a Soochna Seva team has forced an errant Gram Sevak in Ramnagar block of West Champaran district to return to actual beneficiaries the money he was swindling from them. The team learnt that Phoolmati Devi, 65, was not getting her entitled Rs 400 per month under Bihar's Widow Pension Scheme. The Sevak — who used to collect the full pension on behalf of Phoolmati and other poor, uneducated villagers from the Block Development Officer with intervals of two or three months — used to retain Rs 200-300 for himself from the entitlement of each beneficiary. Read more

Knowledge Hub & Database

Folk musicians learn to break middlemen through social media

Over 90 folk musicians from villages around Jodhpur in Rajasthan have learnt to use social media to directly promote and market their art to the world and, thereby, break the grip of middlemen who exploit them. The musicians were participating in a Social Media for Empowerment (SM4E) workshop on December 21, 2015, organised by DEF in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and Rupayan Sansthan, the local strategic partner, at Arna Jharna – The Desert Musuem – near Jodhpur. The musicians represented various communities whose traditional music has received national and global acclaim. Read more

Social Sector & CSOs

52 Parindey covers four more innovators

DEF Fellow Rahul Karanpuriya has embarked on a year-long journey across India to identify and document the lives of 52 innovators who are making a conscious living through eco-careers. After covering two innovators in Rajasthan that we had reported about in our October newsletter, Rahul first stopped at Palwal in Haryana to document the story of master potter Brijendra Prajapati. Then he went to New Delhi to meet grassroots educationist Deeksha Bhatia, followed by restaurateurs Sunny and Manoj in Mewar, Rajasthan. Finally, he moved to Udaipur to write about organic farmer Rohit Jain. Read more

Nagaland-based NGOs learn to use digital tools

As part of its e-NGO programme, DEF organised an e-NGO ICT Capacity Building Workshop for non-profits in Dimapur, Nagaland, on December 18, 2015, in collaboration with local partner Youth Net, Kohima. The workshop trained NGOs in managing websites, raising funds through social media and attaining strong online presence — a must in today's digital environment. Kesonyu Yhome, the young and dynamic Deputy Commissioner of Nagaland, began the workshop with his inspiring words, encouraging around 70 NGO representatives to continue their eminent work and use digital tools to further efficiency and effectiveness.

UP non-profits get training in use of ICT tools

DEF organised another training programme for NGOs with its local partner Yuva Vikas Samiti in Basti, Uttar Pradesh, on December 22, 2015. More than 70 non-profits participated and learnt about the various digital and social media tools that can enhance their efficiency and effectiveness, apart from helping them raise more funds by becoming globally visible. The MLA of Rudhauli, Basti Sanjay Pratap Jaiswal, graced the occasion and explained how he thinks websites and social media has shown proven results on the ground and emphasised the power of social media and the difference it can make.

Research & Advocacy

Workshop on Internet Rights scheduled for early February

DEF will organise a two-and-a-half day workshop on Internet Rights and a one-and-a-half-day Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Advocacy Workshop in New Delhi from 3-6th February, 2015. These workshops will bring together representatives from various human rights organisations & defenders to build a network of individuals & organisations which would raise their voices in support of issues concerned with different online human rights violations. The project seeks to promote and protect internet rights in India, focusing specifically on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association, the Right to Information and Right to Privacy.

India Country Research Report on Internet Freedom launched

At a one-day event in the national capital on the International Human Rights Day — December 10, 2015 — DEF launched the India Country Research report on Internet Freedom titled 'Internet Access Limits Free Expression' and held a multi-stakeholder consultation on 'Understanding the Freedom of Expression Online and Offline'. The event was inaugurated by DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar where he spoke about the background and methodology adopted to prepare the report. He said 600 respondents were also interviewed to understand ground level realities. Read more

Discussing Freedom of Expression, online and offline, in Brazil

DEF, represented by Ritu Srivastava, participated in the workshop 'Freedom of Expression Online: Gaps in Policy and Practice' at the 10th Internet Governance Forum of the United Nations in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in November, 2015. During the four-day event, DEF along with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Bytes for All, Pakistan, and Derechos Digitales organised a session aimed at understanding how Freedom of Expression and other human rights are realised in the online context and how these rights are being practiced in countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico.

Digital Edge from Mint

Limited Internet access limits free expression

India needs to improve the right to freedom of online expression, according to a survey by DEF, which was conducted in 10 states among some 600 respondents, besides taking inputs from other stakeholders and secondary data. The findings are revealing because awareness of rights is high among Indians, who are also concerned about digital privacy. Read more

India lags in technological readiness

Although India jumped 16 places to 55th rank in the 2015 Global Competitiveness report, it fares poorly in technological readiness. It is one of the least digitally connected countries in the world, languishing at the 120th spot. Fewer than one in the five Indians access the Internet regularly and fewer than two in five own even a basic cell phone. Read more

Cyber Champ of the Month

Piyush Ghosh is the youngest ever to win a Manthan Award

Meet Piyush Ghosh, 20, founder of The Optimist Citizen newspaper and a winner in the e-News & Journalism category at the Manthan Awards 2015. He is, perhaps, the youngest ever to win this prestigious award. His newspaper focuses only on positive news and change-makers. The newspaper has both print and online versions. In just one year, The Optimist Citizen has reached more than 3,000 offline subscribers and a few thousand online subscribers with about 20 subscribers from abroad – mainly from the US, the UK and Dubai. He is our Cyber Champ of the month. Read more

Scheme of the Month

National Social Assistance Programme

The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), which came into effect in 1995, represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the Directive Principles in Article 41 of the Constitution. The programme introduced a policy for social assistance, aimed at ensuring minimum national standard for social assistance to the poor in addition to the benefits that states are providing. NSAP comprises Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme, National Family Benefit Scheme and Annapurna.

e-NGO of the Month

India Development Alternatives Foundation

The India Development Alternatives Foundation (IDAF) of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh aims to bring about social changes through participative involvement of development experts from various sectors. The core objective of IDAF is to bridge the digital divide by using ICT for social and economic upliftment at the grassroots level. Since 2006, IDAF is working towards finding out alternative means of development for marginalised people and is trying to help the disadvantaged sections of society to improve their quality of living. To know more, visit IDAF website.

Column of the Month
Madanmohan Rao, Author
Mobile and more: India as fourth largest start-up hub in the world

India is now the fourth largest start-up hub in the world, with a wide range of start-ups in mobile media, Internet of Things, analytics, ed-tech, 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. The combination of mobiles and analytics offers huge potential for India. We are now entering the era of data-powered farming via large scale open data sets on weather and yields, IoT, drones and smart tractors. Wireless digital tools will be as important as traditional farming tools in the agricultural sector." Read more

Videos from DEF archive

A preview of 'Ocean in a Drop'

Arogya Sakhi

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 on a designated page called 'Digital Edge'.

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About 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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