Zero Connect brings the Little Rann of Kutch online

Centuries ago, the Little Rann of Kutch was part of the sea. Deposition of silt brought down by sea along the shore (clubbed with some geological processes) led to the pushing back of the sea, exposing 5,000 sq. km flat terrain — now known as the Little Rann of Kutch. The Little Rann of Kutch is an unsurveyed piece of land that accounts for 37 per cent of Gujarat’s total salt production (Gujarat produces 73 per cent of India’s salt). This is a mudflat area, which turns into sea for four months and becomes dry land for the remaining eight months of the year. It provides shelter to over 5,000 wild asses and 33 other types of wild animals and birds. In the Little Rann of Kutch, the Agariya community (salt farmers) extracts one of the rarest types of salts, called vadagara crystals. About 3,500 Agariya families make the Little Rann of Kutch, which is known as India’s Survey Number Zero, home for eight months. During this period, they live secluded lives as their clusters are far and wide. In an interview with Gadgets 360, DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar discusses at length why and how he plans to get the salt farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch online through project Zero Connect that was launched on March 9, 2017. Read More

Recipe for a smart village
Government needs to think about creating 250,000 smart panchayats. Or it can start with a smaller target. Read More
Connecting the other half
Most of those who are excluded from access to the Internet are at the bottom of the pyramid, mostly residing in developing countries. Read More
Anatomy of Virtual Curfews: Human Rights Vs. National Security
Exporing existing and emerging threats to infringement of fundamental and human rights on account of network shutdowns. Read More
Demonetisation: A Violation of Human Rights?
Exploring demonetisation in India through a human rights lens. Read More

Congratulations to the Finalists of SM4E 2017
The Grand Jury for the 4th edition of the Social Media for Empowerment (SM4E) Awards 2017 was successfully held at The Hill Fort Kesroli – Neemrana Hotels on March 17-18, 2017. This year, the platform received 162 nominations across nine categories. Out of these, the Virtual Jury filtered 123 valid entries down to 71 for evaluation by a Grand Jury that comprised 12 members with expertise in varied but relevant fields. This year's SM4E Finalists have been announced, and Winners and Special Mentions will be revealed on stage at the 4th SM4E Awards 2017 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on April 29, 2017.
Bhutan on the path to Digital Renaissance
Bhutan is a small country nestled in the Himalayas with a population of little less than eight lakh. It is a unique constitutional monarchy; democracy co-exists with monarchy in governance. The King retires at the age of 65 years, handing over the reins to the next generation. The country is still very much rooted in tradition but there are also signs of change that are visible in the environment. This change is driven by the youth comprising almost 60 per cent of the total population, which can boast of a literacy rate of 80 per cent. And this youth population is pushing the traditional boundaries. Read More
DEF finds friends in two Austrians on a unique journey
Austrian couple Melanie Fritzer and Phillip Benedikt are on a very interesting year-long journey across the world. They wish to travel from country to another, trading their professions for life’s basic needs, and “basically reintroduce the barter system”. Melanie is a social worker and Benedikt is a photographer film-maker. In this journey, India was their fifth location where they decided to share their expertise with DEF before heading out to Nepal on April 5, 2017. The couple spent 15 days with the DEF family, working on several projects, including Chanderiyaan in Madhya Pradesh and an e-waste manegement project in New Delhi. Read More
Transforming citizens into conscious citizens
CIRCs are often frequented by people to access information on their rights, entitlements, citizen services and issues that matter to them. At CIRC Angara in Ranchi district, students organised a march for Swachh Bharat to raise awareness about keeping our surroundings clean. Participants of the march spoke about the objectives of the Abhiyaan, especially eradicating open defecation which often leads to a number of illnesses. The march was predominantly carried out by school students who went around making other community members aware about the campaign and encouraging them to understand their role as active citizens.
Learning through recreational activities
CIRCs across the country plan special activities regularly for community members that are not only beneficial but also recreational. The idea is to encourage the adoption of digital tools not just as a source of knowledge in the traditional sense but even expand the pool of consumers and producers of online content. Last month, CIRC Kuran organised a special movie screening for the children who visit the centre, promoting edutainment as an important learning tool. With Doosra Dashak, an NGO, they also hosted a special session for the youth of the community and focused on the government’s Skill India mission.
Why waste water?
CIRC Tura in Meghalaya celebrated International Water Day on March 22, 2017, with students and faculty of Dakopgre SSA School who even organised a rally to reach out to various government offices, schools and market areas. CIRC Tura coordinator Banangku Momin inspired the students to learn about water-related issues, discuss these issues with their peer, and take actions to make a difference. Though Tura is a hilly region, it suffers from water scarcity. To create awareness about water conservation, Momin discussed ‘Why waste water’ and threw light on the aspects of wastewater, its treatment and reuse.
Changing attitudes towards female education
CIRC Saidanpur, established under project Bank-e-Loom in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, realises that women play an important role in empowering communities and, thus, seeks to equip them with digital skills and access to information. In ares not very far from the centre, there are women and girls who have to seek permission from the men in their houses as to even step out of their homes. To ensure they are digitally included, the CIRC team arranges regular computer classes near their homes. This has not only played a key role in skilling women but has also encouraged the idea of girl child education.
Transforming information consumers into information producers
DEF recently partnered with Azad Foundation for the latter’s Feminist Leadership Programme (FLP), the second round of which focuses on the use of social media applications and how effectively they can be used to disseminate information and create communities online. Twenty women, from various parts of Delhi, were trained in using Facebook not just as information consumers but also as information producers. The training programme aims to equip women with digital skills to enable them to incorporate digital tools in their community projects that they will undertake at the end of FLP.
Leveraging access to information for problem solving
The aim to digitally empower people in their communities, and beyond, means that our centre coordinators, trainers and sometimes even our beneficiaries have to continuously make people aware of how their needs and issues can be solved if they had access to the right information in a timely manner. Recently, the CIRC Halduchuar team — which included the coordinator, trainer, volunteers and even some beneficiaries from the centre — went around the community to understand the needs of its people, make them aware about the benefits of digital literacy, and how they could access it at CIRC Halduchaur. Read More
Celebrating the spirit of women across the country
CIRCs across India celebrated Women’s Day with great gusto by engaging in various cultural programmes, meetings and discussions. CIRC Sonapur in Assam celebrated the day with participation of more than 20 women for an interactive discussion on March 8, 2017. The first session of the day revolved around ‘Women's struggle for equality around the world’; and how March 8 is a symbol of the struggles that women around the world have undergone to gain equality and rights. At the same time, the day is a reminder of how far there is still to go for women to be treated as equal to men and fight patriarchy. Read More
One step closer to Baank-e-Loom's eCommerce platform
The Baank-e-Loom project in Uttar Pradesh went a step ahead last month towards launching its exclusive e-Commerce website and social media channels by carrying out a professional shoot of handloom products coming out of the cluster. Further, to upscale production and improve designs, designers from Jaipur visited the centre to interact with weavers. NIFT Mumbai graduate Mr. Kaushal even hosted a brief session with design trainers and weavers on ‘production of a dense fabric’. Baank-e-Loom is a collaboration between DEF and Ericsson India. Read More
eNGO expands its service suite for non-profits
In this new financial year, the eNGO programme, too, has a new range of services for non-government organisations across India. The network has already enabled more than 2,000 NGOs through validated online identities and digitally empowered more than 6,000 NGOs across South Asia. Now, it aims to cater to NGOs of all echelons with its new set of service suite through which NGOs would be able to choose the plan that best suits their requirements and pockets. The new services include refurbished laptops, promotional videos and digital marketing campaigns, in addition too all the services that were earlier available. Read More
Transforming into a self-sustainable enterprise
In an effort to become self-sustainable, CIRC Tura is trying to transform into a digital literacy-cum-printing press. Starting March 2017, the team has been visiting several schools, colleges and offices to make administrations aware of the various printing services CIRC Tura can offer to them, including printing of banners, visiting cards, report cards and question papers. At the moment, most people seeking bulk printing tasks have to travel to Guwahati. For smaller tasks, services are available in Tura but at hiked rates; so CIRC Tura comes as a respite. It’s only been a month, and CIRC Tura has already received orders for 11 banners, 200 posters and 70 certificates.
Access and not mere availability is the need of the hour
Sabita Khalkho (35) is a mother of five children — Sakshi, Shashi, Beronika, Sajna and Sushmita — who spends most of the year in the absence of her husband who works outside Ranchi district at a brick kiln. Though he only visits his wife and children once every three months, his presence isn’t very helpful either. The man drinks regularly and often spends large chunks of his wages on liquor. Sabita is a hardworking woman who works in the vegetable market earn enough to feed her children. However, it’s not enough to send them to school. A Soochna Sevak once happened to meet her and got talking. Read More
A joint Universal Periodic Review
The Research & Advocacy department of DEF conducted three one-on-one meetings with the Embassy of France, the Embassy of Germany and the Embassy of Sweden for lobbying on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations towards the upcoming review of India in May 2017. The lobbying initiatives follow DEF's coalition UPR submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Recommendations for Internet Rights, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association & Assembly Online in India can be read here. [The UPR is like a human rights report card for every Member State of UN by the UNHRC.]

Bringing salt farmers online

District champions of India

DEF’s unsung heroes

The future of film-making
Zafar Anjum
Writer, publisher, film-maker
Will crowdsourcing change the $2 trillion global entertainment industry? You bet. Here’s why. There are three important trends in the video content space that we should pay attention to: there has been an explosion in the creation and consumption of video content, the duration of video consumption is becoming shorter and the audience is the creator is the audience (the rise of the creator consumer). Today, anyone with a smartphone and the desire to make a film can easily create and share video content. Read More
A culture finder on your smartphone
Formally trained in heritage conservation, Vaibhav Chauhan knew how important it is to be aware of history and culture from a young age. Unfortunately for him, information about most of the museums was not easily available, even in a city like Delhi. “We keep talking about how India is one of the oldest and biggest civilizations. We have been fed stories about how our culture is great. But what use is it if we are not using our culture for development, nor marketing it correctly,” he asks. Read More
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Digital Empowerment Foundation aims to connect unreached and underserved communities of India in an effort to bring them out of digital darkness and empower them with information access through last mile connectivity, digital literacy and digital interventions. Established in 2002, with the motto to ‘Inform, Communicate and Empower,’ DEF aims to find sustainable ICT solutions to overcome information poverty in remote and rural locations of India.

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