Putting information in the hands of rural population

As much as 67 per cent of India’s population lives in rural India; and one billion Indians do not have access to the Internet. More than 300 million identified individuals fall under the category of below poverty line (BPL) who, by definition, earn less than a dollar a day. This is the same share of population that directly depends on access to government schemes or entitlements for some of their most basic rights.

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, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) beta tested a mobile application called MeraApp (meaning ‘my app’) under its project Soochna Seva (Information Service) in 2016-17.

Soochna Seva is a project implemented by DEF with support from the European Union to enable access to government schemes, services, entitlements for rural and marginalised communities of India.

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 (Information + Entrepreneurs), 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. Read More

Outliers with Pankaj Misra
In a conversation with FactorDaily, Osama Manzar discusses his plans to take the next billion Indians online. Read More
The excluded remain excluded
The situation and miseries of daily-wage earners, Dalits, Adivasis, minorities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and transgenders has not improved over the years. Read More
A gutsy woman on e-drive
Provided with scooters equipped with a tablet and a mobile hotspot to offer digital literacy and digital services, women can be mentored to become entrepreneurs. Read More
Baseless Aadhaar and its many flaws
When machines don't recognise thumb prints of the poor, Aadhaar turns into a device of exclusion. Read More

Digital Citizen Summit is back for the second edition
India and other South-Asian countries have leapfrogged technologically to adapt to digital lifestyles. The Government of India’s push towards digital initiatives and increasing ubiquity of digital tools and services renders it imperative to discuss what would be our lives in the digital world and how the definition would and context of being a digital citizen evolve in the future. With this in mind, an initiative of DEF and Friedrich Naumann Foundation, is back for the second year with a new theme and new focus areas. The Summit will be organised by DEF in New Delhi on September 21-22, 2017. Read More
Grand Jury is all set to pick mBillionth 2017 winners
Nominations have now closed for mBillionth Awards 2017, and efforts are underway for organising the Grand Jury on June 16-17, 2017. This year, the award platform received around 300 entries, which will be filtered by a Virtual Jury before valid nominations head to the Grand Jury process that will be held in New Delhi. Initiated by DEF under the framework of World Summit Awards (WSA) and UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2010, mBillionth Awards seeks to promote and encourage the mobile innovations, applications and services for development and empowerment across South Asia.
Want to apply for Digital Fellowship 1.0?
DEF is glad to announce the launch of Digital Fellowship 1.0. Starting July 2017, DEF will offer a six-month-long Fellowship to 12 individuals who realise and understand the potential of digital tools and technology in bringing about a change in grassroots communities. Digital Fellowship 1.0 offers personal and professional development to youth who want to work for positive social, cultural, behavioural and economic changes in the field of development — particularly ICT4D — in an effort to bridge the digital divide in India. Interested candidates can apply here before the midnight of June 10, 2017. Read More
Beneficiaries share their stories on National Tech Day
DEF celebrated National Technology Day on May 11, 2017, with an online campaign to showcase stories from the ground through which DEF celebrated the positive social, behavioural and economic impacts created by technological interventions at the grassroots for beneficiaries across the nation. The campaign — shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — threw light on empowerment envisaged by technological initiatives in the lives of rural community. Each of the stakeholders had a unique experience with hands-on technology; and the graphics reflected the same. Read More
North East celebrates its women on Mothers’ Day
Mothers’ Day was celebrated at CIRCs Sonapur (Assam) and Tura (Meghalaya) last month with overwhelming emotions. The day was dedicated to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of mothers all around the world. Participants discussed women’s contribution in the world and the importance of mothers in our lives. Two pertinent issues surrounding women — gender equality and domestic violence — were also touched upon to stress on women' rights. Further, children sang songs, wrote essays and made artwork for their mothers on the occassion.
Youngsters learn DIY craft in Saidanpur& Halduchaur
In an effort to engage children during their summer break from school and show possible options for secondary and tertiary income for the youth, Team Baank-e-Loom has been screening DIY tutorial videos — available on an online learning platform called Sikana that hosts more than 10,000 videos — for children and young adults to for activities like origami, stitching, craft and recycling, among others. Baank-e-Loom is a project initiated by DEF in partnership with Ericsson to digitally empower weaver communities in Saidanpur in Uttar Pradesh. A similar video training in tailoring was also organised for women in Halduchar in Uttarakhand.
Mobile literacy equips women with today's skills
The latest round of mobile literacy training under Azad Foundation’s Feminist Leadership Programme focused on teaching the applications of Facebook and Instagram to women from semi-urban areas of Delhi. The training aims to help these women generate awareness about their community projects and mobilise people to join the cause. Apart from this, the training focused on creating surveys, using Google forms, which would help them collect relevant data and assess the needs of their communities pertaining to their projects. The training has played a key role in equipping 20 women with digital skills.
Assam encouraged to produce more women conquerors
As many as 60 people participated in a day-long programme called Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao that was organised by DEF in Sonapur village, Dimoria block of Assam. In this village alone, DEF has provided training in digital literacy to more than 5,000 people and digitally enabled thousands of others through various services offered at the local centres. DEF Programme Coordinator in Assam Himan Kalita spoke to community members on this occasion about the role of women in shaping a society and raised awareness about the need to educate girl child for an equal, just and compassionate world. Read More
Barabanki learns there is #NoShame in menstruation
Every year, the world observes May 28 as Menstrual Hygiene Day to call attention to and ‘normalise’ menstruation. This year, the day was also observed at Baank-e-Loom in Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh, in collaboration with Water Aid and FICCI Lucknow-Kanpur. Just like the rest of the country, especially rural India, young girls’ and women’s potential in Saidanpur, too, is squandered because people are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world. There are several myths, superstition and taboos associated with menstruation, which is rarely talked about in urban India, let alone rural India. Read More
No more excluding the visually impaired from digital literacy
Set in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya, Tura is the largest town in this hilly region. The area is mostly inhabited by the Garo tribe. Amid this backdrop, CIRC Tura was set up here in 2014, with an aim to impart digital literacy, and provide access to information. In the last three years, the centre has impacted over 800 people, including a large number of women and tribals, through five different digital literacy or entrepreneurship development programmes. The centre even runs various other initiatives under its belt, including teaching the differently abled and the elderly in the community. Read More
First batch of Assam’s ICT-enabled teachers graduate from TISS
On June 1, 2017, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and RMSA Assam hosted the first convocation for a four-month TISS certificate course in ICT and Education for School Teachers. DEF is the implementation partner of the ITE project in Assam where it works with government school children and strengthen their learning. As many as 39 government school teachers and DIET faculty members were awarded their certificates in the presence of Chairman of SEBA Assam RC Jain, TISS Director Prof. S Parasuraman, TISS Deputy Director (Guwahati) Prof. DK Srivastava, Officer in Special Duty at RMSA Krishna Baruah and ITE Lead Dr. Amina Charania.
Creating a recreational space for children on summer break
CIRC Kuran in Rajasthan has organised a special summer camp for children who can indulge in recreational activities after school hours to learn to make clay sculptures. The idea is to provide a space for kids where they can expand their creative abilities and indulge in activities outside the fromal classrooms. Regular visits at centre have also piqued the kids’ curiosity about computers and some even wish to learn computers in the coming months. CIRCs are focal points of the communities they serve, and provide digital literacy and services to facilitate coming together of people for a variety of activities.
Two more handloom clusters set to go digital
In May, DEF adopted two more handloom clusters in Kollegal (Karnataka) and Pochampally (Telangana) with support from Microsoft under its Digital Cluster Development Programme (DCDP). Kollegal is located in Chamrajnagar district of Karnataka; and is situated on the foothills of the Western Ghat, providing temperature that is suitable for growing silk cocoons. The cluster specialises in sericulture and handwoven silk sarees, so much so that it is often known as the Silk City. It is believed that weaving was introduced in the cluster by Christian travellers. Pochampally, meanwhile, comprises 80 villages. Read More
Chanderiyaan expands productisation
Productisation has expanded under project Chanderiyaan in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh. Primarily a weavers’ community, weavers and tailors have now begun the production of block-printed laptop sleeves to expand the range of products offered to global customers via exclusive eCommerce portals, social media platforms, fairs or exhibitions and on-site purchase. Products offered now include sarees, stoles, dupattas, suits, kurtas for women & men, and laptop sleeves. Meanwhile, a group of students from NIFT Bhopal also visited the project site to understand the process of weaving and document the rich craft and heritage-based cluster.
Needs of handloom SHGs assessed in Odisha
Not just in Chanderi but a new collection was created last month at the handloom clusters of Nuapatna and Barpali in Odisha too. These clusters have been adopted by DEF and Microsoft under project DigiKala of DCDP to digitally empower the weavers in the region. Further, an extensive survey of SHGs was carried out to understand the situation, needs and interests in the area of design training and eCommerce for youth, which will be offered in the coming months. Meanwhile, spoken English classes have received a good response from young adults who on a summer break from school.
Grassroots NGOs build their ICT capacity in Bihar & Uttar Pradesh
A one-day ICT Capacity Building workshop was organised in Samastipur, Bihar, on May 15, 2017, to apprise NGOs with Google applications and other digital tools that are available to help them improvise their operations and management. Around 50 representatives from NGOs, SHGs, CBOs and farming communities learnt about various digital tools and applications that can assist them in effective outreach. The workshop focused on ICT for easy fundraising and effective collaboration; content creation in regional languages for wider reach; importance of Internet Safety for secure operation; and social media for enhanced networking. Read More
52 Parindey is back for a second lap
After the successful leg of 52 Parindey in 2015-2016, the project is back with Chapter II. After documenting initiatives and innovators that look at environment-friendly vocations, 52 Parindey Chapter II will focus on India’s handloom sector. Over the next 52 weeks, fellow Rahul Karanpuriya will digitally document the history, heritage, culture and livelihood of 10 handloom clusters of India. This will take Karanpuriya on a journey through Saidanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Barpali & Nuapatna (Odisha), Musiri & Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Pondicherry, Kollegal (Karnataka), Narayanpet & Pochampalli (Telangana), and Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh). Read More
Daily wage earners learn of their rights
On International Labour Day, Team Baank-e-Loom organised an awareness camp in Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where more than 70 per cent of the population works in the unorganised sector, mostly as agricultural labourers, brick-kiln labourers and other daily wage earners. Despite a large weaving community, most men in the village are dependent on daily wage for a stable income. The camp, organised to inform people about skilled/unskilled labour parameters and state/national policies to safeguard the interest of labourers, was able to pull a crowd of 500 (including differently abled) from Saidanpur and neighbouring villages. Read More
DEF and RailTel showcase their collaborative work in Ghazipur
An event was organised in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, by the Ministry of Railways to celebrate the milestone that RailTel has achieved over the years. More than 20,000 people, including various stakeholder groups, participated in the event where DEF, too, set up a stall to provide people with information about ICT interventions. RailTel is a partner of DEF and has helped in setting up five CIRCs in Rohtak district of Haryana. During the day-long event, more than 3,000 people visited the stall where DEF & RailTel showcased their collaborative work and created awareness about the benefits of Internet access.
The same groups are always excluded
India Exclusion Report (IXR) is an annual collaborative effort published by the Centre for Equity Studies to critically review inclusion and exclusion from a range of public goods. This year, IXR 2016, which was released on May 12 this year, explores the exclusion from digital access as a ‘public good’ (other public goods explored this year include pensions for old people, agricultural land and legal justice for undertrials). Contributed by DEF’s Research & Advocacy department, this chapter explores what it means to be excluded from access to ICT tools and who are the ones that are excluded.
Experts revisit developments & concerns around Aadhaar
On May 9, 2017, Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) in association with IT for Change and DEF organised a discussion on ‘Revisiting Aadhaar: Law, Tech and Beyond’ in New Delhi. Policy Director at Centre for Internet and Society Saikat Datta moderated the panel comprising Indic Project Founder-Director Anivar Aravind, Professor & Future Designer Anupam Saraph, Advocate Prasanna S, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court Shyam Divan, Co-Founder at Open Stats Srinivas Kodali, DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar and Legal Researcher Usha Ramanathan to discuss developments and concerns around Aadhaar. Read More
Experts analyse role of media for inclusive societies
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO India in association with DEF, along with media partners The Statesman and Go News, organised a dialogue on ‘Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s Role in Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies’ in New Delhi on May 3, 2017. The forum facilitated a rich discussion between eminent panelists — CoFounder of Internet Freedom Foundation Apar Gupta, Member of Media Freedom Committee Geeta Seshu, Deputy Director General at Cellular Operators Association of India Vikram Tiwathia and DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar — moderated by Founder of Go News Pankaj Pachauri. Read More

Bibipur’s digital transformation

An effort towards financial inclusion

Access is empowering

A digitally empowered society in India
Anirban Mukerji
Senior Manager
Wireless Reach
Relevant information delivered via mobile broadband can empower underserved communities and help the government meet its objectives. The Digital India plan aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy by empowering citizens through ubiquitous access to the Internet and use of mobile phones and services. Qualcomm shares this vision. A strategic corporate social responsibility initiative, Wireless Reach has been working since 2006 to implement programmes that leverage mobile broadband to achieve economic and social impact. Read More
Serving the state through Twitter handles
Twitter Seva is a service offered by Twitter, exclusively to government ministries or departments that are interested in building a direct grievance mechanism for the public. This service has been adopted successfully and efficiently by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police Department for grievance redressal as well as to build a positive image of the UP Police. The software has been specially customised by Twitter for the UP Police with the capability to generate analytics and monitor the performance of various districts. Read More
Subscribe to our mailing list
Digital Empowerment Foundation aims to connect unreached and underserved communities of India 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 rural locations of India.

House No. 44, 3rd Floor, Kalu Sarai, New Delhi | def@defindia.net | www.defindia.org | +91-11-26532786