First battle for privacy won, more to follow

In a society where personal choices mean little and members of a family live together in the same room, the concept of privacy has always been hard to comprehend. This is the reason people have often confused ‘privacy’ with luxuries and associated ‘security’ with the rich. There is also little understanding of what is personal and what is private. Privacy, as a fundamental right or not, has in fact always been at the crossroads of cultural practices and constitutional rights. Culturally, India has been a country where much of its knowledge has been transferred from one generation to another orally. In such a community, where everything is not documented on paper or in audio-visual formats, there is little meaning of “privacy”.

And so, the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench on August 24, upholding the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right, must be viewed as a historic decision that will not only determine the fate of India’s digital data and footprints but the country’s social and cultural landscape as well.

Last month, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the Right to Privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The collective efforts of the civil society must be applauded for this historic judgment. Read More


Real-time digital reporting of toilets can bring girls to school
Use of a simple smartphone can ensure equitable access to facilities and challenge patriarchal insensitivity Read More
What is data colonisation and why it matters to us in India
Colonising a country no longer requires its physical invasion with military strength but can simply be done by controlling activities through networks and databases with a single click Read More
Dealing with eWaste
There is a need for electronics consumers to become conscious users of their gadgets, and for the govt to take a more proactive role in ensuring that e-waste is recycled under proper international guidelines Read More
4.1 million jobs that can change India
It's time to restructure ourselves in order to offer skills and jobs of the future — when jobs aren’t only a source of income but also means to create an information-rich society Read More

DEFdialogue with Usha Ramanathan
DEF hosted its second DEFdialogue with legal researcher and activist Usha Ramanathan on August 25, 2017. Addressing a small group of audience a day after the Supreme Court declared privacy a fundamental right is a historic judgment that may impact Aadhaar soon, Usha began with a discussion on the relationship between technology and privacy and went on to share the story of how Aadhaar was conceptualised. With a detailed timeline of events associated with Aadhaar and the Right to Privacy courtroom drama, she elaborated on the civil society’s struggle to ensure people’s rights and what the judgment means for the people. You can watch the entire discussion here.
Internet Saathis transform into relief workers in Bihar
Last month, Bihar was hit by fierce floods that disrupted as many as 17 million lives in 19 districts of the state, and killed 500 others, including women, men and children. The devastating floods, destroyed roads, vehicles, buildings, homes, fields and everything that came in its way, particularly in northern Bihar where 76 per cent of the population lives in flood-prone areas. However, this year, the floods broke a nine-year record of deaths in the state, putting the government, NGOs and individuals into rescue and relief mode. DEF, too, was among those working in the flood-affected regions of Bihar to offer relief to survivors of the deadly floods. Read More
The children of Partition
In his latest broadcast, BBC correspondent Mark Tully travels through India in search of the echoes of Partition among successive generations of Indians. He examines the legacy of the Partition, comparing contemporary memories of August 1947 with the personal and political tensions of today. In this journey, he meets those who remember the violence of 1947, those who were born into the new world and those for whom the story of Independence may just be ancient history. One of his stops in this journey is Saidanpur in Uttar Pradesh where DEF began running a digital resource centre last year to uplift the weaver community.
Infusing confidence and creating women leaders
Newly established in partnership with a women rights organisation and supported by Oracle and CAF India, Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC) Subedarpalya in Karnataka focuses on women empowerment through ICT tools. The centre has been established in a semi-urban part of Bengaluru to cater to housewives, drop outs girl students and others who do not have the opportunity to learn computer and digital literacy. The centre, which has started its first batch of digital literacy trainings for 30 students, aims to showcase the power of digital tools and technology to create women leaders and infuse confidence among them.
A new army of digitally empowered adolescent girls
English and Digital for Girls Education (EDGE), a programme focused on promoting English, digital and social skills among adolescent girls, completed another phase last month, with a total of 287 certified students in this leg. Centres across the country, where this programme was running, organised small ceremonies to distribute certificates to its students in the presence of relevant government officials. Some of the centres even live-streamed the event on Facebook to make it accessible to families and community members in the village, and to enable students to celebrate the moment with their peers, who were enrolled under the EDGE programme, from other villages.
Exploring livelihood opportunities for Internet Saathis
DEF is now ready to enter into the second phase of the Internet Saathi project, an initiative of Tata Trusts and Google India, to explore sustainable livelihood opportunities for the best performing Internet Saathis. To kick-start this phase, DEF has carried out surveys in Bihar with the help of the Saathis to collect data on possible social and business digital interventions that can be started in the districts of Bihar. Neilson, a global information, data and measurement company, is leading the survey and has helped in the training of women to carry out surveys. Internet Saathi is a project aimed at introducing rural women to the opportunities the Internet has to offer.
Physical disability no more a barrier for learning
This is a story of two differently-abled students, Etherson Momin and Sengdo Marak, from the hills of South Garo in Meghalaya. Their hearing and visual disabilities had been a barrier in becoming digitally literate, however their eagerness to learn beyond classrooms could not be withheld. So they made several attempts. They even joined a professional computer course but could not match pace with teachers and other students and had to eventually drop out out the course. However, it wasn’t much later that they heard about DEF’s digital literacy centres in West Garo Hills and decided to give education another shot. Read More
The perfect gift this festive season
Weavers across various handloom clusters under our Digital Cluster Development Programme were busy last month, in August, adding stock to the inventory ahead of a season of festivities. Preparing for Ganesh Chaturthi, Eid and Onam, weavers of Chanderi, especially, used their social media presence, including teh platform of WhatsApp, to woo ethnic wear enthusiasts to grab some stoles, dupattas and scarves to update their wardrobes. The festive collection is available for sale on Chanderiyaan’s eCommerce portal. You, too, can pick a few for yourself and your friends and family. Let handloom be the perfect gift this festive season for your loved ones.
Supporting the art and efforts of India’s weavers
On August 7, 2017, onWorld Handloom Day, DEF celebrated the day with weavers associated with DCDP in Saidanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Barpali and Nupatna (Odisha), Musiri and Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh), Pochampally and Narayanpet (Telangana). In Tamil Nadu, DCDP staff from Musiri and Kanchipuram — where DEF runs initiatives to digitally empower the weaver community in collaboration with Mphasis and Nokia, respectively — participated at an event organised at the Weavers Service Centre (WSC) in Salem to represent DCDP and talk about its eCommerce efforts and best practices from various clusters. Read More
A series of trainings keep community busy in Saidanpur
A number of activities kept community members at Baank-e-Loom centre in Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh, busy last month. While digital literacy classes continued at the centre as usual, a day-long camp introduced men, women and children to smartphones, and held short training exercises to teach them to use Internet to look up relevant information in the area of education, livelihood and social security. Another training was organised for girls to make cotton diya battees to sell in the market. Later in the month, the centre hosted a talk on women empowerment and encouraged women and girls to lead their community. Baank-e-Loom is an initiative of DEF and Ericsson. Read More
Non-profits in Chandigarh learn to leverage digital tools
A one-day ICT Capacity Building Workshop was organised under the eNGO Programme in Chandigarh on August 5, 2017, to apprise regional NGOs with digital tools that can be leveraged by Indian non-profits for operations, management and outreach. Representatives from 27 NGOs participated in the workshop that focused on Google for Non-Profits (G4NP) for easy fundraising and effective collaboration; content creation in regional languages for wider reach; importance of Internet safety for secure operations; social media outreach for enhanced networking across the globe; and crowdfunding for increased access to financial resources.
Nurturing information-based entrepreneurs in India’s villages
After more than a decade of running CIRCs across India with support from funding from various quarters, DEF has now launched the Digital Entrepreneurship for Village Development Scheme that seeks to create sustainable digital centres in the most backward regions of India; led by young entrepreneurs who wish to solve the problems of lack of information access and connectivity through innovative ICT interventions. Selected entrepreneurs will be equipped with computers, laptops, projector, printer, lamination machine, Internet connectivity; and trained in entrepreneurial approaches; to serve the most information-dark areas. Read More
Festivals bring opportunities for community interactions
August was the start of India’s festive season. DEF’s CIRCs work towards building a more informed society through digital interventions across 345 locations in the country. The centre coordinators and entrepreneurs are well knit with the communities and maintain a close relationship with men, women and children. The festive month gave the centres several opportunities to interact with the community and stir discussions on relevant issues. Friendship Day was celebrated to bring together students and rejoice togetherness and oneness by making greeting cards for one another. On National Handloom Day, the centres saluted artisans and craftsmen who have kept the art of weaving alive Read More
Soochna Seva promotes good governance in Bihar
A meeting was organised by Soochna Seva to engage the vilage head and Ward Council of Balthar panchayat in a dialogue with community members on July 27, 2017. In this meeting, the Soochna Seva team stressed on the need for empowering panchayats through capacity building of the council members to enable them to improve governance at the panchayat level. Further, it was highlighted that in order to improve the governance, it is imperative to improve the service delivery of extension bodies namely, aanganwadi, PHCs and schools, among others, at the panchayat level. The team plans to host more such discussions soon. Read More
Here’s what Digital Citizen Summit 2017 has to promise
The agenda for Digital Citizen Summit (DCS) 2017 is ready. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on the Right to Privacy, which came out on August 24 this year, is bound to be a hot topic, and DEF is planning a workshop around the arguments presented in the court. Point of View, too, is conducting a mock courtroom workshop on the obscenity law. Center for Social Activism from Bangladesh and Bytes4All from Pakistan are co-hosting a panel discussion on Freedom of Expression Online while Feminism in India, Internet Democracy Project and Hidden Pockets are set to lead discussions on gender in cyberspace. Are you joining us?
Government releases rules for Internet shutdowns in India
The Indian government on August 7, 2017, came out with a set of protocols towards network shutdowns. Released by the Ministry of Communications and Information Broadcasting, the gazette specifies procedure required for shutting of telecom and Internet services in the country. It states that authorities will require the highest-level official in charge of domestic security – the Ministry of Home Affairs or a state's Home Department official – to sign off on any shutdown. However, in case of an “unavoidable circumstances”, the order can also be passed to the Joint Secretary rank but the ban can only hold for 24 hours. Read More
Join us in our Karwan e Mohabbat
Karwan e Mohabbat is a collective civil society initiative envisioned as a journey of shared suffering, of solidarity, of atonement and of love. This month-long journey will travel across select states of India, visiting families, and offering condolences, of those that have been lost to hatred and lynching. Through this journey, initiated by human rights activist Harsh Mander and supported by various organisations, including DEF, we wish to respond to the everyday fear of Muslims, Dalits and Christians, and the worrying silences of the majority. You can follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook, and support its crowdfunding campaign on BitGiving.

Rural India’s SoochnaPreneurs

Anjali, a change-maker

DEFdialogue with Subodh Kerkar

Mobile is an enabling agent
Meenakshi Batra

Charities Aid Foundation

Mobile phone is one of the defining technologies of the 21st century. It is emerging as a key driver in India by contributing significantly to our GDP growth. In fact, the potential it possesses in achieving socio-economic growth is unprecedented. The access to mobile services and low-cost smartphones has created a substantial opportunity for people in the country. Apart from reducing barriers in communication, mobile technology can further prove to be an effective means to empower and address developmental challenges. India’s mobile subscription base crossed the 1.2 billion mark... Read More
Your surety stamp for travel
In India, 2.2 million train tickets are booked on a daily basis, and as many as 41 per cent are waitlisted. Of these wait-listed tickets, around 16.4 per cent of the tickets are auto-canceled; this constitutes to 130 canceled million tickets a year. It is here that the Confirmtkt app comes into play as a rescue option for travellers. It predicts train ticket confirmations and discovers alternative options to travel based on data analytics, machine learning and past ticketing trends to suggest the best available alternative options to travel for by effectively utilising the unused inventory of trains, buses and cabs.
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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.

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