An 'inside-the-box' idea for last mile access

According to the World Bank, as much as 80 per cent of India is yet to be connected to the Internet. This large population of unconnected Indians largely lives in rural and remote locations of India, where mainstream Internet Service Providers see little benefit in making available their services. It is in these areas that Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) deploys its Wireless for Communities (W4C) programme, an initiative started with the Internet Society and Ford Foundation, that involves utilisation of unlicensed spectrum through frugal technology. Wireless for Communities is now in Phase VII. In this phase, we have connected the Little Rann of Kutch under project Zero Connect and the slums of Hyderabad under project Safa Network. We are now motivated to connect more communities through an out-of-the-box idea packaged within a box.

Internet in a Box is a unique concept that offers Internet in a box, literally. At present, a prototype of Internet in a Box is in a pilot phase for six months in Ananthpur, Andhra Pradesh, a telecom dark region of India. This phase has been supported by Goldman Sachs. In this phase, DEF has provided a group of young community members with basic networking knowledge to set up, configure and troubleshoot a wireless network. With an aim to utilise Internet in a Box as an entrepreneurial opportunity, further training and refreshers programmes will be organised for these members to develop skills in digital and Internet literacy, and to leverage the Internet for information and digital services-based livelihoods. Read More

Death by data
The death of the tribal girl Santoshi Kumari, 11, in Jharkhand was caused not due to lack of availability of food, but due to the lack of access to available food. Read More
India’s not-yet digital postmen
While all of the post offices in India are supposed to have internet (and be digitised by the end of the year), internet connectivity is non-functional at several units. Read More
Let’s make rural India smart, one app at a time
With the government gung-ho about a Digital India and Smart India, here are a few apps that it can develop to bring in accountability, transparency, efficiency. Read More
Hasuri: The path to a smart village
Dilip Tripathi, a businessman from Lucknow, used his personal savings of Rs. 20 lakh to transform Hasuri Ausanpur into Digital Hasuri. Read More

Assessing and evaluating social media for empowerment
DEF with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) support organised a two-day residential training for handpicked non-profits to provide a platform to exchange their existing strategies, challenges, experiences and utilisation of the social media platforms and elevate the endeavours for better outreach. The workshop was organised in New Delhi on October 5 and 6, 2017. Thirty participants from Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India contributed in the workshop. This workshop was an advanced-level training with participatory methodology adopted for various sessions that focussed on the needs of the participants. Read More
Door-to-door information services helping ‘Digital India’
Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) are community-oriented infrastructure and information hubs built to create digitally literate, information-empowered and equitable communities across the country. The CIRCs primarily offer digital literacy, digital services, information services, citizen services and business development services to create information-rich societies. Several of these CIRCs have Common Services Centre (CSC) license as well. CIRC Kooran in Rajasthan, too, now provides door-to-door eMitra services in the region to people who are unable to visit the centre.
Digital literacy to help tribal youth uplift their communities
Last month, DEF conducted a week-long training under a certificate programme for 30 young men and women from tribal communities to train them in functional digital literacy. The certificate programme in Rural Livelihood initiated by Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF), at IIHMR University in Jaipur, aims to scale up civil society actions in partnership with the central and state governments. Students from the tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and West Bengal are enrolled for this course; and will soon set out on a six-month travel to learn from and work with various NGOs in India. Read More
Educating beyond classrooms
Contemporary system of classroom education focuses merely and solely on textbook knowledge. This often eludes students from applying their knowledge in their lives or learning from their surroundings. “Education is not just going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life,” believes mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi. Integrated approach to Technology in Education (ITE), a project conceptualised by Tata Trusts and implemented in Nagaon (Assam) by DEF, thus aims at inculcating critical thinking abilities in children through community-based projects. Read More
Women and girls in UP find new love in painting
Bilahari Bagh Tola is a small village located in a dense mango orchard of Akbarpur panchayat, not very far from Saidanpur village in Uttar Pradesh where DEF runs a digital resource centre, primarily to empower artisan communities. Literacy levels are extremely low and almost none of the community members knew about computers or had seen one, when DEF visited the area. Motivated, DEF’s local staff set up a camp next day to introduce villagers, especially women and girls, to computers. A group of them have now been enrolled for basic digital literacy; and MS Paint seems to be their favourite application so far.
Building a digital army of entrepreneurs
An Entrepreneurship Training Programme was organised by Team CIRC — and supported by Tata Trust, Pradan and Indus Towers — in ProtoVillage, Andhra Pradesh, from October 23 to 25, 2017. The training, aimed at developing entrepreneurial mindset through sustainable wireless ecosystems, was attended by 30 potential digital entrepreneurs from eight Indian states. It focused on introducing individuals to revenue-generating options of serving digital and information needs. Further, ProtoVillage proved to be a prototype of a sustainable village that focuses on homegrown and organic interventions in all areas of lifestyle..
Microsoft helps install new handlooms in Odisha
For the last two years, project DigiKala — an initiative to digitally empower handloom weavers — has been working towards ensuring all weaver families in Barpali and Nuapatna handloom clusters of Odisha have least one digitally literate person in the household. Through the efforts of the ground staff, several youth from weaver households have even begun to use CAD/CAM to create new and accurate designs based on contemporary market demands. Together, they have also been able to create a repository of designs and market linkages have been established through an exclusive e-Commerce website and an active social media presence. Read More
Women in Kanchipuram take their first digital steps
KanchiLoom is a project of DEF and Nokia, aimed at transforming a traditional skill-based cluster into an digitally enabled handloom cluster that can empower artisans, weavers and entrepreneurs of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. Towards this goal, DEF has been providing basic computer literacy and spoken English training to youth and children. In October, DEF initiated a women-only batch of digital literacy; 25 women from weaver households have been enrolled for this class, timings of which have been kept flexible to ensure women can manage both household chores and their digital education.
Bengaluru goes on a ‘giving’ spree for weavers
Kaulava is a joint initiative of DEF and Microsoft, aimed at empowering the weavers of Kollegal, Karnataka, through various digital interventions at every stage of weaving. On October 8, 2017, Microsoft employees in Bengaluru got together to host a Diwali-special exhibition for a range of products made under the banner of Kaulava. Silk and cotton sarees and duppatas were displayed at the Giving Campaign that was organised in their office; and employees were encouraged to donate either in cash or buy products from the exhibition. Microsoft has promised to match the collected amount with a corporate contribution.
Musiri women acquire new skills
In an effort to impart tertiary skills to women and youth in Musiri, Tamil Nadu, DEF initiated embroidery training classes in October. Facilitated at DEF’s Manamedu Design Centre, the first batch of training saw 15 participants that learnt and honed their embroidery skills over a period of 10 days. A digital repository of designs is also being created through this training to help them add value to sarees and fabrics woven in the cluster. Project Musiri is an initiative of DEF and Mphasis, aimed at improving the livelihood of the weaver cluster of Musiri though various digital interventions.
NGOs in Nagpur take first steps towards Digital India
A one-day ICT capacity building workshop was organised by the eNGO Programme in Nagpur, Maharashtra, on October 8, 2017. The workshop made local NGOs in the region aware about the importance of being online, and showcased a few techniques of raising funds online and using social media tools for outreach, operations and management. Representatives from 21 NGOs participated in the workshop that focused on fundraising and effective collaboration; content creation in regional language for outreach; importance of Internet safety for secure operation; and social media for enhanced networking.
An inclusive drive in Rajasthan
CIRC Nichlagarh, at the foothills of Abu Road in Rajasthan, was on an active inclusive drive this October. It mobilised and registered 148 disabled persons from Nichlagarh, Uplagarh and Uplakhejda for various government schemes and benefits. The ground staff actively reached out to individuals and made them aware about various social welfare schemes that are available exclusively for disabled persons. The staff even helped fill and submit applications online on behalf of these individuals. This drive, initiated by CIRC Nichlagarh, was supported immensely by local ASHA and panchayat members who helped reach out to disabled persons.
Saidanpur celebrates Joy of Giving with health camps
Saidanpur village of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Daan Utsav with much enthusiasm on October 4, 2017. A sewa mela was organised by social worker Jyotsna Kaur Habibullah in collaboration with DEF and Daan Utsav volunteers. It saw free dental check-ups and eye bank awareness booths with senior doctors from King George’s Medical University in Lucknow. A Right to Information (RTI) training camp, too, was set up with lawyer Siddhartha Narayan who helped villagers file RTIs to the district magistrate’s office, demanding answers to questions about poor sanitation and road conditions, and frequent power cuts. Read More
New publications are out for you to read
At the recently concluded Digital Citizen Summit, DEF’s Research Team released five new research publications – Trends in Religion Based Hate Speech, Compendium of Human Rights Violations in Digital Space, Privacy in India in the Age of Big Data, Community Networks: Regulatory Issues and Gaps – An Experience from India, and Shrinking Spaces: Status of Freedom of Association and Assembly in India. Meanwhile, DEF has been tracking incidents of network shutdowns in the country and has recorded 116 incidents since 2012. The team will soon be be releasing a study into the social and psychological impact of network shutdowns on Indian citizens.

Community Network Exchange

Digital Citizen Summit 2017

Connecting India’s One Billion

An Alternative Museum of Handloom
Jane E Lynch
Wenner-Gren Foundation Grantee
On October 18, 2017, I installed a temporary pop-up exhibition in the historic weaving town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. This exhibition aimed to collaboratively re-envision — and present, as a catalyst for dialogue — the ways in which the practice and process of handloom weaving are represented. Weaving is not merely a series of technical steps. As a practice and a process, it is embedded in social values, activities, and relations. In Chanderi, weaving is also inextricable from commercial transactions of yarn, cash, credit/debt... Read More
Treat for Delhi lovers
Delhi Monuments is an ambitious attempt to be the one-stop app for exploring heritage sites in Delhi. This initiative aims at simplifying the exploration of cultural and architectural heritage that spans over 2,000 years. The application makes all these possible. From the ancient Lal Kotwals of the third city of Delhi to the more recent architectural marvels of Lutyens’ Delhi; it is an extremely comprehensive and interactive application which documents and celebrates the architectural heritage of the capital of India. ....
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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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