No Voter Left Behind

“What are democratic rights? We don’t know anything about that”, says Mussayda, a 22-year-old resident of Tain village in Haryana’s Nuh. She has never exercised her voting rights. “It’s not that we don’t want to cast vote, but who will go through that rigmarole to get a voter card”, she says. “My husband Arif applied on my behalf, not once but twice. This one time they issued me a senior citizen card, another time my name was spelt incorrectly”, she was not allowed to vote since her details were wrong. Voting is a legal right and every eligible person must not be deprived of this right. But a huge population in India, like Mussayda, is still not registered in the electoral rolls, despite being eligible for voting because of various reasons. Read More

Script Agnostic Media Can Empower The Illiterate
In a scenario where the entire world is online, where the oral community and the “literate” community have equal opportunities, will traditional literacy and script still matter? Read More
Why Digital Literacy Must Go Hand in Hand With Online Security From The Start
As more people adopt digital tools and get online to harness opportunities the Internet has to offer, they become vulnerable to the vices of the Internet. Read More
How WhatsApp is battling fake news in India
WhatsApp has become a vehicle for mayhem and fake news in India, its biggest market. Read More
Airbnb To Train 15,000 Female Hospitality Entrpreneurs in India
Airbnb has announced a first-time partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation to train up to 15,000 potential women hospitality entrepreneurs in India. Read More

Championing social media for development
Social Media for Empowerment (SM4E) Awards is back for its sixth edition. Initiated by Digital Empowerment Foundation in 2013 with the realisation that social media can no longer be an award category under Manthan Award, SM4E recognises and honours initiatives that leverage the power of social media for development and empowerment across six core categories in South Asia. The deadline to submit the nominations for the 6th SM4E Awards is March 25. To nominate your social media campaigns/initiatives, click here.
Recognising technology for empowerment
The 6th edition of eNGO Challenge Awards is back! Initiated by DEF, it recognises and promotes grassroots organisations and initiatives using Information & Communication Technology for development and empowerment across South Asia in eight core categories. The awards also create an ecosystem of stakeholders, including government, industry, academia, civil society & others to generate wider networking, engagement, partnership and collaboration opportunities. The nominations are opened till March 31. You can nominate your organisation here.
Digitally enabling senior citizens
DEF with the support of HelpAge India recently initiated digital literacy classes at the Community Information and Resource Centre (CIRC) for local senior citizens in Sembiyanmajadevi village in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. The classes were launched in participation from representatives of HelpAge India, Elders for Elders Federation, SOMNI along with DEF members in Tamil Nadu. The centre aims to provide digital literacy, information services, training and various digital services in an effort to help people fight information poverty.
Creating sustainable smarter villages
The idea to build a smart village shapes up holistically when the viable stakeholders come together for over-all development purposes. On February 3, 2019, in Nuh village of Haryana, Rotary Club orgnanised a free eye health camp in association with City Hospital and Nuh’s Eye Care Centre. On February 24, 2019, in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, a career counselling camp was organised for the youth and helped the youngsters assess their skills for an improved livelihood in future. The counseling camp was first-of-its-kind. Read More
Going Online As Leaders
On February 8, 2019, DEF in partnership with Facebook launched GOAL or Going Online As Leaders on the occasion of the ET Women Forum, hosted at Trident Nariman in Mumbai. On this ocaasion, ET Women Forum organised a panel discussion titled ‘The New Leadership Skilling & Mentoring The Next Generation Of Entrepreneurs’ between Kanta Singh of UNDP and Sanchita Mitra of SEWA Bharat. The session was moderated by DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar. You can watch the video from the panel discussion here. GOAL is a mentorship program empowering young women from tribal regions in India. Read More
A young, growing entrepreneur
At only 19-years of age, Radha runs her own small tailoring unit. She lives in Silot village of Madhya Pradesh, a region habited by tribal communities. In a family of five, Radha shares her home with her parents, two younger sisters, a younger brother and an older sister. She wanted to be a nurse when she was young; tailoring is not something she’s opted out of choice but more out of a need to earn a living. However, in the last couple of years, she’s come to love it. “Earlier, I wanted a job but now I realise I have my own business,” she says. Read More
Rural women set to become tourism entrepreneurs
In an effort to improve the hospitality sector in rural India through digital literacy and skill building for improved livelihood, DEF has partnered with Airbnb to deliver hospitality skills training to 15,000 potential women entrepreneurs in India under project SHE Hosts. The announcement was made by Airbnb Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Blecharczyk during his last visit to India in February. Speaking on the partnership, DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar said, “Airbnb can play a very critical role in women empowerment through sustainable development based on strong diverse Indian heritage and culture.”
Building a force of women digital change-makers
DEF has long argued about seeing digitisation from a gender-neutral point of view. Technology needs to be inclusive and women need to connect more to bridge the digital divide. Driving on these points, DEF joined hands with Google and Tata Trusts to initiate Internet Saathi programme to train rural women in basic digital literacy. It has empowered thousands of rural women across the country to access digital tools and connect with the online world. On February 5, 2019, an orientation session took place in Patna for coordinators who have recently joined the programme to induct them from 40 blocks across four districts.
Fighting fake news in India's village
Keeping in mind the increasing vitality of fake news, misinformation and disinformation, DEF in partnership with WhatsApp, has been conducting awareness workshops benefiting the law-enforcement officials and the university students. At the end of the first leg of these workshops, on February 14-15, 2019, a two-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop was conducted with the vision of building a strong force of trainers who would spread awareness about misinformation and disinformation at the ground level. 92 participants (DEF field staff and members) will now take the training to 31,000 WhatsApp users in 13 states at the village level. Read More
Providing information to entitlements
Like Nitika and her brother Himanshu from Tipli village, many children from remote villages in Uttarakhand get limited or no access to education. Poor financial circumstances and lack of proper counselling often force them to drop out of schools. Very few get to attend colleges. Their father, an MGNREGA wage earner, is the sole bread-winner. With the help of Soochna Seva team equipped with MeraApp, Nitika could finally apply for financial assistance for her education. The team also helped them fill the application form. “Now we can study further without worrying about expenses”, she thanked Soochna Seva team. Read More
Hope restored
Sundari lives in Untvaal village of Alwar district in Rajasthan with her family. Belonging to a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family, she’s eligible to receive ration however, in the past two years, she went to ration dealers to receive her due ration but all in vain. In a despicable situation when hope seemed a faraway dream, Sundari came across SoochnaPreneur Poonam. Upon hearing her story, Poonam found out that Sundari’s name was still present in the central list of Public Distribution System. Poonam submitted her documents and soon Sundari started receiving and needless to say, it restored her hope.
Advocating for a safer digital space
DEF’s research team continues to engage in active dialogue with stakeholders in the field on issues currently shaping the digital rights landscape in India. It is currently engaged in both social and policy research on a number of priority areas like misinformation, online violence and online privacy among others. It aims to build on its previous field research on e-waste in order to understand the complex dynamics underlying this important but sidelined segment of digital ecosystem. Taking forward its mandate of tracking human rights in the digital space, it is exploring newer forms of engagement including potential collaborations with developers on implementing privacy-by-design principles.

eNGO Challenge Awards 2019

Smartpur: A holistic village

GOAL: Become a mentor

Mobile is an enabling agent
Meenakshi Batra
CAF India
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. Read More
Breaking barriers and stereotypes

#LahuKaLagaan is a global campaign for tax-free sanitary napkins that was launched in 2017 to support SheSays India’s worldwide campaign for the same, which was started in 2016. The awareness campaign was successful in breaking several taboos associated with menstruation and making it a mainstream topic of conversation among the masses and in media. The hashtag, which got over 24 million impressions on Twitter in less than 24 hours, encouraged women to make their own videos, asking the Indian Finance Minister to drop the tax on sanitary napkins. Read More

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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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