Celebrating Social Media Champions from South Asia

In this age of information toxicity, when social media has become the bearer of all sorts of information as well as misinformation, the onus lies on ours shoulders to be conscious consumers. “We all have huge responsibility. We need to stop and ask ourselves that why are we letting misinformation enter the network that we have created?” said Osama Manzar, Founder-Director of New Delhi-based non-profit organisation Digital Empowerment Foundation at the 6th Social Media for Empowerment Awards (SM4E). Annual events, DEF launched SM4E Awards in 2013 to honour and recognise those social media initiatives that are using social media technology as a catalyst for communication, spreading awareness and fulfilling their mission and needs of social development. This year the award ceremony was held on August 2 and was attended by finalists from India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka where 21 initiatives from across the South Asia were awarded for excellence in using social media platforms for making their respective campaigns a success. Read More

Red Bricks And Sand For Nourishment? Horror Tales Of Pregnant Women In UP Villages
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Fighting fake news is our collective responsibility
The internet is not only enabling people to fight information poverty but also to spread awareness. It is our collective responsibility to ensure spread of misinformation doesn't happen. Read More
Credibility of content is an important issue in this age of social media
We need to develop large scale of MIL experts at community levels. Read More
The Election Commission must make counting of VVPAT slips mandatory
In the age of social media, credibility of content is an important issue. Read More

We need to rural-ise cities: Kalyan Akkipeddi
What happens when a family of three – a father, mother and their six-year old son – decide to leave behind their urban lives and go back to their roots to create model villages? Proto Village happen! Kalyan Akkipedi, a visionary and social innovator, has had a long journey of transforming lives in a small village in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur. To share his experiences, he along with his 12-year-old son Rishab were invited for DEFDialogue. They took turns to share stories from their small village and how involving community in innovative experiments can lead to sustainable initiatives. Read More
GOAL- sharing experiences from the ground
Mentorship programme Going Online As Leaders or GOAL’s first convening event was organised in Mumbai. Participants—five mentors and 20 mentees—shared their experiences from the calls and discussed the challenges faced by them. The urban women leaders or the mentors interacted for the first time with their mentees in person and said more such workshops would break the barrier and help build a stronger bond between them. A joint initiative by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Facebook, GOAL aims at inspiring, guiding and encouraging young girls from rural and tribal communities through digital mentoring.
Encouraging conscious travelling digitally
Author of the bestseller ‘The Shooting Star’, Shivya Nath, interacted with the team at Digital Empowerment Foundation and shared her journey of the transition from a regular corporate employee to a digital nomad with almost 80,000 followers on Instagram! Looking at the team she said, “Few years ago, if I was asked to join a gathering like this, you would definitely find me sitting at the back trying to hide from everyone!”. The behavioural change that she went through because of her travelling expeditions are tremendous. Watch her talk here to know more about her journey! Read More
Story-telling on Instagram by villagers
The inception of the idea to have community-led Instagram page happened during a DEF Dialogue with Shivya Nath – author of the bestseller ‘The Shooting Star’ – who through her travel stories creates awareness on sustainable living. As a strong believer of using Instagram for change, Shivya offered to do trainings with communities that DEF is working with to enable them digitally access and own space on social media. This would help them to express, share and build information about their villages. For this, a workshop with Shivya was organised at DEF where benefits of Instagram marketing were discussed.
Acclimatisation with technology
After having completed her under-graduation from a local college in Vikarabad, Telangana, P. Nikhitha, successfully got admission for post-graduation after clearing an online exam. She credits this success to the TeG course. Before joining TeG, she was apprehensive about all social media applications and the safety of internet as well. However, she was able to break away from these thought processes as she started getting comfortable with computers. In fact, she downloaded Duolingo to learn new languages. Actively blogging on issues close to her heart, she is hoping to learn and get comfortable with computers and smartphones.
Technology giving wings to girls
Swapna Madhuri from Vikarabad signed up for a computer course under the TeG programme where she was able to learn the basics of computers along with awareness on online safety and security of mobile apps. Learning about e-banking and shopping apps, she shares that she felt the most empowered when she learnt how to share her location on WhatsApp. She says “I feel empowered after having learned all these. I consider these lessons as a precious gift which can go a long way in empowering girls. I hope more and more girls sign up for these courses.”
Smartpur with Smart Entrepreneurs
The entrepreneurs of Smartpur are becoming the new age digital change makers with most of them having initiated a small scale social intervention at their local village levels. The women of Smartpur Chinna Konduru village, Telangana, participated in multiple livelihood trainings on the themes that women of the village were seeking – tailoring, beautician and office management. At the same village, Srinivas, a new IT trainer at Smartpur centre, has initiated digital literacy classes from the month of July. There are seven dedicated students who have enrolled, out of which three are girls.
Making internet a saathi for women
When Rukmani Gurjar was chosen as an Internet Saathi, she expressed immense pride in being given this opportunity to empower other women like her. Dedicating majority of her time in this project, she laboured for this to be successful by trying to involve as many women as she could. Recalling her experience when she started, she shares, “When I started working with these women, I encountered a sense of motivation within them. Young girls dreamt of a world with opportunities, opening up for them through the internet and illiterate women wanted to become self-reliant – they didn’t want someone else’s assistance to make and receive calls. They all told me to teach them everything I knew!” Read More
Technology empowering women
Karuna Vishal Gaikwad, is a homemaker, with a fair amount of knowledge in using smartphones. She has been actively using YouTube to watch videos of her interests. In fact, she knew how to actively use search engines to look for information. However, she realised that she wanted to learn how to effectively utilise a smartphone. She joined the digital literacy classes and learnt how to use Gmail, how to send mails with attachments etc. In fact, currently, she mails her attendance to the centre. Extremely satisfied with the results of the classes, she continues to learn more.
In a classroom full of makers
DEF’s effort to take STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning to rural India with help of digital activities MaKE२ has entered its pilot phase. In a first, the programme was tested in three sessions at a centre in Nuh, Haryana. 20 students, in the age-group 8-18 attended the activity session. The team received positive feedback from the participants who were enthralled at the possibilities of applied science.They were thrilled to hand-craft fire alarms and took turns to look at the structure of cells under the microscope. The testing however also taught the team on some gaps that were prevalent in the structure.
Using internet to empower community
Jibbi Parween, a home-maker, became an Internet Saathi and credits the initiative for her growth. She says, “I received a lot of encouragement from everyone. Participating in Internet Saathi was a wonderful experience!” She started a coaching centre at her home. In order to teach the students, she takes help from the internet. Teaching her community members and friends on how to use net banking facilities and other ways to use internet to access rights and entitlements, she says that she has become popular in her village and everybody approaches her for help.
Online payments made easy!
16-year-old Abid Shaikh, is a student of standard 10th. Though he has a basic knowledge of computers, he had never made financial transfers using mobile applications. His smartphone usage was only restricted to social media. However, after attending DEF’s digital literacy classes, he now knows how to pay online and shops from various e-commerce portals. He can now apply for online study courses and has downloaded government issued Aadhar cards for his entire family. “I was so happy to add my birthday on Google calendar,” he said. Most importantly he learnt how to use Government website like Pune Municipal Corporation.
Awareness on menstrual hygiene
A workshop on increasing awareness on menstruation was conducted at Patha Chirala, Hub Centre in Andhra Pradesh. A short video was screened for the girls from age group of 10-18 years old which was followed by a discussion. Naga Bhargavi, a participant, shared “I was surprised to realise that my mother didn’t ever initiate conversations about menstruation with me. Today, not only have I learnt about menstruation and menstrual hygiene, but also about importance of nutritious food during periods. Once I go home I will share my experience from this workshop with my mother and friends”.
Sharing homes, sharing lives!
Under the SHE hosts initiative by DEF and Airbnb, 7659 women from rural India have been trained is hospitality for livelihood generation. Currently, the project is sailing through Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. DEF foot soldiers have educated and successfully brought 6000 rural women from potential tourism locations on digital platform. Through workshops, these women were encouraged to share homes on Airbnb and were trained in basic hospitality skills. Though the project is in its initial stage, there are high hopes that these women can turn up as rural entrepreneur in long run!
Promoting Indian textile heritage through cooperative society
Digital Cluster Development Programme’s Digikala—a project to support Ikat handloom industry of Odisha—participated in an event called ‘Alankrita’ in Bhubaneswar on July 19, 2019. The social gathering, attended by eminent designers and social entrepreneurs in the field, is an attempt towards promoting the dying traditional handloom weaving in the region and introduce weavers to wider opportunities. Sabyasachi Patra and Bidyavati Meher from Digikala attended the event as speakers to share their experiences on ‘Digital world and textile entrepreneurship in Odisha’ with past three years’ experience of working with DEF on digital intervention in weaving cluster. Read More
Research on Artificial Intelligence
Anulekha Nandi from DEF was selected to contribute the India Country Report for the Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) which will be launched at the Internet Governance Report in Berlin in November 2019. This year's GISWatch theme was 'Artificial Intelligence (AI): Human Rights, Social Justice and Development' in order to focus on the implications of Artificial Intelligence systems on human rights, social justice and development in the local context, with a specific focus on countries in the Global South. The focus stems from AI receiving unprecedented global attention as it finds widespread practical application in multiple spheres of activities.

DEF Dialogue with Kalyan

DEF Dialogue with Shivya

Grand Jury Video

Social media looms large
Sonal Singh
Head - Corporate Communications
Jindal Stainless Limited
It was few years ago, much before Instagram became the rage, that I had concluded for myself that everything happens in life twice. Once, for real. And twice, for social media. Until the second follows (or even precedes) the first, the loop isn’t complete. Such is the truth of social media, that truth doesn’t find validation if it’s not out there. While we can still ignore this unbalanced importance of social media in our private lives, we can’t afford to overlook it if we, as institutions, have our skin in the game. Read More
Humans of Sign Language

Started as a digital movement through a Facebook Page aiming to provide a platform for deaf people to share their ideas, Oshin Dhawan started HoSL because of a deep-seated interest in learning about disabled communities. With regular interaction with the deaf community, Oshin developed immense love and respect for the language of silence – Indian Sign Language. Humans of Sign Language leverages social media for creating awareness on Indian Sign Language. A YouTube channel was started to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing community through the sign language.

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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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