Recognising and Rewarding Digital Innovations across South Asia

Digital Empowerment Foundation has made a conscious effort to work for the enablement and mass digital empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable communities across the nation. A digital evangelist for over 18 years, our various initiatives have equipped communities with access to information and brought them out of digital darkness. On the path towards connectivity, DEF launched Manthan Awards which have now expanded into mBillionth Awards South Asia, Social Media for Empowerment (SM4E) Awards and eNGO Challenge Awards. Read More

How a travel author, a sarpanch, and a social entrepreneur are bringing stories from rural India online
In the vast expanse of rural India, you can find many interesting stories – of determination and fortitude, guts and gumption, innovation and jugaad, and the will to live life according to circumstances and against odds. Most of these interesting stories do not come to the fore because the focus is still on cities and urban populations because the narrative is easily accessible. Perhaps, we are also guilty of not searching deep into the rural regions of India and finding these stories. Voices of Rural India, a not-for-profit digital initiative... Read More
International Literacy Day: Bridging India’s Digital Divide
On the occasion of International Literacy Day, it is important to recognise an important component of literacy, i.e. digital literacy. Digital literacy skills or the lack of them, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, have affected the lived realities of individuals and communities in multiple ways, across themes such as education, economic development, political participation, health, social discourse, and many more. Read More
Voices of Rural India: a new platform for storytellers from Indian villages
Every year on January 15, Kamla Pandey makes garlands of ghughuti (deep fried dough made with wheat flour, jaggery, milk and ghee) to feed crows in her village, as generations of her ancestors have done before. The 48-year-old owner of a homestay in Sarmoli, Uttarakhand, recounts the tale told by her mother: when the heir to the Chandra dynasty was kidnapped, the crows of Kumaon helped the king find his son. Read More

Breaking Silence around periods with SMARTPAD
Breaking the mould of the stigma associated with menstruation has always been challenging especially in rural areas. According to the National Family Health Survey, 62% of women in rural areas use cloth, old rags, muds or leaves for menstrual protection. This situation exists not only due to lack of awareness on menstrual hygiene but also of non-access to affordable sanitary pads. This time, the solution proposed by DEF’s Smartpur initiative was not only to create awareness around the topic but also to make affordable sanitary napkins available to the girls and women in the community. A team of women entrepreneurs in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh started the production and marketing... Read More
Support from Digital Centers in the times of Covid-19
Yasmeen became a mother of three at a very young age. She lost her husband which made her a sole earner in the family. The responsibility to feed the young ones compelled her to take up stitching work. Through this small opportunity, she managed to earn and save money for her kids, but the pandemic induced lockdown again brought misery in her life. She had no income and her savings were drying up quickly leaving her with no option but a cry for relief. Khamar Rehman, the facilitator of Digital Centre at Wanaparthy in Telangana provided immediate relief in the form of food and money to Yasmin and her family. With support from DEF and USIPI, our covid warriors are assisting communities in tough times.
Digital Literacy: The only way forward
Lal Kumar Mahto is a hardworking farmer living with his family in Ramgarh district of Ranchi, Jharkhand. He also works as a crane operator to earn extra money in order to take care of his old parents and sister. Mahto dropped out of school very young but aims to sponsor her sister’s education. A smartphone user, he only knew how to make calls due to lack of digital literacy. He got to know about Google Assistant through one of our facilitators and the feature not only helped him get relevant information regarding farming but also acted as a source of entertainment for him. He started listening to music which reignited his childhood hobby of writing poems. Read More
Voices of Rural India: A platform for Rural Storytellers
The Covid-19 induced lockdown has brought India’s tourism industry to a grinding halt. Rural communities have lost their livelihoods, supply chains have been disrupted and alternate income streams have thinned. Experts anticipate that the effect will be felt for at least a year, possibly longer. Thus, Voices of Rural India is an effort to turn this unprecedented crisis into an opportunity to create alternate livelihoods by upgrading digital skills in rural India, while also preserving grassroots knowledge that is slowly disappearing. It is a not-for-profit digital initiative co-founded by Shivya Nath, Osama Manzar and Malika Virdi that hopes to revolutionise storytelling, by hosting... Read More
Guna’s Samarth Soochanpreneur in Action
Kalu Ram Sen, a differently-abled person from Guna, Madhya Pradesh, has been providing immediate relief to his community during this time of Covid crises. As a Samarth Soochnapreneur, he is leaving no stone unturned to extend support to the people. He is ensuring food for the vulnerable and generating awareness around preventive health measures. His physical barriers have not stopping him from giving door-to-door deliverance of essential items, digital services and government entitlements, in fact it has only motivated him to continue helping those in need. Equipped with smartphone and internet, Kalu Ram is helping his community members withdraw money and avail COVID related schemes announced by the government.
Soochnapreneurs: Fulfilling survival needs of the Elderly
Pariyabai Banjara, 75-year-old woman, lives with her husband in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh. The couple had no means of livelihood and sustaining themselves was getting tougher by each day. Our Soochnapreneur Poonam met the couple during one of her field visits. After a detailed interaction with them, Poonam figured out that despite being eligible for the social security pension by the government, the couple never received it due to lack of some documents. She immediately discussed the matter with the Sarpanch and Panchyat Secretary and fulfilled all formalities related to the pension within a few days. After a month, Banjara and her husband received pension money... Read More
Existing Landscape of Sexual Harassment Online: A Survey by Digital Empowerment Foundation
India’s rapid digital expansion in the field of social media has led to an unprecedented increase in cases of online sexual harassment. The report is the product of a survey conducted by Digital Empowerment Foundation across four states of India. It aims to understand Cyberbullying through the experiences of people, their understanding of the term, its effect on them, their ways of coping upon being Cyberbullied and finally the changes they think must be brought to improve the efficiency in the mechanism to counter Cyberbullying. The report has been written by Vidhisha Lal and Anoushka Jha. Read More
Factors Determining Access to Public Schemes Information and Entitlement Benefits for the Tea Tribe Community: A Qualitative Study in Assam
The tea garden community, also known as Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes, who are recognized as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) by the Government, is one of the vulnerable socio-economic groups in Assam State. The vulnerability and backwardness is more evident and distinct due to their unique cultural identity, by now deep rooted in tea economy and industry as synonymous. The community constitutes 20 per cent of the State’s population of 3.5 Crore and has been playing the most important role in tea production...Read More

The Unpanel with Osama Manzar #PrivacySupreme

Osama Manzar - WSIS Webinar - Rural Broadband Policy Framework

Presenting Voices of Rural India!

Between regulation and rights: DEF at RightsCon
By Sarah Farooqui
Research and Advocacy Manager
Digital Empowerment Foundation
On 30 July, participants from Germany, India, Bolivia, Nepal and Pakistan took part in a digital RightsCon 2020 panel to bring perspectives from around the world to the topic of empowering citizens through media and information literacy. Each of the panellists highlighted their methods for dealing with misinformation in their own local context and professional experience. The session was moderated by Osama Manzar, director of the India-based Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), who explained the purpose of the session, which focused on media information literacy, fake news, disinformation, regulations around the subject, and how one is affected by it, particularly during COVID-19. Read More
Covid Warrior Arjun Connects and Empowers Communities

The Martalli Grama Panchayat in Kollegal, Karnataka had been facing connectivity issues. They were also unable to finish any documentation work regarding MNREGA, thereby bringing a halt to the lives of many workers under the scheme. They reached out to our Smartpur team in Kollegal - Palanimedu Spoke Center- for internet services and assistance. Our covid warriors, following strict guidelines from the government, visited the place and provided services. The staff also visited MNREGA workers on the job and disseminated information on COVID19, importance of maintaining physical distancing, using sanitizer and wearing masks. Mr. Arjun, the Spoke Coordinator has been working night and day since March to complete MNREGA documentation and other paper work to help Martalli Gram Panchayat. In service till today, Arjun has finished 191 job card renewals, issues 759 new job cards, filled 20 role attendance, completed payments for 38 MNREGA workers and 20 job allocations. 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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