Education: Key to Freedom, Growth and Independence

Ever since humans have discovered a way to live collectively, their lives have been centred around education. It holds the power to change the currents of the society, empower individuals with a sense of identity, enable a community to function smoothly or disable it entirely. Therefore a lot of effort has been put worldwide to provide the basic Right to Education, in a systematic way covering people from diverse backgrounds under its umbrella. Although an improvement has been observed in the provision of education in general over the years, there is still a lot more to do. Read More


A Mentorship Ecosystem to Create Community Leaders
“If I don’t understand something I just ask Sushma and without hesitating she comes immediately and helps me” said Anita Kumari, a Samarth SoochnaPreneur (SSP) from the village of Beyang in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. Samarth SoochnaPreneurs are differently-abled digital information entrepreneurs. Sushma Kumari is an SSP too, but unlike Anita who has been associated with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) for the last 3 months, Sushma has been an SSP for 18 months. She has been connected with DEF for the last two years. Anita has a locomotor disability from birth that affects her right leg. She walks with the help of crutches. She can be seen sitting behind her computer and typing away, a closer look at the screen would show that she is filling application... Read More

Financial Literacy: A Step Towards Inclusivity
Digital literacy is no longer a mere upskilling process that would eventually lead to better opportunities. As days pass by, its purpose is getting more aligned with fundamental aspects of the society, urban or rural, around which every other basic functioning stems out. In this regard, digital literacy plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the rural community stays inclusive of such transformation avoiding the widening of the rural and urban divide. Under this umbrella, digital financial literacy is one of the aspects that smoothes out the transition in the rural communities. Digital and Financial Literacy workshops were conducted at the CIRCs in Kherla, Binwan, Malab and Chawa villages and was facilitated by Mr. Shokak Ali, an expert on financial banking. Read More
FLIP: To Flip the Status of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)
Residence in an urban area does not guarantee access to the internet facilities, although one might be constantly exposed to its availability, owing to the economic status. Such a population, neither falling under the rural category nor self-reliant urban category, face the challenges of being left out of the spectrum of the internet world. The Functional Literacy Information Program (FLIP) has been designed to target these economically weaker sections (EWS) living in urban areas to impart functional literacy that is as necessary as numerical literacy in the current state of the world. FLIP has been implemented in 12 locations. Through DEF literacy centers, functional literacy comprising modules of basic, digital, financial and Covid-19 literacy has been imparted to individuals... Read More
Digital Access for the Empowerment of Displaced Population
The world is changing at a rapid pace towards the development of humanity, however, in the fast-paced world there is a displaced population, which is being neglected by our society such as, sex and child trafficking victims, refugees, etc. They are finding it difficult to cope up with the rapid development of the digital world due to the lack of information and education. In today’s world, digital literacy is a basic right of every individual, which leads to access to various services, entitlements, and information. To connect such population so that they get to access information, digital education and digital services, DEF and Microsoft has potentially partnered to support the displaced population in India by setting up digital and information centers at different locations... Read More
Digital Upskilling of Women Entrepreneurs
Gayatri Devi is a woman entrepreneur and she is well acquainted with grocery business. She is part of a joint family; her husband is a farmer and occasionally works as a labourer during the off season. Her son is studying in the government school in her village. In the absence of her husband, she runs a grocery shop in the outer area of her house, in order to financially support her family. At present she is capable of handling a smartphone confidently and she has taught her family members to use it as well. She is now running her grocery business on a larger scale tying up with other businesses along the way. With the proper use of WhatsApp for business and use of “Google pay” for financial transactions, her monthly income has increased. Read More
Digital Sarthak: A chain of digital entrepreneurship capacity of the poor
The digital services received through the Internet are both a communication channel and a marketplace. In a way, it can be called a global integrator. But the fruits of such services are not easily accessible to all. This unequal accessibility comes in terms of gender when women are not encouraged or taught to use digital services. The DEF’s Digital Sarthak (DS) project aims to bridge the digital divide and empower women to develop themselves as entrepreneurs. These Women Entrepreneurs (WEs) are encouraged to participate in the market and earn a livelihood of their own. I traveled to the Nagaon and Morigaon districts of Assam to learn more about these budding entrepreneurs... Read More
Community Engagement to Boost Digital Literacy
For any project to see its full potential, community mobilization plays an integral role as the purpose of the schemes would not be served unless the beneficiaries are fully aware about their entitlements. As a part of community engagement, Digital Literacy for Women and Girls program, an initiative by Microsoft and DEF, a session was conducted at CIRC Jafrabad centre, Delhi. The objective of the session was to create awareness among the female members of the community about the importance of digital literacy and its impact on education. The moderator Arshi started the session with a welcoming of the participants followed by a brief introduction. Read More
STEM Education for Women Empowerment
The gender ratio in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) related areas has always been low across the globe. To improve gender inclusivity, the STEM for Girls Programme implemented in Rural Areas of Govt schools since 2019 aims to encourage educating the girl students to explore the options of pursuing higher education in STEM-related courses. In 2020 STEM for Girls program was introduced in Assam in 63 government high schools of different rural areas. In this program the girls were empowered by encouraging them to pursue higher education and to choose STEM career paths instead of getting married at an early age and also try to build a STEM mindset... Read More
Digital Literacy Filling Unfulfilled Aspirations
Digital literacy to adolescent girls and women has helped many to aspire and reach their potential to become independent in their lives with a wide range of opportunities that they get exposed to online. One of the beneficiaries of the program, Uma Bharti, age 39, is a resident of Khichripur, Delhi. Her aspiration to become a teacher went in vain when she had to leave her studies due to her marriage. "I still wish that I had given my papers and completed my graduation," said Uma in despair, who still wishes to become an independent working woman. Her life after marriage usually revolves around looking after her husband, in-laws, and children. Read More
Digital Upskilling Towards Economic Growth
Sarita, a 21-year-old student at Delhi University, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in arts. Her family migrated from Aligarh to Delhi, following their neighbors' footsteps in the hope of achieving their dream by working in a big city like Delhi. Her father came to the city with the same hope, but life had other plans for him. He found himself working as a gardener at an embassy, which unfortunately pays very little to sustain a family of six. Sarita grew up seeing her family's impoverished situation, where her father works day and night to support the household. As a bright student, she got admission in a very reputed college, but she still wanted to do more to support her father. Read More
A Push to Realize the Ambition
STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) has been an area under education which has witnessed widespread hesitation from a gender perspective and there has been a global effort to enhance gender inclusiveness. On a national front, the educators believe that STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators and innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain the economy. The STEM For Girls Program is aimed to help in this regard and one such program is launched in Telangana state of India. Classes are held two days a week and some students are also engaged through phone calls. Read More
Empowering Rural Children to Bridge the Digital Gap
In most rural parts of India, it would be hard to notice active sessions being held in government schools let alone observe any improvements in the quality of education. While the nation and the world on the whole are still trying to work on the Millennium Development Goals, of which access to basic education is one among them, the majority of the population has also moved much ahead entering into a digital era where even the basic needs and services demand digital literacy. Instead of waiting for the policy makers to bring changes in the education field, the effort to fill in the gap created by the digital divide has been put in by the Digital Empowerment Foundation through many of its schemes from the past 20 years. Read More
Seeking Refuge Under Digital Literacy
While some parts of the world complain about being spoiled for choice, it is heartening to see some other parts struggling to find a voice in a choiceless environment. Unfortunately, even the 21st century does not allow one to consider the availability of some of the basic human needs and rights granted let alone stand with a belief that they, like any other human being, deserve such basic attention. One such basic right is the Right to Education which has been sullied under the stain of gender discrimination in Afghanistan. Many women refugees have fled in search of a better future and some have found refuge in Afghan refugee centers in Jangpura, Delhi. At their CIRC (Community Information Resource Centre), a community mobilization session was conducted... Read More
Women’s Digital Empowerment Training Suite by World Pulse
I have been working at Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) for the last 10 years under various programs and now I am handling Digikargha, a social enterprise that works towards the digital empowerment of weavers and artisans. I heard about World Pulse’s Global Premiere: Women’s Digital Empowerment Training Suite from our senior manager. I did a little research about them and got to know that World Pulse is an independent, women-led social network for social change. By harnessing the power of technology to accelerate women’s leadership, they are speeding up the pace towards gender equity. DEF is constantly working towards creation of information empowerment and equitable communities by providing digital access to information, knowledge and contextual capacity. Read More
Empowering Smart and Service Oriented Women
Women empowerment plays a pivotal role in the overall development of any country besides positively impacting the day to day lives of women. The progressive change in the fields of employment and information technology have brought a wide range of opportunities for women in India and across the globe. The reforming development in mobile technology has brought world communities closer, narrowing the digital divide. One, now has access to the everyday national and global news at their fingertips, this has led to women being more socially and culturally aware. Technology has enabled them not only to be updated about their surroundings but also to become independent. Digitalization has empowered them economically and made them aware of global trends. Read More
Preventing and Addressing the Consequences of Covid-19
It has been constantly reminded to us that Covid-19 is not yet over and stressed the fact that we have to stay vigilant. From community mobilization perspective, under Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), the volunteers are actively continuing their roles by helping to mitigate rumours, increase awareness and understanding of people on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour which include use of masks, physical distancing and hand wash. They have also been tackling the peripheral aspects of the pandemic like sensitization to being immunized, good diet, appropriate toilet use, right age for marriage and encouraging children to go back to school. These are delivered through established resources and various communication channels across 18 states... Read More
MISSING Awareness and Safety School Program (“MASSp”) to Prevent Trafficking and Exploitation
Trafficking and exploitation, which primarily has its roots from economically weaker status, often hinders the community’s growth further financially and emotionally. It breaks down the community structure built upon the foundation of human beings' innate drive to be social animals. And quite often, ignorance among the vulnerable stakeholders of the community, children, paves way for the exploitation to continue. Such acts create a deep sense of trauma in the budding minds which usually takes years to deal with, if enough attention is paid in this regard. Therefore, prevention is the key measure to be taken to avert such mishappenings in society. Read More
The power of community, communication and messaging
Many lost education and job opportunities as life inclined towards the online mode during the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid related information seldom reached the remote corners of the country. The digital divide became evident and seems to have widened even further. In this light, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) launched an initiative with UNICEF called Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE). The project aims to increase awareness about Covid-19, the associated stigmas, and other related information. Here, I bring you stories from two districts of Assam – Nagaon, and Morigaon, about the challenges faced and the impact of this program. Read More
When you Owe your Soul to the Company Store
In the previous chapter of TypeRight, we focused on the gig economy boom that India had witnessed over the past half a decade, and how the workers were treated in these unicorn startups. We shared our conversation with the secretary of the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT), and other articles where the workers expressed their plight. In the previous chapter of TypeRight, we focused on the gig economy boom that India had witnessed over the past half a decade, and how the workers were treated in these unicorn startups. We shared our conversation with the secretary of the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT), and other articles where the workers expressed their plight. It is in this sense that last week's victory for the independent, worker-led union at the Amazon warehouse in New York's Staten Island... Read More
Hate, Harmony and Economy
Several new instances of hate-related violence lash across India, from Delhi to Rajasthan to Karnataka. How deep does this run, and will 'sanctions' from big-tech help keep things in control? At TypeRight, the repeated chapters and coverage on the issue of hatred against minorities in India, specifically the Muslim community, is to emphasize the graveness of the situation here. And this might be rather controversial, but the need is urgent to take action. As Asad Ashraf, Journalist for the Statesman pointed out in his tweet, the definition of a genocide is clearly defined by the UN. As per the UN's Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy... Read More
When the Internet's Town Squares Become Private
In a previous chapter of TypeRight, we looked into Facebook, how the company sought to spread its influence and power, and how that did not turn out great for the larger democratic nature of the Internet. We saw how Zuckerberg went from being the Internet's famous whiz-kid to the Internet's most questioned. In a previous chapter of TypeRight, we looked into Facebook, how the company sought to spread its influence and power, and how that did not turn out great for the larger democratic nature of the Internet. We saw how Zuckerberg went from being the Internet's famous whiz-kid to the Internet's most questioned. In a previous chapter of TypeRight, we looked into Facebook, how the company sought to spread its influence and power, and how that did not turn out great... Read More
Freedom of Whistleblowers and Journalists must for Humanity In 2010, two years after the news agency Reuters was still investigating the death of two of their correspondents from Iraq, Namir Nour El Deen and Saeed Chmagh, WikiLeaks, a website that publishes anonymously sourced documents, released a video of a US military helicopter firing at unarmed civilians in Baghdad. The full video, Collateral Murder, can be accessed here, or here. From the summary: In 2010, two years after the news agency Reuters was still investigating the death of two of their correspondents from Iraq, Namir Nour El Deen and Saeed Chmagh... Read More

DEF is launching the A-CODE initiative, an effort toward finding ways to enhance collaboration among civil society organizations that are working in different sectors and advocating for a more pivotal role for the inclusion of the arts in social change. The collective would deal with several important issues that cut across the work of civil society organizations.

A CODE introduction

On the foundation day of 20th year of Digital Empowerment Foundation, Principal Secretary of the Industries & Commerce (I&C) and Information Technology (IT) Departments, Government of Telangana delivered an intimate lecture sharing the digital journey of Telangana and how DEF’s journey makes so much sense. Read More

It seems like 20 years is a long journey. Someone asked me what after 20 years, I feel like changing the name to Digital Disempowerment Foundation. The job is certainly going to change. I would like to share here that the social sector or social entrepreneur journey looks very flashy on the screen or data sheets, which isn’t possible without investing your life in it. Every toilet looks clean, but you need to find out who keeps cleaning it before you go and use it. Writing the story of a clean toilet has a lot of journeys that go around and that journey is never alone. There are different phases for it. I would like to introduce my pillars of strength, the board members, many of whom have been with us for a very long time: Amir Ullah Khan, Rajen Varada, Shaifali Chikkermane... Read More

With the onset of the third wave we are crowdfunding digital devices so that underprivileged students are not deprived of education like they were during the first two waves of the pandemic.

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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. |