Revisiting Development Models under a New Light

Under the umbrella of digital connectivity, DEF has designed many development models over a period of two decades with interventions in the field of citizen services, education, health, finance, women empowerment, fighting misinformation, etc. These models, such as the SoochnaPreneurship, CIRC, Smartpur, Digital Financial Inclusion, STEM for girls and many more, have been time tested and proven to be sustainable with continuous growth. Non hierarchical structure of planning and implementation has ensured inclusivity on all levels that also allows us to improvise according to changing situations, locations and social dynamics. Read More


Seeing Through the Lens of Amina Khatun
“I could only dream of using a computer” said Amina Khatun, a 13 years old girl who lives with her parents in Jai Hind Camp of New Bengal Basti. Amina was astonished when she first used a computer in the Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC) established by Digital Empowerment Foundation in collaboration with United Way of Delhi. Amina and her family have migrate from Bangladesh to Delhi in search of better livelihood opportunities. Her father is a salesman, earning just to meet the ends meet, but with no security and safety for a better future. Amina has a thirst for learning and wants to support her father. It was his father who motivated her to join the Digital Literacy for Women and Girls. Read More

Refreshing the Vision, Mission and Skills of a SoochnaPreneur
Smartpur has been a very successful community centric initiative which has been very dynamic in the role it plays at the village level. The stories from the ground from this initiative motivate us to be more creative and bring about local sustainable solutions to bridge the digital gap. The Smartpur team is actively engaged with the beneficiaries and as part of reinforcing the vision of the project, a Refresher Workshop was conducted by the management team in Delhi. Pramod Verma, a SoochnaPreneur from Gazipur district of Uttar Pradesh provided a testimonial on his take on the workshop. “My centre provides services related to governance, finance, literacy and helps to raise awareness among the people from the village. Read More
DFI: Spreading Awareness to Secure the Future Financially
Digital Empowerment Foundation is notably particular in bridging the aspirational gap by strengthening the underserved communities through financial integration. And the project DFI (Digital Financial Inclusion) is going a step further with its motive to digitally integrate those communities such that they are better able to deal with their finances. To serve the needs of digitally unaware communities, the DFI program has started on the literacy aspect through the LMS-Chatbot that has been particularly designed to address the mission of the program, furthering the vision of Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF). The LMS-Chatbot so far has brought 28,898 beneficiaries (500 Master Trainers, 23,453 Youth and 4,945 Women Entrepreneurs) from 18 States, 75 Districts and 600 Villages, Read More
SoochnaPreneurship Model Revisited with a Fresh Cup of Tea
With more than 450,000 workers (of which 262,000 are permanent workers) engaged in 330 registered big tea gardens spread over Darjeeling (including Kalimpong), Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts, the tea plantation industry is the largest employer in the formal private sector in West Bengal. The West Bengal state government has introduced welfare schemes that are applicable in tea gardens such as Kanyashree, Lakshmi Bhandar, Cha Sundari and Manabik among others. However, Since the benefits of these schemes are all conditional cash transfers, increased access, inclusion, enrollment, and uptake of these schemes will enhance lives and livelihood conditions. Our consultations with grassroot organisations revealed that while there have been some registrations... Read More
Developing Scientific Temperament to have Future-Ready Citizens
As a facilitator of the STEM for Girls project pointed out, “Schools and colleges work to prepare students to become responsible citizens and active participants in the economic processes. But the question of aligning the education path with the societal needs rather than just the industrial needs has to be mapped out by the educators, civil societies, parents and students. STEM helps in developing mental excellence in this regard by encouraging logical thinking and assertive decision making.” Shedding more light on how the STEM for Girls project is bringing about change in academic, personal and social set-up, we have another case story of a young girl named Rojee Bashyas from Assam. Read More
Honing Skills with Assertive Confidence
The STEM for Girls project has been introduced in the states of Assam and Telangana by DEF with an intent to not just orient students towards STEM but designed in such a way that it serves as a catalyst to bring changes in the way education and professional careers are perceived. The stories of young girls who have been part of this are a reflection of such changes with the support of their facilitators, teachers and parents. Asmitha is a 9th grade student from Siddipet district of Telangana. Hailing from a middle class farming family, she couldn’t analyse what was right for her. But her parents are happy that she has become more responsible by understanding and practising to think for herself, especially when it comes to her career choices. Read More
From Fighting Disability to Enabling Education: Samarth SoochnaPreneur’s Story
Motivated by the success of the SoochnaPreneur program DEF launched the Samarth SoochnaPreneur program that aims to empower PwDs (Persons with Disabilities) to become SoochnaPreneurs. Oftentimes PwDs are discriminated against, especially in rural parts of the country where DEF is most active. This program aims to fight the stigma that comes with a disability that proves to be a bigger handicap than any physical handicap. By empowering PwDs we are able to empower the entire community because a person who needs most help and support understands and empathises with the problems and challenges of all. Today there are about 500 SSPs across the country. Read More
SoochnaPreneurship: An Opportunity to Provide Social Services
SoochnaPreneur is a rural entrepreneurship-based project aimed at empowering youth in Indian villages to sustain their livelihood by providing information and access to government entitlements to those living in information darkness. Hemalata Sharma is a 38-year-old from Pipradamaina village in Guna district who has been working as a SoochnaPreneur for the last five years. She recalls, “Earlier I was just a housewife, I wasn’t allowed to go out. But my family because the people in the village used to humiliate them for letting me go out. Looking at the opportunity, I convinced my family. Today, I am an independent woman and people respect me. During my work I also realised the value of education and decided to pursue my graduation as I had only studied till class 12. Now I have a Master’s degree in social work.” Read More
SoochnaPreneur’s Drive to Bring Greater Change
SoochnaPreneur is an initiative with a vision of supporting, strengthening and enhancing the capacities of grassroots communities to access and avail information and entitlements in critical areas of health, education, social and financial inclusion, livelihood and employment. A 28-year-old SoochnaPreneur from Ranikhatanga village of Jharkhand, Tarana Nazmi wishes to become the Sarpanch (Village Head) of the village soon. She adds that as a Sarpanch, she would want to address the schools in the village first as she sees no education being provided there. As children are the future generation, she wants to ensure they are well educated. She has graduated from a degree in Psychology along with a BCA and MA in computers. Read More
Pandemic: A Wake-Up-Call to Fact Checking
Risk Communication and Community Engagement is a project by DEF that has actively intervened in dealing with the pandemic at the village level by creating awareness about the precautions and busting the myths. In this regard, the youth of the village have proved to be great carriers of the message who have engaged to help their community understand the social and health related aspects around COVID-19. The centre coordinator, Sunita Nishad from Raipur district, shares, “By involving the youth of the village through the youth club, the misconceptions related to the vaccine measures to avoid COVID-19 were cleared in the community. Wide public awareness on these subjects was made possible by training and authenticated information provided by the organisation. Read More
Commodified Digitalisation in Education
Last month, the government of Andhra Pradesh signed an MOU with the edtech giant BYJU's, to have their online courses integrated into the AP school system, as well as signing them on to develop curriculum for schools in the state. State CM Jagan Mohan Reddy claims that the initiative is set to be an equaliser, as the content is already available to children from private schools and others who could afford it- only that it comes at a hefty pricetag of Rs 25,000 per year, something out of the reach of most. Now, it will be available to government school students for free. Further, the government also to give tabs so that digital experience and digital knowledge is available to the children,” he said. It is not just Andhra. The former education minister of Maharashtra, before the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, Adithya Thackarey had also signed an MOU with BYJU's for their state. Read More
Tales from Community Networks
How do people at the margins get ensured of connectivity? This is something we at Digital Empowerment Foundation have been working on since 2002, and our work goes well beyond advocacy. Every year, DEF co-hosts an Annual conference, the Community Networks Xchange, where experts, policymakers, stakeholders on the ground, and civil society gather in discussing how community networks (CNs) can be deployed efficiently in providing last mile connectivity. For a brief on CNs, this earlier chapter of TypeRight goes into it in detail: With the state moving away from public utilities including transportation, communication and education and handing them over to the private sector, there is little profit or 'RoI' to be gained by investing in connectivity in these geographic and societal margins. Read More
The assault on disinformation fighters and relentless efforts for digital inclusion
When last week's chapter was about to be published, the news had just broken out of the arrest of India's known fact-checker, journalist, and co-founder of Alt-News, Muhammed Zubair. Since then, the story has further developed, revealing a lot of problems with democracy, and privacy that companies promise. Zubair's arrest then was on charges of insulting religious sentiments, for a 2018 tweet which was a screenshot from an even older movie, reported and complained by a twitter account that was less than a year old. The account that reported it, reported to become non-existent; but again reemerged. Further adding to the controversy, as the hearing for Zubair's bail was being held in court, the Police seems to have leaked the order to the media much before its actual declaration. Read More

This month we continued with the A-CODE DEFDialogue Series. Community Network XChange was also held during this month; the recording for which can be found here:

𝐃𝐚𝐭𝐚 𝐑𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐩 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚 𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐑𝐞𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬

𝐀𝐚𝐨 𝐤𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐛𝐡𝐲𝐚𝐬 𝐃𝐢𝐠𝐢ज्ञान 𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐚𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐭 𝐁𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐥, 𝐇𝐚𝐫𝐲𝐚𝐧𝐚

CNX 2022 - Series II

This is an excerpt from the book The New Normal: How to Survive a New World Order. In the months following the ‘lockdown’ there has been a spurt of webinars discussing what it is that the judiciary will have to do in a post-Covid world; how technology can be used to get the process of administration of justice as close to ‘digital’ as possible. Whether it is the judiciary or any other sector when we talk about adjusting with a ‘post-Covid’ world what we mean is that since Covid-19 has made physical human proximity, especially in large groups, fatal in the worst-case scenario and inconvenient in the best-case scenario, how do we carry on with equal efficiency without such gatherings. We naturally turn to technology and ‘digital’ for answers. Read More

Kalapuri collaborates with roughly 150 female artisans in the thriving village of Yalgud, some 30 kilometres from Kolhapur, to create imitation jewellery inspired by traditional Maharashtrian designs. The women have a great deal of expertise and curiosity to learn new things. Majority of them are from the Jain community with sound financial background. Some are pursuing their higher education, some have already earned bachelor’s degrees, and most have completed their 12th grade. Aishwarya Patil, one of the cohort members, is pursuing a PhD in nanotechnology. They view craft through the lens of social agency and independence and had the same perspective towards the Digital Literacy training by Creative Dignity (CD) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF). Though the majority of them belong to households with smartphones, they have never had access to them because; either the men in the family didn’t think they were necessary or the women lacked the knowhow. This has forced women to rely on family members to be able to use the technology. Hence we had the belief that their confidence, self-worth, and merit would increase manifold as they learned more about the digital world. From June 21 to June 24, 2022, 25 to 30 women craftsmen in Yalgud received the contextual digital literacy training under Mr.Vikas Bhalerao from DEF, supported by Mr. Raju Bhagoji and Mr. Shridhar Vaidya from team Kalapuri. Bhakti Tirthani, from CD was there to learn and experience the training with the artisans, understand how they were grasping things, what the challenges were,to solve doubts and speak about modules like photography, catalogue making, using social media, etc. when required. Following brief introductions on the first day, the women showed us their new Common Facility Centre (CFC)... 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. |