Panoramic View of the World of the Internet

We keep hearing about the age of the internet and digital transformation. Digital Empowerment Foundation has been working on connecting the unconnected for almost 20 years now. But when we look into how the world of the internet has evolved over the years, the answer does not lie in just the world being better connected. It lies in the complex web of socio-economic identities, access, education, internet dark zones, exclusion, mis-information and data rights, all connected and acting... Read More


Digital Leap Frogs
When the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Nokia joined forces in 2018 to create 'smart villages across rural India, they hoped that their joint Smartpur project would help extend Internet access and digital services to the less affluent and not-so-well-connected areas. When I spoke with DEF officials in July of that year, they described a holistic approach that would enable six key development pillars: education, health, livelihood, finance, governance and entertainment. We could not have imagined then that, just two years later, the foundation's broader network of more than 750 Community Information Resource Centres in 130 districts across twenty-five states would provide a frontline response to a pandemic that would sweep across the globe. The volunteers who operate the digitally connected outposts, along with the many people who tap into their services, had shifted into high gear by April 2020, according to a report from the Association for Progressive Communications, of which the non-profit DEF is a member." The foundation quickly developed an array of community services and outreach efforts to support telehealth, career and crisis counselling, and connections to public welfare and other government programmes. Some of the most clever ideas came from local workers and clients who took on new relief initiatives as they saw problems arise. Read More

Financial Integration to Strengthen Aspirations
Digital Empowerment Foundation is notably particular in bridging the aspirational gap by strengthening the underserved communities through financial integration. And the project Amazon DFI (Digital Financial Inclusion) is going a step further with its motive to digitally integrate those communities such that they are better equipped to deal with their finances. To serve the needs of digitally unaware communities, the Amazon 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). Read More
Strengthening Tea Garden Workers by Creating Awareness, Inclusion and Access to Social Protection Programs in West Bengal
According to experts, an estimated half a billion women still lack access to education and tens of millions of girls around the world are unable to access education and unlikely to enroll in school, thus hampering the overall growth and development of the girls. And yet, there is sufficient evidence to show that educated women create a ripple effect. We face huge inequalities in the education system of our country. Despite many policies and campaigns taken up by the government, young girls and women still lack access to basic education resulting in exclusion from employment opportunities. Selvarak Rajyalaxmi, who is a resident of Paravada block, Andhra Pradesh,... Read More
Efforts to Include Internet Dark Zones into Digital Economy through Community Networks
In the age of the internet, internet dark zones are prone to lack of many of the basic facilities like education, information, entitlements and rights. Such areas require support in terms of both infrastructure and resources so that they first have access to the internet and then use the digital tools to stay connected for growth and development. Digital Empowerment Foundation, in partnership with the Internet Society (ISOC) is implementing a project named ‘Community Networks- Connecting the Indigenous Communities of Ziro Valley’. The project will help in setting up Community Networks to establish internet connectivity in the Zero Valley along with setting up a CIRC... Read More
Building STEM Temperament through Digital Platforms Among Young Students
Digital literacy has proved to be essential among all age groups in this age of digital transformation. Digital Empowerment Foundation has been actively engaged, even before the dawn of the digital age, in making sure that the access to digital devices doesn’t pose an obstacle to digital literacy so that the marginalised community across India can avail services that enable them to get their basic needs. One such effort has been the very effective and ever growing CIRC (Community Information Resource Centre). The CIRC in Donabagatta village of Shimoga district in Karnataka has recently focussed on promoting overall growth of students in that region by conducting various activities... Read More
Yearning to Learn with a Purpose to Help
Often, a sense of purpose aligns dedication, hard work and drive to learn in achieving one’s goals and ambitions. The Digital Strengthening of Displaced Communities project taken up by DEF which facilitates learning among those communities that are displaced owing to social issues has seen many examples of such endeavor. DEF seeks to implement this project which supports displaced populations in the states of Delhi and Haryana by setting up 10 digital and information centers, which will enable 5000 direct and 5000 indirect beneficiaries from the target population, especially women and girls displaced population, to be digitally equipped for the purpose of livelihood, education, and community development. The focus area of the project has been in equipping women and girls with the knowledge of Office 365 tools for education and skill development... Read More
Neeraja’s Journey Back into the Learning Sphere
In the present framework of our society, self-confidence is often tucked under the blanket of knowledge accumulation or academic achievements. This makes it even harder to reach out to those who have dropped out of the schooling system and convince them to take up the mantle of learning. But the safe, interactive and user-friendly learning centres and resources set up by DEF have helped many to rekindle their spark to learn in the rural areas. Neeraj is 19 year old, a resident of Gazipur Village. Neeraj left her schooling after 9th class and is currently helping her mother with domestic work. Her younger sister has been coming to our centre for the last two months. So Neeraj’s sister managed to take her to the computer classes. Read More
Governance and its Role Towards Rural Development
In recent years, the notion of rural development has evolved; converging itself to governance and digital inclusion. The aim is to provide the basic services to the community inclusive of all those processes through which common people can access their confidential data and information about the government and its various development programs. Thus, creating spaces to avail these digital schemes directly impacts rural development. Smartpur hub and spoke centres continue to serve the communities on the six pillars of education, health, livelihood, governance, finance and entertainment. Governance has been one of our strongest pillars, and one such beneficiary narrated his perspective on this based on his experience. Rama Rao Kundrapu is a resident of the Naidupalem village in Vizag. He remained unaware of managing his finances. Read More
Burning the Illusory Bridge between Literacy and Digital Literacy
Soochna Adhikar Kendra is an initiative to enhance digital literacy where digital services are made available and sessions are conducted to teach and encourage people from rural areas to operate laptops and smartphones so that they become independent in availing their necessary services. Muniya Devi is a beneficiary of the program and she has provided us with a perspective of an end user of the programs through her narration. “I am Muniya Devi from Khasalpur village, Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. 25 days ago, I visited Jal Kanchan Ji’s Soochna Adhikar Kendra and learned that even I could benefit from the continued services by registering. I was glad to know that I could also learn how to operate a smartphone and a laptop. After registering, I began my training by going to the Soochna Adhikar Kendra in my spare time. Read More
DEF’s Foot Soldiers Continue to Facilitate Opportunities to Make a Better Living
The success stories of SoochnaPreneurs, Digital Sarthaks and Samarth SoochnaPreneurs continue to grow in quantity and quality as they are making the best use of the support system, resources and skills to improve their living. Nisha Tuti is a woman entrepreneur from Jharkhand 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 laborer in the off season, for his livelihood. She has two kids, both are minors, and they are studying in the government school. In the outer part of her house, she runs a grocery shop to financially support her family members. At present she is capable of handling a smartphone well and even her other family members are aware of different tricks of the smartphone. Read More
Internet and Data Rights
Data rights takes the centre stage in many intellectual and political debates but hardly percolates into the social interactions of the common public. Realising the need for every digital user to be aware about their data rights, sessions are being held to spread the message. The internet and data has meshed intricately with our lives and plays a major role in the way we live. There is a great need in educating the common people about their data rights so that we use them in the right way and avoid misuse. Although data is important in developing better systems, misuse of it can lead to grave situations that will further demand attention to resolve. Hence, it is important for everyone to stay updated about it. Kisan Trust and Digital Empowerment Foundation conducted a session on data rights on 11th October, 2022 in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. Read More
Digital Education as a Relief Program
While the rest of the world is busy in getting back to normalcy and resuming work with the pre pandemic pace, the education field still struggles to fill the huge gap and stress that has been created. The mental and physical constraints during the pandemic have affected the health of young children creating stress along with the gaps in learning and development. This cannot go unaddressed unless the society braces to accommodate long term implications of sustained mental stress among the young children. Digital Empowerment Foundation has prioritised this as a relief measure. DEF has actively been involved in the Covid relief programs and is currently implementing the third phase of Covid Digital Emergency Relief Program (3.0). Read More
Freedom of Expression - What Has Changed in the Last Decade
The following article and presentation was prepared to share during the panel discussion that was expected to address questions pertaining to the recent increase in interest among international organisations in promoting and protecting freedom of expression, including artistic freedom and protection of artists. It would be interesting to understand if this is linked to a rise in censorship and political oppression, or an increase in the awareness and understanding among these organisations of these challenges, or both. The panel will also explore diverse challenges in this field, as well as opportunities provided by the widespread use of the internet and digital products, and the consequent responses by those targeted by censorship and persecution. Read More
G20 endorses Community Networks for Digital Infrastructure and CNX 2022
Over several chapters of TypeRight, we had covered in detail the innovativeness that is brought forth by Community Networks. Before we explain them further once again, we would like to share some news from the G20 Summit in Indonesia. Considering community networks and PM WANI initiative of India as a case study, the report goes on to acknowledge the financing gap in the sector and how CNs as options to attempt bridge the digital divide are important, and mentions our role in this process: "several organizations in India had been working on community networks for several years before the establishment of PM-WANI. The Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and the Internet Society, two well-established civil society organizations, joined forces in 2010 to create the Wireless for Communities (W4C) initiative." Our Director Osama Manzar announced this news last week, in the final series of the multi-part, 2022 edition of CNX 2022 which was held online. We looked at four cases this time, from different parts of the country. 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:

The Madari Art of Living: An Introduction

The Madari Art of Living: Hurdles and Challenges

The Madari Art of Living: Way Forward

The Digital Empowerment Foundation presented its work at the Tenth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning hosted by Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and Athabasca University (AU) from 14 to 16 September 2022. The Forum takes place every three years and is considered one of the world’s leading international conferences on open, distance and technology-enabled learning. Read More

Roger Bacon once said, “Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom”. Understanding languages is not just limited to anthropological context, as it is widely believed so, but goes beyond that, into the realm of deep understanding of the dynamics of our natural environment ensconcing the beauty and the wisdom of the world which was traditionally passed down orally. While the world is hunting for strategic policies and systems to avoid the catastrophes of climate changes rooted in a fragmented approach, Anvita Abbi, an Indian linguist and scholar of minority languages, known for her studies on tribal and other minority languages of South Asia, reminds us in one of the DEF dialogues the importance of indigenous languages in helping us to live in harmony. 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. |

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