Beauty in Digital Complexities

The word ‘digitus’ translates to ‘finger’ which means to be able to count or point so that a complex thing can be reduced to bits and built back more effectively. The creators of the so called digital world often compare this to the lego modules using which a very complex model can be built. They also remind us that although we can imitate anything out there, the beauty of it can never be captured or brought about through such reductionism. It comes as no surprise that the more digital we get, the more difficult it gets to behold a sense of beauty. This is where the wisdom of touching beauty using digitalisation as a tool rather than trying to seek it within the digital framework helps in the society evolving in a more harmonious way. This piece of wisdom has been the crux of Digital Empowerment Foundation’s vision which keeps witnessing ever rolling stories of change in the most dynamic way possible owing to a sense of balance with which programs are designed to improve lives, customized to different localities and sections of societies, using digital tools. This month’s newsletter brings you such testimonials which not only give a glimpse of the outcomes of many initiatives, but also the subtleties in various journeys leading to change in the lives and eventually the environment. While stories of social protection schemes have touched the core of well being that we all seek, expansion of SoochnaPreneur programs project the value of sustained growth. Read More


Empowering women in the digital age: India’s digital inclusion journey
The internet came to India in 1995 and with it came a host of opportunities for this rising economy and developing nation. A few tech pioneers grabbed this opportunity and explored this brave new connected world. Seven years later, on the 16th of December 2002, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) was established to connect and empower India’s one billion plus people, taking the first step in the country’s digital development story. At the time, most Indians did not have access to information, education, and opportunities. Our mission is to bridge that through digital literacy and tools, bringing government services within reach of its people. Read More

Social Protection: Part and Parcel of a Healthy Society
For the most part of the privileged population, it is hard to imagine the kind of emotional turmoil that many marginalized communities go through when their most basic needs go unattended. When someone cannot lead a decent life in the most basic way possible like being able to defecate at their own will comfortably, it is imperative that the society pays attention to such needs so that a healthy state of mind is established to which every human being, irrespective of the class they belong to, is susceptible and accountable. Although the government has come up with welfare schemes that could benefit these people, it will prove to be successful only when those in need are made aware of such benefits. Read More
Teachers of Kashmir Can Now Digitally File
Kashmir has been a new Chapter in the Digital Literacy drive. The continuous internet shutdowns and network issues that have affected people living there are all the more reason DEF finds the need to reach out to them and include them in the digital economy. On the recommendation of the Indian Army DEF’s team got in touch with the government and army goodwill schools. A 10 day training session was held by the district coordinator of DEF, Saba, starting from 27tth December. DEF provided computers and START Kit to 18 school teachers which had the curriculum on Digital Literacy spread over five different books that were covered by Saba during the session. The teachers expressed that the sessions were very fruitful and looked forward to getting more such information in the future. Read More
Access to Sustainable Livelihoods Through Digital Literacy
Social and financial exclusions have been around for quite some time and the efforts to bridge these gaps have also been taken up. But sometimes, owing to linear thinking, we either don’t pay attention to the other potential gaps that are branching out from such exclusions or wait till the most evident forms of exclusions are worked upon. One such possible exclusion that might come up is that of the gap in which value systems are perceived. The first world and the privileged are slowly settling into the paradigm shift in the way value systems of the society are perceived, clearly emphasising on sustainable and holistic ways of living while the third world and the marginalised are left to magically arrive at that once they have gone through the cycles of consumerism. Read More
Dream and Journey of a Budding Social Entrepreneur
Stepping out of a routine is often a brave thing to do, but always comes with its own challenges. Some are determined and prepare themselves to face these obstacles while others find it more comfortable to coil back into the warmth of familiarity. Stories of our SoochnaPreneurs often fall under the former category and that is what keeps them driving to constantly find better ways of helping their communities by allowing themselves to take the plunge. Pooja is a SoochnaPreneur from Sisona Village, Uttarakhand. She narrates her story, “Being married and a mother of one child, I have neglected my dream and limited myself to household chores. Read More
Small Interventions Often go Long Way in Building Confidence and Expanding Reach
Digital tools prove to be very handy in maintaining records and managing accounts. This helps in doing business in a more effective way by allowing opportunities to innovate and find novel ways of expanding. Especially in small villages where business have a tendency to get stagnant, it is all the more important that such tools be introduced to help micro entrepreneurs to be aware of the ways in which their businesses can flourish. Digital Empowerment Foundation has launched many such initiatives that have helped rural micro entrepreneurs and the project ‘Revive’ is one among them. Read More
App Based Approach to Improve Micro Enterprises
Book keeping and management of accounts through apps are not limited to only big businesses. They play a vital role in small businesses by providing more clarity on the transactions. This in return adds to the transparency of their business that helps in applying for loans or building trust among other business vendors. But in many rural locations, bookkeeping can be seen as a hurdle that needs to be cleared only with the help of literacy. DEF has helped in busting this myth by training women micro entrepreneurs to use digital tools through Master Trainers under the project Revive so that their functional literacy will help them in better maintenance of records. Read More
Symphony of Science: A STEM Event
Critical thinking skills are much valued in the current world and often enables the new generation to question the relevance of the practices in society. This proves to be refreshing in bringing open mindedness and different outlooks on any situation. These skills will further empower students to actively participate and contribute to the world by connecting with the scientific temperament. DEF has been actively engaged in focussing on STEM education through its well monitored programs. The Symphony of Science is an annual event organized by DEF in cooperation with the Deepsthal Learning Center of Pyar Trust. The aim is to understand how open learning and open experiment can enhance the learning process of children with access to modern 21st century learning resources. Read More
Drive to Change Oneself Often Leads to Change in Others Too
SoochnaPreneurs play a pivotal role in translating Digital Empowerment Foundation’s vision of eradicating information poverty into action in a more inclusive manner that benefits everyone participating in it. Although success stories of many SoochanPreneurs have a common thread of the improvement in their livelihood, every story also has a unique feature of affecting their communities to change in their own ways. Mala Khatun is a SoochanPreneur from a small village of Zanza, West Bengal. She belongs to a middle-class family and her husband works as a daily wage labourer. Although Mala has always been looking for means to contribute to her family’s income, she was not able to due to lack of information. Read More
CIRC: Heart of the Village for Effective Resource Management
Digitalization has become the interface between the world and oneself. Without being equipped with this, one would not be able to access the world outside. It comes as no surprise that a digital centre would eventually be the heart of the village as it enables circulation of resources and opportunities and without which, irrespective of the availability of resources, the outcome of benefiting the community will not be achieved. Radhika from Geen Mohd, Shaheedpur of Uttarakhand understands this scenario clearly and empathises with her community who have to travel five to seven kilometres to avail any kind of digital service. Read More
Digital Empowerment: Not a Crutch for the Disabled but a Tool to Enable Better Livelihood
Samarth SoochnaPreneur program, where rural people who are differently abled are trained to be digital entrepreneurs, has become successful on every front. It has been able to provide digital services and awareness to the unconnected society whose welfare depends on it and at the same time empowered the lives of those who were disempowered by the norms, limitations and standards set by the society. The key to the success stories of this program can be primarily attributed to the important qualities that Digital Empowerment Foundation looks for in a social entrepreneur. Across the country, the SoochnaPreneurs are picked in such a way that they show entrepreneurial skills... Read More
Young Adults Learn to Create Blogs Free of Clogs
There has never been a time in history where a virtual footprint of any sort leaves behind a lot more than one can imagine because of which those who create content have to be responsible and accountable to their views. While the opportunities to express one’s views keep expanding, somewhere the freedom and an authentic sense of expression is fading in the distance. Hence, it is all the more important that the young are exposed to this world carefully and an awareness of being conscious consumers and producers of content needs to be created. Digital Empowerment Foundation in collaboration with Wartsila Pvt. conducted a workshop on blogging as a part of their Digital Literacy classroom program “Digigyan” at the Government Senior Secondary School at Karnawas, Bawal, Haryana. Read More
Exposure Event on PM Wani at Digital Sarthak Centres
There has never been a time in history where a virtual footprint of any sort leaves behind a lot more than one can imagine because of which those who create content have to be responsible and accountable to their views. While the opportunities to express one’s views keep expanding, somewhere the freedom and an authentic sense of expression is fading in the distance. Hence, it is all the more important that the young are exposed to this world carefully and an awareness of being conscious consumers and producers of content needs to be created. Digital Empowerment Foundation in collaboration with Wartsila Pvt. conducted a workshop on blogging as a part of their Digital Literacy classroom program “Digigyan” at the Government Senior Secondary School at Karnawas, Bawal, Haryana. Read More
Digital Didi: A Pillar of Information in Every Household
A privileged few to whom information is available at the tip of their fingers take access to information for granted and it becomes hard to fully grasp what the consequences of lack of such access to information are. Nearly half of India’s rural and semi-urban women and adolescent girls face various health related issues due to lack of adequate knowledge about menstrual hygiene. Menstruation is indeed a taboo in rural India even today. Women and young girls do not participate without a sense of discomfort to discuss this issue. This is where providing them information regarding this through digital means that they can easily access, provided that they are trained to use digital tools, is going to help in handling this issue in a more inclusive way. Read More
Geographical Indications and Digital Empowerment
Let's start with some basic definitions, and wikipedia isn't too bad to start: Geographical indication, or what we use GI for short, is a form of intellectual property that identifies a product as originating from a specific place, where a given quality, reputation or some other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Every country has different regimes of laws that identify something having a GI- for India, geographical indications are governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. According to Press Information Bureau there are 432 GI tagged locations in India. In fact government of India also allocated Rs. 75 crore for the promotion of GIs. A partial list is available at this Wikipedia page. Another link to go through a comprehensive list is available here. Read More
Forcing the digital onto the poorest
In recent months there have been several reports in various newspapers related to in general “forced digitalisation”, but pertinently around MGNREGA - Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act, which pertains to guarantee at least 100 days of work on demand. It is important to note that, NREGA served 253.8 million in 2021-22, and 273.2 million in 2020-21. It is also interesting to note that the demand of work under the scheme has been even higher. “Individual demand under the scheme, though 17.5% lower in 2021-22 than in 2020-21, was 22.5% higher than in 2019-20. Individuals demanding work under the scheme stood at 368 million in 2021-22, 446.4 million in 2020-21 and 300.4 million in 2019-20,” as per ET. Clearly, more than 400 million people in India, 40 crore that is, who demand for NREGA work are also the poorest of the poor... Read More

As we celebrate 20 years here is a glimpse of our journey and a few milestones we crossed along the way.

Introducing the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)'s Digital Sarthaks

The injustices that algorithms of platform and gig-economy apps cause has been documented previously. In India, the workers in the gig-economy are counted as “clients,” depriving them of many protections labour laws provide. In such an unorganised sector, Shaik Salauddin of the Indian Federation Of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) is one of the leaders organising and unionising people working in ride-hailing and delivery apps. We speak to him in detail about the algorithms that cause injustices. In December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, along with the government’s commitment to enforce a National Register of Citizenship. As Booker Prize winning author and activist Arundahti Roy put it, “Coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the National Register of Citizenship is India’s version of Germany’s 1935 Nuremberg Laws, by which German citizenship was restricted to only those who had been granted citizenship papers—legacy papers—by the government of the Third Reich. Read More

Reflecting on 20 years of Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) is like painting a canvas with 20 different colours. The digital space and scenario has evolved, morphed, exploded, imploded, opened up opportunities, restricted freedom of speech, instilled confidence in the ambitious and also stunted growth succumbing to online bullying. With this backdrop, when I look at: “Digital Empowerment Foundation: Empowering People at the Edge of Information” today, two decades since its inception, I still find the core intent to be very relevant. To be more precise, it has been highlighted to be considered as the need of the hour as feeding the internet to people has become equivalent to providing food or shelter. On one end there is a lot of discussion on information society, surveillance, online hate speech, digital interference, virtual domination, and the list of digital jargons seems to be never ending, while on the other end, there is still a huge population reaching out to gain access. The journey of DEF has witnessed a very dynamic shift and complex evolution of the digital divide over the years in terms of impact. The continuous learnings have helped to empower the organisation to skillfully and creatively find solutions that aid in bridging the gaps of the digital world. Although we have come a full circle from working mainly on the ground to partnering with the inventor of World Wide Web (WWW), which was just an interface back in 1995, a quick glance at the history of the internet lays a better groundwork to understand why, how and when the journey around digital empowerment began. The first milestone of internet evolution was in 2003 when Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced in Geneva about the ‘digital divide’ in the opening discussion of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). The next highlight was the following WSIS, 2005 held in Tunis where he spoke about the historic transformation that the world preempted at the dawn of the information society. 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.

Donate for Digital Daan
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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