Connecting Horizons: Stories of Digital Access, Empowerment and Transformation

In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, the power of inclusivity cannot be underestimated. Embracing diversity and fostering a sense of unity among individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and identities has the potential to create a more vibrant, equitable, and harmonious society. When the digital world was introduced, the silver lining on the digital cloud was transparency, equal citizenship in the online world and transcendence of borders. In the ever evolving landscape of technology today, digital access, empowerment and transformation is the only hope for millions of individuals living at the edge of darkness- especially the ones living in remote and underserved areas with little or no access to the online world. Imagine the following scenarios: Read More


Indian Internet in late 90s and Contrast After a Quarter Century
In this narrative Osama Manzar brings out how the Internet was taking shape in India during the 90s, through his earlier writings for the weekly newsmagazine, The Industry Standard of Silicon Valley, and co-relating to the current times of Internet, India and global integration. It was post mid nineties, somewhere around 1997 I had joined the Hindustan Times, one of north India’s biggest national daily newspapers, to run their Internet division. It was a division without any staff but the management had decided to form an Internet department to effectively mark its presence on the World Wide Web. I had earlier worked for more than two and a half years in ComputerWorld... Read More

Empowering Women, Empowering Communities the Smart(Pur) Way
Meet Ataiya, a remarkable woman resident of Bharatpur, who is breaking the barriers of patriarchy and gender-based stereotypes to become a beacon of change and women empowerment. As a coordinator of Smartpur centre, she not only runs a successful initiative but also inspires others to challenge gender-based biases and discrimination. Ataiya's dedicated journey has earned her the prestigious UNICEF award for U-report. U-Report is a platform that enables young people to voice their opinions on critical issues, ranging from education and employment to discrimination and child marriage. Ataiya's involvement in U-Report reflects her belief in driving positive change and empowering her community. When asked about her journey... Read More
Building Breakthroughs for Digital Empowerment
In the Kamrup district of Assam, community members face multiple hurdles in accessing information and services related to government schemes, financial linkages, basic digital skills and more. The lack of access and digital infrastructure has a profound impact on the lives of the community members. A cluster of women belonging to the vulnerable community were majorly suffering due to lack of connectivity. With a steadfast determination to bridge the digital gap and make essential services accessible to all, Sajiya stepped up to anchor the SoochnaPreneur center at Bihdia Jajikona block in the Malibari village. In a short span of time, the SoochnaPreneur center became a hub of digital empowerment, rendering a wide range of entitlement delivery, digital literacy and digital financial literacy for this cluster of women. Read More
A Digital Journey to Financial Independence
Prince is an 18-year-old resident of Bhowapur. His father is a small-business owner and he has just completed his schooling from CBSE board. Prince’s mother is also a part of the labour force and works in Gulmohar. Prince’s mother urged him to also become financially independent and learn digital skills for personal development. Prince was already interested in learning computers and enhancing his digital skills. After coming to the center for digital literacy classes, Prince gained the confidence of pursuing a career in this field. In the course of his classes, Prince gained an interest in coding and realised that he can use the digital tools at the center to apply for his admission for graduation in COPA (Computer Operating Programming Assistant) from ITI, Delhi. Read More
From Connected to Unconnected: Transforming Lives through Digital Literacy in Kashmir
With a mission to connect the unconnected and bridge the information gap, DEF embarked on a journey to promote digital literacy in Kashmir. Partnering with organisations like J&K Justice for Kashmir, DEF aims to bridge the digital divide and empower the local communities in Kashmir. DEF supplied digital devices and their START kit, containing curriculums and activities tailored for training the teachers on digital literacy. In June, DEF’s District Coordinator visited J&K Justice for Kashmir organisation’s computer centres in Ranjipora village. During her visit, she had the privilege of meeting two inspiring individuals, Naujat and Gowher, who played a pivotal role in the centre’s operations. Read More
Empowerment to Empowering: The Story of Ruben
Ruben hails from Chirala, Andhra Pradesh. A few years back, he offered his premises to erect a wireless tower to provide internet connectivity to serve the fisherman community members of the Chirala district. His relationship with DEF went beyond and soon enough, Ruben became a digital entrepreneur. Enabled to run a local digital center, Ruben is now the SoochnaPreneur at the Vodarevu center in Chirala. He recently received the CSC award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the community. With two banking correspondent IDs, he can conduct transactions up to 90 lakhs in a year, generating a significant revenue of approximately 4-4.5 lakhs in from the center. Read More
Empow(her): Bridging the Gender Digital Divide
In DEF’s two-decade journey of digital empowerment, one major mandate flowing from the organizational ethos is greater integration by ensuring that women have equal access to digital services and opportunities. Digital inclusion provides women with access to information, education, resources and entitlements that empower them to make informed decisions about their lives. EMpower is one such project that enables women to push boundaries and break gender-based stereotypes. As a part of the digital literacy program being implemented in Chiraudi village, Gudiya is a 19-year-old girl who pushes patriarchal boundaries everyday. Read More
Unlocking Opportunities through Yojana Camps
Digital Empowerment Foundation has strived to strengthen the poor information ecosystem in rural communities in India especially in the backward districts that has alienated a majority of India’s population from social and economic entitlement gains for over two decades. Our SoochnaPreneurs create ripples of digital change in marginalised communities and earn respect and recognition because of their exemplary work. In an attempt to uplift newly established centers and to help their communities, our SoochnaPreneurs organised a “Yojana Camp” to provide an opportunity for the community members to get connected to the schemes and facilities that the government has initiated. Read More
Cultivating Digital Inclusivity in India’s Tea Garden Communities
Digital access and services play a pivotal role in transforming tea garden communities in India by empowering them economically, socially and culturally, while also contributing to holistic development and sustainable growth. To foster this environment of digital inclusion, DEF and Swaniti Initiative are working in four districts of West Bengal to ensure that tea garden communities can be connected with government schemes and entitlements, access to digital services, digital literacy and digital rights. Our SoochnaPreneur, Oliva Barla, runs a center in Gopalpur Tea Garden, nestled within the picturesque Alipurduar District of West Bengal. The center aims to empower the local community with essential digital services, knowledge and access. Read More
Training and Mentoring Rural Youth
This is a testimonial of a student Aditya Raj who has enrolled himself at the Soochna Adhikar Centre in Deoria, Bihar. “Three months ago, we heard about the Soochna Adhikar Kendra in our village of Deoria. Intrigued by this opportunity, I decided to visit the center. The SoochnaPreneur gave us valuable information, and I registered myself in the Mera App. After a few days, I was told to come to the center in my free time after school and tuition, where I could use a tablet and laptop. Since I started going to the center, I have learned a lot about computers and smartphones. Before going to the centre I didn’t even know how to use a mobile phone. Read More
EmpowHer: Ensuring Menstrual Hygiene and Fostering Entrepreneurial Avenues
Owing to the patriarchal society that we live in, and the invisiblization and silence that has been maintained with regard to the topic of menstruation, adolescent girls and women are made to intrinsically feel menstrual shame, and develop a self-deprecating attitude towards one’s own bodies. Stemming from the urgent need to destigmatize menstruation, DEF launched the ‘Digital Didi’ programme to create awareness among adolescent girls and women in rural and semi-urban India about misconceptions and misinformation surrounding menstruation, and to communicate authentic information, facilitate access to sustainable menstrual products and better health infrastructure. Read More
Community Networks Uniting Indigenous Communities in Ziro Valley
While there is a nation-wide movement towards digital connectivity and the country has witnessed numerous government-led initiatives to achieve digital connectivity, there are still regions that continue to face no access or inadequate access to digital services. Ziro block was one such region in Arunachal. After the introduction of community networks to connect the Apatani Tribe of Ziro, the citizens have gained access to digital education, services and community connections with the rest of the world. With the support of Internet Society, a variety of activities are held in Ziro Valley to ensure that the community members are included in the digital narrative. One such activity is the ‘DEF Sustainability Hour Sessions’, hosted weekly to promote the participation of students in sustainable development initiatives. Read More
Re-Threaded Town Squares?
Earlier in our blog, we had dug into Elon Musk’s acquiring of Twitter, and the changes it poses for freedom of speech and disinformation. It’s not news anymore that Zuckerberg, the founder of Meta has lost his trust within most of the internet community, regardless of how influential his platform is. To recap from there, “Scholar and Author S. Zuboff says letting such power concentrate in the hands of unaccountable people like Zuckerberg, Bezos, or in this case, Musk, is merely contributing to the rise of surveillance capitalism, while we obsess over what these powerful billionaire men do, and beg their mercy to prevent disinformation and protect users’ privacies.” And this is important, because Meta has taken the initiative to launch something new, called threads, which looks mostly like a Facebook clone – however, given the current state of Twitter, Meta’s launch saw record signups in the first twelve hours. Read More
Internet Shutdown Capital courtesy Manipur
While recent reports suggest France is in for a relatively calmer night after the protests, parallelly in our country, many parts of the state of Manipur has also been witnessing violence – for over three months now. The government had resorted to calling in the central forces but their indiscriminate shoot-to-kill action has increased deaths but provided no viable solution to the conflict. In fact, almost twenty years after Manipur’s Meira Paibis, the women torchbearers or the mothers of Manipur had staged a protest with a photo that no one would easily wipe of other consciences... Read More
Kerala’s steps towards the Internet as a Right
"Internet connection made a basic citizen right. Kerala cabinet gives final nod for Rs. 1548 crores for Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) Project to provide internet to every household in the state. For 20 lakh BPL households, it will be free. The project will be completed by December, 2020." This was the former finance minister's announcement four years ago. Earlier this month, although two years delayed, the state of Kerala saw their government launching an initiative called KFON, described "to provide high-speed internet connectivity to all households, government offices, and educational institutions." KFON is short for Kerala Fibre Optic Network Project. This does sound similar to another old project we have talked about in our blog, the BharatNet. When the project was renewed and renamed in 2015, it had ambitious hopes - of connecting all 250,000 panchayats (village councils) in the country with the internet - at 100mbps. As we have seen how pulling electric cables does not ensure the availability of electricity, BharatNet falls woefully behind on its targets. Read More

Lepcha language is a language spoken by the Lepcha people in Sikkim, West Bengal, Nepal, and Bhutan. Despite several spirited attempts to preserve the language, Lepcha has already effectively been lost in most places. Gideon Tasa, a linguist joins us in a conversation about his attempt to revive, popularise and mainstream the language.

Revival of the Vanishing Lepcha Language in the 21st Century

There are close to 7,100 living languages in the world but as many as 90% of them are spoken by less than 100,000 people in the world, according to Ethnologue, an annual publication on world languages. In India, where there are more than 780 languages, over 220 languages have died in the past 50 years and 197 others are categorized as endangered by Unesco. Despite India’s cultural, geographical and linguistic diversity, only 22 languages have the official status in India. So what happens to the rest in the next decade? Will they, too, simply vanish from the records like almost 1,500 languages did from the 1971 Census (1961 census had listed 1,652 mother tongues and the next census listed only 108 mother tongues)? Read More

मैं भरतपुर राजस्थान की रहने वाली हु मेरा नाम अतैया है मेरा एजुकेशन का जो स्तर है वो फैमिली पूरी एडुकेटेड है उसमें कभी कोई दिक्कत नही आई। सिर्फ अगर कही पछपात मिला तो वो लड़के और लड़की के बीच मिला वो भी समाज मे फैमिली में नही मिला और भी बहुत सारे इशू आते है दो धर्मो के बीच आ जाते है या फीमेल या मेल के बीच आ जाते है। तो उनमें मुझे स्कूल की ओर से ही पार्टिसिपेट करने की बहुत ज़्यादा ख़्वाहिश थी। मेरे टीचर हमेशा मुझे आगे रखते थे, इस वजह से मुझे आदत सी हो गयी थी शायद इसी वजह से मैं हर कार्यक्रम में पार्टिसिपेट करती आ रही हूं। जैसे अशिफ़ा हत्याकांड हुआ तो हमने कैंडल मार्च निकाला था जिसमे सभी लड़के थे मैं अकेली लड़की थी। फैमिली की ओर से कुछ इशू आये थे लेकिन मैंने अपने आपको आगे बढ़ने के लिए कदम उठाया। मेरी कहानी यही है कि मैं कविता के माध्यम से अपनी बात को समझाउंगी।

“ना करो बहस हार जाओगे
हुस्न इतनी बड़ी दलील नही”

हाथ की लकीरों और सितारों की चाल और तोते की फाल पढ़ कर फेकने वाले दलाइल पेश करने के बजाय हमे किस्से और कहानियां सुनाएंगे लेकिन मैं ये कहती हूं कि ” कामयाबी किस्मत से नही मेहनत से मिलती है” 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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