Digital Pioneers: DEF’s contextual initiatives empowering lives and building bridges

Digital Empowerment Foundation is dedicated to creating a transformative space for vulnerable, marginalised and unconnected communities, enabling them to empower themselves. Read More


Bridging the Digital Divide for Girls in India: Logging Her in!
The death by suicide of a class IX girl because she could not access online classes due to lack of a smart phone in June 2020 in Kerala is just a statistic now. But it is nevertheless a poignant reminder of how deeply we have failed our young girls. While the SDGs commit to significantly increase access to information and communications technologies and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the internet in least developed countries by 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how far away we are from achieving this goal. The issue of digital divide has resurfaced in a big way in developing and underdeveloped countries. In India, the ‘gendered digital divide’ among adolescents has come out starkly, highlighting ways in which the harmful effects of COVID-19 are disproportionately experienced by adolescent girls. This chapter brings focus on how the digital divide is affecting adolescent girls and highlights the key areas that can help bridge the gendered digital divide for girls in India, by presenting an on-the-ground reality of adolescent girls amidst socio-economic challenges such as staggering family incomes, job insecurities, slow health services, lack of access to critical information and social benefits and loss of attendance in school, with a specific focus on state-wise differentiation in access to digital devices and services for adolescent girls.Read More

Smartpur- A Hub to Access Social Security Schemes and Protection
In the village of Ajjipura, Karnataka, Mr. Akhil Pasha, a social entrepreneur, had a vision to bring essential governance, financial, educational, and health services closer to rural residents. His centre brought these services closer to people in the village. This made a big difference in the lives of many villagers. One of the most remarkable aspects of Mr. Pasha’s initiative was his role as a Bank Correspondent of the State Bank of India (SBI). His dedication to providing essential financial services, particularly enrolling people in life insurance schemes, had a profound impact on the lives of his fellow villagers. Mr. Girish, a 25-year-old resident of Kurubaradoddi Village, not far from Ajjipura. Read More
Safeguarding the Digital Well-being of Assam’s Tea Tribe and Adivasi Communities
The Internet Roshni Project, has been a hope for the Tea Tribe and Adivasi communities in the remote districts of Jorhat, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Hailakandi, and Cachar in Assam. This initiative, with its dedicated SoochnaPreneurs, has not only illuminated the lives of these communities but has also fortified them with digital empowerment. In these far-flung regions of Assam, access to digital resources and the internet was once a distant dream. But with the tireless efforts of Internet Roshni, this dream has transformed into a reality. SoochnaPreneurs, local heroes of the community, have been serving as the bridge between the digital world and the Tea Tribe and Adivasi communities. Read More
A Journey of Community Engagement and Digital Education
In the serene village of Old Ziro, nestled near the Community Health Centre, a journey began when a group of dedicated individuals embarked on a mission to establish a new community center. This is the story of their efforts to bring education, connectivity, and digital awareness to their community. The journey began with a simple yet powerful idea: to create a hub of learning and empowerment for the people of Old Ziro. The team started by meeting with the respected Gaon Buras of the village. Their support and encouragement paved the way for what was to come. To find the perfect location, the team reached out to building owners across the village. They received numerous suggestions and leads, all offered with a shared enthusiasm for the project. Read More
Digital Upskilling and Entrepreneurship for Persons with Disabilities and Women
Digital Empowerment Foundation embarked on a transformative journey to empower marginalised communities in 14 states across India. Their mission was to bridge the digital divide by providing training to 500 women and persons with disabilities through a comprehensive 30-day program. This initiative stood out due to its innovative blended approach, combining in-person and online methods. This unique strategy aimed to not only teach digital skills but also to foster a sense of connection with the digital world, thus creating opportunities for participants to augment their earnings through positive digital engagement. Read More
Technology and Digital Literacy Empowering Young Minds
Ubaid Mushtaq’s journey is an example of the transformative power of education and access to technology in remote and underserved areas. He hails from a quaint village in the Anantnag district of Kashmir, where the digital divide was stark. In this village, computers were a rarity, and digital literacy was virtually non-existent among the children. However, things started to change when the Digital Empowerment Foundation and the Stears Organisation stepped in to bridge this technological gap. They recognised the potential hidden within Ubaid and his fellow villagers and decided to bring the gift of digital knowledge to their doorstep. Ubaid's life began to take a new direction when these organisations initiated digital literacy sessions in his village. Read More
SheCatalyst: Sumitra’s Transformational Impact
Sumitra Bala Devi’s journey is a testament to her unwavering determination and resilience. Despite being married at a young age, she remained committed to her education, completing both her graduation and post-graduate studies with sheer grit and hard work. To support her family and education, Sumitra took on various roles, teaching at night and working during the day. Her husband’s job as a driver posed financial challenges for their family, but Sumitra’s relentless pursuit of opportunities to improve her life never wavered. Her path led her to a Basic computer course at a SoochnaPreneur training centre, where she excelled. Sumitra’s dedication caught the eye of others, and she soon became a SheCatalyst, handpicking fifteen learners based on strict criteria. Read More
Breaking Barriers: Divya Kumari's Triumph Over Adversity
Divya, a 15-year-old resident of Bishnupur Bathua in Samastipur, Bihar, had big dreams and a desire to excel in her studies. However, her aspirations were hindered by a significant challenge – the absence of a smartphone in her house. In today’s digital age, access to online educational resources and materials is crucial, and Divya was at a disadvantage due to her age and limited resources. Hope emerged on the horizon when Divya learned about the establishment of the Soochna Adhikar Kendra in her own village. With the support of the Kendra, Divya’s educational prospects began to see a remarkable improvement. Read More
Rupali Konwar: Champion of Change in Assam
Rupali Konwar, a SoochnaPreneur Business Mitra, is a shining example of resilience and dedication in the face of adversity. Despite facing physical challenges due to a disability, she has been a ray of hope and progress in her community since becoming a SoochnaPreneur in 2022. Rupali’s commitment to serving her community knows no bounds. Her primary focus has been on providing digital and digital plus services to the community at large, with a special emphasis on rural women entrepreneurs in her cluster. Her mission is to empower these women, helping them grow their businesses and meet the necessary compliances, thus fostering economic growth in her region. Read More
Rising Above Challenges
Mamta Vati, a 29-year-old resident of the Maraucha village in the Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh has become a source of positive change in her community as a Digital Didi With a family of four to support and a monthly income of just Rs. 5000, her journey with the Digital Empowerment Foundation over the past four years has transformed her life and the lives of many others. Mamta’s commitment and dedication to various projects, including Digital Sarthak and Digital Financial Inclusion, had already begun to gain her recognition in her village. Over time, she found that the resistance she once faced from one of the village members had decreased significantly. Her most recent attempt as a Digital Didi was the Menstrual Health and Hygiene program. Read More
A Triumph of Determination
Riya Kumari was navigating life’s challenges with unwavering resilience. She faced life’s difficulties with strong determination. Riya came from a simple family, and her father worked hard as a laborer to support their future. Despite their small house and money troubles, Riya was focused on creating her own path in life. As Riya embarked on her journey towards higher education, she recognised the need for additional income to support her family and pursue her dreams. She completed a Diploma in Computer Applications (DCA) and found a job at a local computer centre, where she dedicated herself to guiding students about the digital world. Read More
The New Delhi Declaration and Digital Public Infrastructure
The G20 Conference concluded recently in New Delhi, under India's presidency with several accolades and a handful of criticism. This week we analyse the event for what it entails for digital public infrastructure. One of the points the preamble of the G20 New Delhi Leaders' Declaration commits to: Improve access to digital services and digital public infrastructure, and leverage digital transformation opportunities to boost sustainable and inclusive growth. Last year, before the G20 presidency was handed over to India, World leaders had met in Bali, and released a compendium which included a case study for alternative digital infrastructure, where DEF's model was cited as an example. 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. Read More
Perception Survey on Aadhaar-Based Service Delivery
The Aadhaar program was launched in 2009 to provide a unique identity document to all the legal residents of India. This identity was envisaged as a 12-digit identity number linked to individual biometrics. The proponents of the program claimed that a unique identity would improve inclusion in social sector programs such as the Public Distribution System (PDS) by enabling beneficiaries to authenticate themselves through formal identity credentials. To achieve this, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established in 2009, and the first Unique Identity (UID) was issued to a resident in 2010. Critics of Aadhaar have argued that the exclusion from coverage occurred mostly due to inadequate identification of poor households and stringent coverage norms. They also opined that quantity fraud (beneficiaries not receiving the proper quantity of rations) is the larger fraud committed in the PDS and that identity fraud Aadhaar sought to address was minimal1. However, the government soon began to make Aadhaar mandatory for accessing various services, such as availing cooking gas subsidies. Read More

Lagvelki An Initiative of "Lagvelki- telling our stories"

Young and independent films from Bangladesh do not receive financing or distribution. The Lagvelki application offers a solution for locally produced, globally licenced, digitally distributed, fund-managed, and independently produced cinemas in Bangladesh.

ISL Textbooks An Initiative of Haryana Welfare Society For Persons With Speech & Hearing Impairment

HWSPSHI has developed the Indian Sign Language (ISL) Textbooks from foundation years till Class VIII, as a unique innovation in the country to make ISL learning as a language subject possible for deaf learners as L1 (first language).

Feminism in India, Hindi An Initiative of "Feminism in India"

Feminism in India (FII) Hindi was created with a vision of disseminating knowledge and information related to gender, feminism, sexuality, intersectionality, etc. in a language that can be accessible to the common masses.

This conversation with Abid Rashid, a journalist, revolves around the threat that digital mediums and technology pose to journalism and how DEF is tackling them through their program.

Talking Data to the Fourth Pillar: This workshop aims at developing an understanding of the concept of privacy, data protection, and online safety, to facilitate and enable the participants to make informed choices while pursuing journalism.

DEFDialogue S04 E04: Data Protection for Journalists

Digitalisation Of Rural Spaces And The Role Of Self-Help Groups In Women’s Liberation
A study conducted on the influence of Self-Help Groups on livelihood (consumption, expenditure and saving patterns) by the Ministry of Rural Development revealed that 10% of women aided by an SHG were more likely to save consistently, which has thus reflected in economic empowerment. With India’s steadfast development, many cultural restrictions imposed on women have weakened over the years, and society is still in the stage of learning and unlearning. Most women today are aware of their freedom and are still in the fight to smash the patriarchy. The united voices have spoken volumes in the form of Women’s rights, Feminism and Women empowerment groups. Read More
Festival of Digital Swaraj at Heritage House, Mysore

The Festival of Digital Swaraj, held at Heritage House in Mysore on the 23rd and 24th of September, 2023, marked a significant milestone in the journey towards Digital Swaraj—a movement dedicated to creating a digital revolution that ensures equitable access to technology and leaves no one behind. This two-day event celebrated the convergence of technology, culture, and social impact, with a range of activities and initiatives that showcased the vibrant spirit of Mysore and India’s digital transformation. Read More

We are expanding our reach to serve the most marginalized communities across India. Donate to our Digital Daan initiative and help us expand to unreached and unconnected communities.

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.

You are receiving our newsletter because you opted-in for the purpose of receiving Digital Footprints, a monthly newsletter on digital development. If you wish to withdraw your consent and stop hearing from us, simply click here to unsubscribe