Bridging Beyond Boundaries: A Year of DEF’s Impactful Expansion and Initiatives

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! As you peruse the recap of DEF’s endeavors from the past year, marvel at the expansion that has reached 26 states in India. DEF has taken its inaugural strides on the ground in Africa. Celebrating a remarkable 21 years, DEF remains steadfast in its commitment to empowering and broadening its roots. Read More


The story of Digitally Empowered India
New Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation was founded by Osama Manzar and Shaifali Chikermane in 2002, out of the deep understanding that marginalised communities living in socio-economic rural areas could be empowered to improve their lives on their own, by giving them access to information and knowledge on using digital tools.Mr. Manzar has a rich experience of running his own software firm and was heading the internet division of Hindustan Times for many years. It was his prior exposure to the digital-print media, internet technology, dotcom boom, etc., that at the age of 35, that Mr. Manzar felt the need to introducethe concept of digitalization to the masses, who were victims of the lack of current information at the right time. Research stated that information poverty was the main reason behind rural poverty in real terms. Mr. Manzar saw some light at the end of the dark tunnel and concluded that proper access to information, knowledge, equitable rights and opportunities etc. needs to be restored to the rural masses with the help of digital technology. He decided to quit his highly-paid job to pursue his aspirations of being the information bearer in the society, with the establishment of his foundation named as ‘Digital Empowerment Foundation.’ Two decades back also, Mr Manzar was quite certain that digital is the approach to get progress for humankind. Identification of the root cause of the problem and providing solutions to the best extent feasible using di-gitization led to the formation of DEF without any monetary investment. Read More

From Despair to Hope: Access to Social Security Through Smartpur Spoke Centres
In the village of Mithiyavas, Tehsil Tijara, Alwar district, Rajasthan, a tale unfolds – that of Balwinder Kaur, a 45-year-old widow of Asha Singh. Balwinder, facing life’s challenges with resilience, is supported by only two members of her family. The untimely demise of her husband in a tragic accident left her in a state of despair. However, determined to access her rights for the social security guaranteed by the government, she embarks on a journey from despair to hope. Balwinder, a woman of humble means, sustains her household through manual labor, tirelessly working in other people's fields to earn a meager income. Read More
Ensuring the Right to Live
Socioeconomic index of people with disabilities isn’t very encouraging in India, it worsens in case of people from marginalized backgrounds. Sudama is an example of that, in the past he faced many hardships, couldn’t find a stable source of income, didn’t have a social status and people always looked at him with pity. Sudama is an educated man, but with no possible job opportunities he started working in a small grocery store. In spite of his disability, being an elder sibling, he took the responsibility of supporting his family. Asha, one of DEF’s field coordinators, met Sudama. Upon hearing about the Samarth SoochnaPreneur program Sudama showed his willingness to be a part of it. He was digitally equipped with devices that would help him provide basic digital services in his village. Read More
“Chor hue berozgaar, Digital Choro ki aayi hai baadh harr taraf hai yahi samachar”
Amidst this chaos, a journalist embarked on a journey to Alwar, Rajasthan, determined to unravel the stories of fraud and misinformation that plagued the communities. Their first stop was Raybaka village, where they met Irfan Khan, a SoochnaPrenuer serving his community as an Information Provider. Irfan shared the harrowing tale of falling victim to a fraudulent incident, where a trickster made a payment through UPI from an account involved in a fraud case. The aftermath not only affected Irfan’s financial stability but also left his account frozen. Moving on, Monika (District Coordinator) narrated the story of Irshad in the same village. Read More
Inauguration of Digital Excellence Centre in Badangpet, Rangareddy District, Telangana
The Badangpet Digital Excellence Centre has marked a significant milestone in the collaboration between the Department of Public Libraries of the Government of Telangana and the Digital Empowerment Foundation. This innovative initiative, under the Integrated Digital Public Library Programme, aims to transform traditional libraries into modern hubs for knowledge, information delivery, and digital empowerment. The inauguration ceremony was graced by Mr. Srihari Sankar, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Libraries, Govt. of Telangana, who unveiled the first of 33 Digital Excellence Centres across the state. Read More
Soochna Adhikar Kendra’s Role in Nurturing Academic and Digital Brilliance
Bihar, where educational opportunities and government support can be elusive, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of the Soochna Adhikar Kendra in Deoria. This is a tale of Lakshmi Kumari, a determined 12th-grade student, whose journey unfolded in the transformative embrace of this information centre. Lakshmi’s pursuit of a scholarship became the catalyst for a fortuitous encounter. While attending her coaching centre in Deoria, she chanced upon a signboard that would alter the trajectory of her future – the Soochna Adhikar Kendra. Read More
Last Mile Inclusivity: SoochnaPreneurs’ Drive for Social Security
In West Bengal, Aadhaar and PAN cards are lifelines for social protection, but more than half of North Bengal’s tea garden workers lacked these crucial documents. Aadhaar ensures unique identification, preventing duplication, while PAN serves as both a financial tool and identification. These cards are integral to Direct Benefit Transfer, linking to bank accounts for subsidy delivery, minimising fraud. In tea garden areas, wage payments and benefits are streamlined. Crucially, they’re required for government schemes, social security programs, and subsidy initiatives, ensuring benefits reach genuine recipients. Recognising the gap, 16 SoochnaPrenuers organised camps in North Bengal, updating Aadhaar details in Gopalpur and registering PAN cards in Bundapani. Read More
Breaking Chains: Nisar’s Inspiring Journey through Discrimination
Nisar’s journey in Okhla Vihar, Delhi is a testament to resilience and empowerment, transforming her life from one marked by gender discrimination to a story of triumph. Raised in a household where girls were denied higher education, Nisar faced obstacles that seemed insurmountable. Despite having five brothers, her dreams were stifled by societal norms. Undeterred, Nisar took a courageous step by secretly enrolling in a BA program at IGNOU after completing her schooling. The desire for education burned brightly within her, but when she expressed her wish to work, her parents, bound by tradition, refused to grant permission. The turning point in Nisar’s life came in August when the mental health and gender sessions commenced at the Okhla Vihar centre. Eager to break free from the chains of discrimination, she actively participated in every session. Read More
Access to Healthcare – Online and Offline in a Digital Ecosystem
Healthcare is one of the primary needs of India and despite a lot of efforts being put in this sector, it remains one of the challenges and concerns for a developing nation like ours. Smartpur functions on the five pillars of governance, finance, education, livelihood and health. With special focus on health, efforts are made to provide health consultation and service both online and offline. Across six locations of Smartpur (Tijara, Ghazipur, Kollegal, Chirala, Choutuppal, and Vizag), multiple health camps were conducted which provided the community with basic consultation and health checkup. The Internet reaching rural India has made the use of telemedicine possible. Read More
Chapter Ninety-Three: Access, Marginality
From the release of Bihar's Caste Census to national demands of a similar census, premier institutes witnessing caste-suicides and surveys confirming its prevalence, some developments of the past month prompt us to ask how far has digital access and equity gone for the marginalised communities? With the state government of Bihar conducting a survey of the population on the basis of caste, we get a realistic picture of the demographic of the state. This is in the backdrop of a larger population census of the country that has not happened since 2011, and of a caste survey that has not happened since 1931, when the British undertook it. What this helps us understand is the grim state of affairs, the interrelation between your social marginality, poverty, and how well the several welfare schemes that had been put into place so far has worked for the benefit of the most marginalised sections of people. Read More
Chapter Nintey-four: Women from the margins are leading the way!
‘Women Empowering Women’ documents the journey of several women who’ve fought against struggles and built their own enterprise from scratch. Their process of personal and social change along with gaining power and control over their life’s choices, is what makes their stories of empowerment worth giving a read. Digital empowerment for these women was like a multi-dimensional process which enabled them to unlock their true potential and identities. They developed businesses and were financially independent, which for them was a turning point in life. Digital Empowerment Foundation has helped them provide a platform for achieving functional digital literacy and is extremely delighted to see their growth as important individuals in society. Read More
Chapter Ninety-Five: Big Brother snoops again? And other readings…
After initial reports of the Pegasus surfaced in 2021, and several denials by the state, last month we see fresh news of some new snooping. We take a look. And we also add several news and analyses for referential reading. Happy New Year 2024. In 2021, allegations of widespread government surveillance using Israeli Pegasus spyware sparked outrage in India, targeting journalists, activists, even political figures. The incident is even though not a first in the world, it definitely reminded of George Orwell’s 1984 and the surveillance state sponsored in it. Pegasus, an upgraded tool in the surveillance arsenal of Israel military industry complex, was tested and proved efficient in the world's largest open air prison, Palestine. It is certain that the ongoing genocide in Palestine was already foreseen with assistance from Pegasus and it's test targets. Such a spyware completely makes sense about how occupation is justified as profit by its selling to other countries. Read More

Hello World: A Community Network of Nepal Saying Hello to the World Through Internet

Janata WiFi: Free for All Internet Highway in Bangladesh

Voices of Brahmaputra via Radio Signals

Teju Mahto is an avid learner and always looks forward to learning new things about the new digital world for his career. Mahto learnt about computers and their uses from the centre near his village and from there he got to know about the DEF's work; helping people using digital means. Teju then received some digital equipment and started his own Samarth SoochnaPreneur centre.

A Journey from a Learner to Digital Entrepreneur- Samarth SoochnaPreneur Teju Mahto

Misinformation and disinformation
Misinformation is false or inaccurate information—getting the facts wrong. Disinformation is false information which is deliberately intended to mislead—intentionally misstating the facts. The spread of misinformation and disinformation has affected our ability to improve public health, address climate change, maintain a stable democracy, and more. By providing valuable insight into how and why we are likely to believe misinformation and disinformation, psychological science can inform how we protect ourselves against its ill effects. Read More

#DailyDigitalStory is a compilation of 365 stories of digital development in India. This thread narrates the story of digital exclusion in India and how DEF's programs are bridging the digital divide to create a more inclusive digital future for all. 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.

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