Chief Growth Officer
While we are quite aware of the world of technology unicorns and celebrated entrepreneurs in the mainstream media, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) has over the last decade and more, built a growing community that recognizes initiatives that capture the imagination of the unspoken many. DEF has been part of the journey of lakhs of people as they were exposed to the computer, the internet, the mobile device, etc. for the first time in their lives. The mBillionth 2018 awards jury exposed me to initiatives that brought together the government, private sector, technology entrepreneurs, civil society, reputed non-profits, and individuals in using the mobile device as a tool to address a wide variety of challenges.
Some of these challenges were focused on specific areas within health and education, some others focused on building awareness using digital tools, some to enhance service delivery and citizen engagement, and others to propel business and commerce. Discussing and debating these nominations in a daylong undistracted session, thanks to hosts Facebook India, gave us a window into a larger and diverse South Asian region, and how the mobile device and applications are used imaginatively in limited constrained environments.
Beyond the nominations itself, it also reminds you of the mismatch in the larger narrative around digital adoption and service delivery and more fundamental challenges on the ground, either due to unavailability of a smart device, unreliable and expensive connectivity, lack of local language options, and limited awareness or training programs. If one were to drive India’s 21st century story on the strength of its digital backbone, it is imperative to recognize, support and solve more fundamental challenges. A recent article in a leading business newspaper quoted that India has surpassed 120 million online shoppers, and if one is wondering why this is quite low for the scale of investments in comparison (to say, China), the mBillionth entrepreneurs may have some insights to take to the bank.