letter from the editorial team

Dear Readers,

We had set off for Bhim tehsil of Rajsamand district with high hopes and expectations. We have been thinking about a digital mela for a long time and the fair organised by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) to celebrate International Labour Day on May 1 seemed just the opportunity for us to test the waters. We decided to put up a stall at the annual gathering of workers. Our intention was to engage with the rural crowd with a number of digital activities such as video games, photo booth, film screenings, and selling cheap smartphones, solar lights, pen drives, computer tablets and, of course, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) T-shirts.

When we opened the stall at the fair in the morning, people greeted us with curiosity. They swung by, registered keenly whatever caught their fancy and wandered off. Then they started pouring in, initially to buy the T-shirts, and then mobile phones, pendrives and solar lights. We had a brisk sale at the stall, driven primarily by the low prices that were way below what was available in the market. By the time the mela wound up around 4 pm, our digital stall was still filled with people although we had by then sold out our stock of gadgets and pendrives.

The lessons we learnt at Bhim resulted in MeraByte, our new initiative of making low-cost digital devices available to the rural masses. Rural India is as eager to ride the Digital India wave as people in the cities, their lower spending capacity notwithstanding. The objective of MeraByte is to crowdsource functional digital devices from the privileged sections of society, refurbish them and sell them to the underserved and marginalised communities. A mobile phone that has lost its original charm against

the latest model, a laptop that has outlived its usefulness, a desktop computer that has been lying in a corner for years or any digital device that still works could bring joy to the less fortunate.

Talking about crowdsourcing, it’s a buzzword for conducting business these days and, courtesy the Internet, the world has become a playground for somebody with a vision and will to achieve. The old Urdu couplet fits just right here: Main to akela hi chala tha janib manzil magar; Log aate gaye aur caravan banta gaya. How can DEF stay behind when there is a surging digital drive that is transforming the way we perceive engagement?

The Crowdsourcing Week India Summit we are organising in partnership with the Crowdsourcing Week aims to share knowledge and promote the principles of crowdsourcing such as crowdfunding, shared economy, open innovation and collaborative consumption through a packed daylong event set to be held in Bengaluru on September 10 this year. Innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups, corporates, students, government officials, politicians and everybody who wants to match steps with rapidly transforming India are invited to attend the event.

Cover Story
Bringing gadgets and tools closer to marginalised and underserved communities

On May 1, when the world was celebrating International Labour Day, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) was a part of the celebration in Bhim in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan. On the occasion, DEF’s Founder-Director Osama Manzar received an invitation from an organisation called Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) to attend a gathering of workers in Bhim. Bhim is a small tehsil where about 10,000 people have been gathering every year for the past 26 years to attend the Labour Day Mela.

The fair at Bhim is like any other regular mela with many stalls selling clothes, jewellery, toys and food, with a vital difference because it is organised by and peopled with workers of the region. The fair had a few swings for visitors to have fun and there was a pervasive air of festivity. When DEF decided to attend the mela, we decided to not just be a part of the crowd but also contribute in some way to the gathering. So we made arrangements to set up a stall, called Digital Choupal, to showcase and sell various digital tools and services.

It was our first attempt to do something like this and our intention of setting up a stall at the fair had two aims. We wanted to make digital tools and services available to the marginalised and underserved rural community, and we also wanted to conduct a market study to gauge how villagers would react to a stall such as this. Read More


Knowledge & Network

India’s first Crowdsourcing Week Summit to be hosted by DEF
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) has collaborated with the Crowd Sourcing Week (CSW) to host India’s first Crowdsourcing Week Summit in Bengaluru on September 10, 2016. The Crowdsourcing Summit is specifically designed to promote organisations and innovators, looking to embed the power of the crowd in their products and services, connect the dots in the global crowd-powered marketplace. Over the years, Crowdsourcing Week has travelled to 12 countries and decided to host in India this time to help Indian organisations transition into a more open, connected, and socially productive society. Read more
mBillionth Awards receive 350 nominations this year
We recently closed the nomination process for the 7th mBillion Awards South Asia, and we’re glad to tell you that we received an overwhelming 350 applications. The Early Stage category, introduced this year to give a special platform to start-ups launched this year, fetched the highest number of nomations at 59. Closely following it were the categories of Learning & Education (52) and Government & Citizen Engagement (46), among seven others. The Jury process will now commence from May 15, 2016, and the Grand Jury will sit together on May 28 in New Delih to pick the best entries.

Research & Advocacy

DEF surveys drought-hit Latur
Paanchicholi village is based in Nilanga block of Latur district in Maharashtra. The population of this village is around 5,000, and most of them are engaged in agriculture as their only source of income. A farmer from this village committed suicide on January 6, 2016. He was 38 years old, and his name was Tukaram Digambar Jadhav He is survived by his father, mother, wife and three daughters — Snehal (8 years), Shravani (5 years) and Svetal (3 years). Latur district has been suffering from drought for about three to four years. And this year was no different. Read more
Navigating the mire of encryption policies in India
Encryption has come a long way since the days of simple substitution ciphers and has found its way into our daily life. Paraphrasing John Oliver from Last Week Tonight, “Encryption helps protect some of our most important information like financial information, health records, pictures of our private parts (refer: Andrew Weiner), trade secrets, classified government records, credit card information…” amongst others. It forms the very basis of the information economy; e-commerce sites, net banking, emails and other services are protected by encrypting traffic. Read more about it.
Creating an impact through freedom of expression online
The IMPACT project, under DEF’s Internet Rights project aims at promoting and protecting rights to online freedom of expression in three geographies — India, Malaysia and Pakistan. One of the key activities under the project is to document changes and evolutions to the nature of the online space, which can have an impact on the way that we enjoy our fundamental freedoms. And so, the Research and Advocacy wing of the organisation, along with the Media and Communications department, has created a few videos that aim to do exactly that. You can watch these infotaining videos here.
Tracking 100 best mobile-based initiatives in India
The Mobiles for Social and Behavioural Change (MSBC) project aims to explore and catalogue best practices of how mobile technology can be leveraged to impact lives in a more meaningful manner. Under the project, the Research and Advocacy wing of DEF has prepared a compendium, which is a compilation of over 100 mobile-based initiatives around education, health, civic participation, socio-economic development and disaster management that fall within the central focus of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You can go through this compendium here.

Markets & Social Enterprise

Our Saidanpur handloom cluster project now has a unique name
Our Saidanpur handloom cluster project, in Barabanki district, now has a unique name - Baank-e-Loom. The Barabanki district was known before the Muslim conquest as Jasnaul, after a king of the Bhar tribe who is said to have founded it before 1000 AD. However, when the Muslim owners came, they divided the lands into 12 (barah in Hindi) shares, over which the respective proprietors quarreled so incessantly that they were called the Barah Banke (or 12 quarrelsome men). Banka, in Awadhi, means ‘bully’ or ‘brave’. Others derive the name from ban (or jungle) and interpret Barabanki as the 12 shares of jungle.
Odisha handloom clusters now have their own galleries
The Nuapatna and Barpali handloom clusters in Cuttack district of Odisha now have an exhibition area of their own. It’s completely by the community and for the community. If you take a look around the centres, you’ll see the history of Nuapatna/Barpali and learn about their style of weavering through pictures, sarees and handloom equipment. Bamboo sticks, jute strings and pieces of wood have been used around the space to set up the galleries. Outside, the artistes have painted the walls in beautiful scenes from a weaver’s life. Next step is creating a garden around the centres.
Chanderiyaan becomes beacon of success for grassroots entrepreneurs
Intel Corporation, one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker, was in Chanderi earlier this month with a video team to shoot the rapidly changing business environment of the small town and the lives of its weavers, courtesy digital interventions introduced through project Chanderiyaan. The international crew of film-makers shot with the local families, capturing weavers’ knowledge of computer skills to revive their dying handloom business. The ad film aims to promote and showcase Chanderi textiles and the art of using the Internet to reach out to markets around the globe.
eNGO initiatives cross the Eastern border again
As an endeavour to enhance digital state of NGOs in Bangladesh, DEF along with its country partner in Bangladesh ASSIST organised an eNGO workshop on ICT tools, digital visibility and online fund raising in Khulna, Bangladesh, on April 12, 2016. The workshop was attended by around 70 enthusiastic NGO participants who were up skilled on how digital tools can be assistive to reach stakeholders, in raising funds through various crowd funding platforms and how being online can increase their reach. Another 30 NGOs from Bangladesh also attended a workshop on Social Media for Non Profits.
Empowering grassroots in the capital of Hills and Gods
DEF, along with its regional partner from Uttarkashi Mission for Anath Welfare and Development Society (MADWS), organised an ICT workshop in Dehradun on April 29, 2016, with an aim to empower 60 NGO participants who joined from various parts of Uttarakhand. The workshop focused on the importance of using digital tools such as email, website, and social media platforms for enhanced efficiency, outreach and governance. The workshop ended with a plan to organise more such workshops in other districts of Uttrakhand to encourage more and more NGOs to participate and use digital literacy to move forward.
Heritage enthusiasts can now get published
The eHeritage Project is giving all heritage and history enthusiasts an oppoetunity to become a part of this interesting and ever-growing project. If you know or have interesting stories, anecdotes, photo essays and articles on Old Delhi (historically known as Shahjahanabad), and want to share them with us, we’ll be happy to publish you. All you have to do is, think of a topic, discuss it with us and go ahead! The eHeritage Project: Shahjahanabad is an initiative of DEF in partnership with UNESCO India. To stay up to date with the latest developments and activities under this project, follow our Facebook page.

Access & Infrastructure

CIRC Halduchaur organsises Labour Day awareness drive
On the occasion of Labour Day on May 1, 2016, CIRC Halduchaur in Haldwani district of Uttarakhand conducted awareness gatherings and walks. Coordinator Naval and trainer Tulsi educated students at the centre about Labour Day. Later, a door-to-door mobilisation campaign was conducted to inform villagers about their labour rights, and they were encouraged to make use of them. Community members were then told about the benefits of computer literacy and the knowledge of using smartphones to know about their rights and entitlements. Villagers were also shown a film to make them aware about the ills of child labour.
Nichalagarh panchayat conducts Gram Sabha on Ambedkar Jayanti
A village council meet was organised in Nichalagarh panchayat, Abu Road (Rajasthan), to commemorate Ambedkar Jayanti from April 18-24, 2016. A five-day meeting was also held at Gram Panchayat, Nichalagarh, where people from neighbouring villages gathered. The objective of the meeting was to educate people on MGNREGA, and other government schemes, rights and entitlements. CIRC staffers Dhanraj, Pankaj and Zakir also participated in the meet and informed the people about how CIRCs work towards digitally empowering communities by providing digital literacy, citizen services and access to government information.
Bahadurpur staff is busy in its mobilisation efforts
Theory classes for basic digital literacy along with practical sessions are running successfully at CIRC Bahadurpur in Alwar district of Rajasthan. Meanwhile, the staff, both at the centre as well from the Delhi headquarters, is busy conducting regular ‪mobilisation‬ and awareness walks in and around the village to engage the community. Recently, a door-to-door campaign was also organised to inform people about the services offered at CIRCs and the advantages of digital literacy. The result of this campaign was the enrolment of 20 new children within the next two days.‬
Villagers attend special workshop on smartphone use
In the last week of April, ‪CIRC‬ Pakri in West Champaran district of Bihar organised a special five-day ‪workshop‬ on efficient use of smartphones. Centre coordinator Neeraj informed people that besides calling, a smartphone can serve as a tool for Internet banking, online shopping, social networking and entertainment. The villagers were educated about various apps that can be installed to avail these services. Unfortunately, women were hesitant to attend the workshop, so a door-to-door training workshop was conducted for them. The success of the workshop could be seen when large groups stayed back to download apps.‬‬
Three more NDLM centres inaugurated in India
In the months of April and May, three new NDLM centres were inaugurated in India. These new centres are an initiative of Nasscom Foundation with DEF as an implementation partner and Capgemini as the supporting organisation. The new centres were launched in Noida (Uttar Pradesh) on April 27; in Devasandra in Bengaluru (Karnataka) April 30; and Rahul Nagar in Pune (Maharashtra) on May 9. DEF Founder-Director Osama Manzar, Nasscom Foundation CEO Shrikant Sinha, Capgemini’s Senior Manager Vijay Shetty and other senior members from respective organisations graced the inauguration ceremony.
Children celebrate Mother’s Day across centres
On May 8, 2016, CIRCs across the country celebrated Mother’s Day with great fervour. From conducting special digital literacy sessions for mothers in the community to conducting health awareness meetings, a myriad of activities were conducted as a part of the celebrations. At a few centres, children recited poems and songs and wrote messages dedicated to their mothers, while fun games for mothers were conducted at other centres. Painting and poster making competitions were also held in the honour of Mother’s Day. Mothers were also encouraged to take a stand against child marriages.

Governance & Citizen Services

Soocha Seva organises a village council meet in Aaron
On April 30, 2016, a gram sabha (village council meet) was organised in Aron, Guna district of Bihar, to discuss the problems of villagers. Several pertinent issues relating to supply of water and construction of toilets were discussed at length. Nodal Officer Narendra Raghuvanshi, Village Secretary Vidur Upring were also present in the gram sabha, among a group of local villagers. Other issues that came up at the meeting were related to non-issuance of BPL cards and pending entitlements. The Soochna Seva team of Aaron helped many by helping people of Piprodamaina Chirola receive their BPL cards.
Bringing an elderly woman closer to her entitlements
In the high mountains of Katkodh village in Narendra Nagar block of Tehri district, Uttarakhand, resides an old elderly woman named Gabli Devi. During a field visit, a Soochna Seva happened to meet Gabli Devi, a differently abled woman. Upon meeting her, the Sevak learnt that she used to receive financial aid from the government but it was stopped a few months ago for unknown reason. The Sevak immediately drafted a letter and sent it to the social welfare department, asking for Gabli Devi’s disability pension to be restored. And within a few weeks, it was, bringing in much financial relief to the family.
Giving a new direction to life
Sunita Bhandari, a resident of Pipleth village in Chamba block of Tehri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand, completed a computer literacy course at a Soochna Seva Kendra amid a lot of struggle. Her husband had passed away, she had two school-going children and a heavy financial burden. She says, “I missed most of my classes due to personal issues. But thanks to Soochna Seva for being patient with me. Now I can operate computer with ease. I can now even apply for jobs where computer literacy is required.” While Sunita had basic formal education, most jobs were looking for digitally literate individuals. Read more
Special Features


An evening with determined women
Over 10,000 women got together in a little quiet village called Sukhtawa in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh last month. These women had gathered from different regions of the district and state, and were representing various SHGs. The agenda of the event was to discuss the improvement in the conditions of women and their group over the years. As those women stood together, I could see them — even though they came from different villages or SHGs and even spoke the same language but in different dialects — as a joint force, each understanding another’s existence and supporting one another. Read more
Regular Features

Cyber Champ of the Month

Lack of funds no more an issue for budding artistes
Wishberry.in provides a platform to artistes to raise funds to bring ideas to life in the form of music, threatre, publishing, etc. The platform is a new way of bringing creative and innovative ideas to life in a society where lack of money and social validation discourages people from pursuing their creative passions in India. And so, Wishberry believes that the only solution to this problem is to democratise funding through an online platform. So far, has helped more than 250 artistes raise more than Rs. 6 crore from almost 12,000 funders. Let’s read what the Wishberry team has to say.

e-NGO of the month

Bringing in social and economic developments in Maharashtra
Shramik Janata Vikas Sanstha (SJVS) has been working in remote and backward areas of Satara district in Maharashtra. The founder of the organisation, Aadinath Ombale, had gotten an opportunity to study the social and economic problems in this area through an NGO called Shramajivi Janata Sahayak Mandal. This study motivated him to bring social and economic developments in the lives of people in Jawali and Mahabaleshwar. He then went on to establish SJVS in 1987. He organised poor people and initiated small programmes on social & economic developmental issues. The organisation was formally registered in 1995.

Scheme of the Month

Offering meaningful skills to India’s youth
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is a unique initiative by the Government of India that aims to offer youth meaningful, industry relevant, skill-based training. Under this scheme, the trainee is awarded a financial reward and a government certification on successful completion of training and assessment, which helps them in securing a job for a better future. The Soochna Seva ground teams have been partnering with the agencies and referring youth from their catchment areas to engage in various training programmes and also to avail financial benefits, making the scheme quite popular among adolescent girls and boys.
Column of the Month
Mobile phone as a modern-day tool

Mahesh Venkateswaran, Principal, Innovation & Engagement NSDC

Access to information and mobility continue to play a very critical role in both our professional and personal lives. Traditionally and even today, we continue to place tremendous emphasis on education and certificates. Apart from the societal status, education also provides upward mobility. Educated people continue to have access to a wider network of other educated persons, they have upward mobility because they can access opportunities anywhere, they continue to access information through different channels to be more relevant for tomorrow, have access to the internet thus connecting to the rest of the world and its markets instantly. Read more

Bites from DEF's video channel

Digitally empowering weavers in Barabanki

Enabling better eye care
for masses

Data & Analysis

Columns & more

To stay updated with DEF Founder-Director's columns, featured this past month in Mint newspaper, click here

To follow DEF's coverage in media, click here

DEF statistics

Click here to read interesting facts and figures from the digital world, published in collaboration with Mint newspaper on a designated page called 'Digital Edge'.

Our publications
News to know

About Us

With the motto of 'Inform, Communicate and Empower,' Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) started its journey in the month of December, 2002. Based out of New Delhi and registered as not-for-profit under the "Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, the effort at DEF has been to find sustainable Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions including digital and new media to address digital divide in under-served and unreached regions and communities. With a non-political approach, it was founded to contribute to an enabling social and economic order in India as well as in developing societies with the need based support of ICT tools and means. With ground work since 2003, DEF has reached over 22 States and 8 countries.
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