letter from the editorial team

Dear Readers,

Slow and steady wins the race, but not when one takes one step forward and two steps backward. Likewise, steady rise of India on the world digital map is impossible if we self-inflict ourselves with hurdles which should be wisely avoided.

We are living in an open world that is thriving on sharing, crowdsourcing and networking. One cannot be a part of the open world by closing oneself. Innovations which are transforming our lives thrive on easy and instant accessibility.

However, time and again we are confronted with reflections of authoritarian mindset of the yore that threatens to impede the steady progress we have made so far as a country. To cut to the chase, Geospatial Information Regulation Bill is draconian, to say the least. It is an anomaly to openness that is the pre-requisite for innovation. It contradicts the vision of ‘Digital India’. And we must not live in the past but march into the future.

In May, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) carried out extensive campaigning against the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016. You will read more about our stand in this issue.

Meanwhile, I would also like to thank all organisations and individuals who contributed to MeraByte by donating their old devices. Your contribution will reach the marginalised and underserved rural communities in India.

Cover Story
Your right to use the map

Here’s a scenario if the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, becomes an Act: I have to ask my friend to pick me up from an exact location in the city, and I decide to send my friend my location through WhatsApp (or any other messaging app) using Maps. I will have to first seek a license from the Security Vetting Authority (a three-member team for the entire nation). Once I have the approval to “send my location”, my friend will have to get the same authority’s permission to “receive the location”. So you can well imagine how long I’ll be waiting for my friend to come and pick me up.

Also, you can forget about geotagging photos on social media posts or checking-in on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. You can also forget about hailing a cab through Ola or Uber; or sending an SOS alert through one of those safety apps. Food will no longer be delivered through Food Panda or Zomato. And, of course, there will no point of downloading Google Maps on your phone because, well, you don’t have the license to use navigation apps.

The Ministry of Home Affairs released the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 on May 4, 2016. According to the draft, which was up for suggestions and comments till June 2, 2016, this Bill intends to regulate acquisition, dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial data to protect security, sovereignty and integrity of India. The draft defines geospatial data as “geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including value addition; or graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes”. This definition is so wide, that it includes anything and everything. Read More


Knowledge Hub & Network

Bringing innovative minds on one platform
DEF in partnership with the Crowd Sourcing Week is bringing the most innovative minds together in the field of crowdsourcing on September 10. The Bengaluru chapter of the International Crowdsourcing Summit 2016 is designed to promote organisations and innovators to embed the power of the crowd in their products and services. Among those who will be addressing a crowd of NGOs, corporates, startups and individuals are Wishberry Co-Founder Priyanka Agarwal; Bitgiving Co-Founder Ishita Anand; Ketto Founder Varun Sheth; MD Catapoolt Satish Kataria; and ‎Chairman at PeopleCare Business Solutions Rajan Narayanan. Read more
The list of mBillionth Finalists is out
The wait is finally over, here is the list of 7th mBillionth Finalists. The Grand Jury for the 7th mBillionth Awards South Asia was successfully held at Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi, on May 28, 2016. This year, mBillionth set a new record with 348 nominations received across 10 categories from eight South Asian countries. There was an elaborate internal scrutiny process this year to filter only the best nominations for the Virtual Jury. The internal scrutiny process managed to filter down the nominations to 230 valid entries for evaluation by the Virtual Jury, which then further filtered the nominations down to 69. Read more
Bringing technology in mainstream education
DEF and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT) in Mumbai had come together in December 2014 to launch and initiate the Integrated Technology in Education (ITE) initiative in the North East regions of Juria Block in Nagaon District (Assam) and Rongram Block in West Garo Hills (Meghalaya). The three-year pilot initiative sought to support learning of school subjects by students of Class VI – IX in a manner that is more knowledge based and quality oriented through basic Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools and methods. The proposed project sought to modernise the way children and adolescents learn. Read more

Research & Advocacy

A compendium on mobile initiatives is scheduled to be released
Mobile technology is currently emerging as the first extensive form of electronic communication system in many regions of developing countries. Today, mobiles have evolved into much more than communication devices. Its new services such as data services, agricultural inputs, health care, money transfer, employability-based services have shown enormous economic and development benefits. The “m” factor has given a paradigm shift to government, start-ups, and enterprises in all sectors to come closer to the citizens while delivering information and services on mobile. Read more
Training to become trainers in digital security
Ritu Srivastava and Rajat Kumar from DEF’s Research team, and Chitra Chauhan and Jayanti Bapat from the CIRC team travelled to Bali for a training in Digital Security and Secure Online Communications from May 23 - June 4. The training, organised by the Association for Progressive Communications, included participants from three other countries, and covered elements of social engineering, ensuring security of one’s digital devices, transferring files securely and basic encryption. Extensive pedagogical techniques were included to ensure DEF participants are trained to become senior trainers in digital security.

Markets & Social Enterprise

Barabanki youth can see varied career options
The number of students enrolled for digital literacy at the Baank-e-Loom centre, in Saidanpur village of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh, has now risen to 193. Last month, 73 people had participated in a design competition organised in the cluster of gamchha and stole weavers. Top 20 of them will now be enrolled for the digital design classes. Additionally, 10 students who have completed the digital literacy course and have shown keen interest in networking set up, have been selected for training under the Wireless for Communities project. Baank-e-Loom is an initiative of DEF and Ericsson.
Bringing access closer to weaver families in Nuapatna
May was a productive month for project DigiKala. While community mobilisation to encourage children and adults to enroll for digital literacy classes continued (21 new students joined last month), a survey was carried out to understand designs in Nuapatna. On June 5, the first digital literacy batch was started for three self-help groups. Meanwhile, seven youngsters from weaver families are being trained in digital designing by a digitally enabled weaver from Chanderi, Furqan. The DigiKala centre is also providing services like photocopying and printing at half the market rate to ensure maximum access to citizen services.
National Awardee motivates weavers in Barpali
Last month, the DigiKala centre in Barpali invited National Award winner Dayalu Meher and wife Swarnalata Meher to encourage the weaver community to adopt digital tools and give the staffers a better understanding of ikat designs in the community. Meanwhile, design classes have started at Barpali, too. A group of students, with basic digital literacy, have been selected for the digital design classes at the Barpali centre. Efforts are being made to mobilse aanganwadi workers and local self-help groups. Digikala in Nuapatna and Barpali is an initiative of DEF and Microsoft India.
A new partnership to promote Chanderi’s handloom
iShippo.com, an online marketplace dedicated to promoting Indian culture and heritage though handcrafted products, has joined hands with DEF in an effort to boost sales of Chanderiyaan handloom products and improve the livelihood of weavers of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. iShippo.com offers a marketplace to support local makers, artist, craftsmen, SHGs, NGO and indie businesses. Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make In India’ campaign, iShippo.com not only promotes handcrafted ‘Make in India’ product but also includes promotion of the culture heritage and the culture keeper of India. Read more
Bringing NGOs in Valley closer to digital opportunities
As an initiative towards digital upliftment of NGOs, CSOs, SHGs in Kashmir, DEF — along with its regional partner Habbakhatoon Foundation & NGOs Coordination Federation — organised an eNGO ICT Capacity Building workshop in Bemina, Srinagar, on May 17. Around 50 NGO participants and a few artisan groups participated in the workshop with a desire to widen their digital horizon and broaden their scope of opportunities. Additional Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar later encouraged DEF to organise more such workshops in the Valley. A similar workshop was organised in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, on June 3.
Helping grassroots NGOs raise funds globally
The eNGO Programme made the donation button live for four more organisations in the last one month, bringing the total to 17. These include the Shramik Janata Vikas Sanstha, Nirmal Seva Samiti, Khanpur Azad Gram Unnayan Samity and the Christian Social Development Organisation. The eNGO Programme is dedicated to converting grassroots civil society organisations to validated entities with a global online presence to showcase their accomplishments to people around the world and boost fundraising through digital means. In the last couple of years, the platform has taken more than 5,000 NGOs online across the globe.
52 Parindey is now available in English and Hindi
The 52 Parindey journey reached its half-way through mark in May. And on the occasion, we made the website multilingual. People can now read inspiring stories on 52 Parindey website in both Hindi and English. Rahul Karanpuriya, the fellow who is on a unique journey to discover dying or unpopular vocations and those practicing it, has now travelled more than 8,000 kilometres on public transport or foot, covering Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka. However, there are miles to go before Rahul can rest. Rahul’s reflection on the journey so far can be read here.

Access & Infrastructure

DEF staffer joins a global platform of women entrepreneurs
Anima Pradhan from Bargarh district of Odisha recently got an opportunity to join a network of women entrepreneurs and share her story of success. On May 26, 2016, Anima was invited by YouthSparks Live 2016 to speak about the efforts she has been making to empower traditional weavers of Barpali. There was a time when Anima’s family felt that digital literacy is a waste of time. Determined to set an example, Anima not only learned computers but also became a CIRC coordinator in Barpali. At YouthSparks, she expressed a dream of seeing all 100 weaver households in Barpali digitally literate.
Reinstating the importance of ICT in rural areas
CIRCs across the country celebrated World Telecommunications & Information Society Day with great enthusiasm on May 17, 2016. People from all age groups gathered in large numbers at centres across the country to share new ideas and innovations in the usage of technology in the daily walks of life. They also discussed the need to reduce digital divide, especially among rural and marginalised communities of India, to truly empower them. An array of activities including essay writing, painting competition, quiz, debate, discussions and screening of educational films were organised to engage the audience.
CIRC Shamsabad conducts water conservation rally
On May 24, 2016, CIRC Shamsabad in Farukkhabad district of Uttar Pradesh carried out a water conservation rally with support of Sadhbhawana Manch, a local social work group. The rally started from a Junior High School and proceeded into residential localities, encouraging locals to join the awareness walk. Slogan-calling and placards were used to spread awareness on saving water, for the present and future generations. Later in the day, rally participants gathered at a local school to express their thoughts and ideas around water conservation. The rally was much appreciated, and even covered by the local newspapers.
From goat grazing to running and managing a CIRC
The woman who used to take the family’s goats out into the field for grazing now manages and teaches at a computer centre in Jakhli, Madhya Pradesh. Sangeeta belonged to a poor family and had to face several financial constraints in life. She wanted to study, work and improve the conditions at her home but her family did not support her desire to step out of the house to work. However, opportunity knocked at her door when she was identified as a potential entrepreneur by DEF during a community meeting. From that moment, there was no turning back for her. She struggled, worked hard and became an independent entrepreneur.
CIRCs join in the global celebrations on World Environment Day
On 5th June, 2016, CIRCs across the country joined in the global celebrations for World Environment Day. Staff, learners and community members gathered to discuss measures that can be taken to protect the environment from degradation. Awareness rallies, cleanliness drives and sapling plantations were conducted at various centres in an effort towards conserving environment, reducing pollution and protecting the green cover. Many centres also organised craft workshops to encourage students to recycle waste into reusable items, besides motivating them to pledge to conserve water and electricity.
Women wireless engineers of DEF
It should not come as a surprise to most people but the number of female engineers is far below as compared to male engineers. Unfortunately, even among the women who pursue engineering, there are very few who study networking and actually work on the ground. However, at Digital Empowerment Foundation, there are a bunch of girls who are breaking this stereotype. Kainat from Madhya Pradesh and Fauzia from Bihar are young ladies in their early 20s who are not only trained engineers but are working on the ground, setting up Internet network and climbing towers. Read more
DEF holds a management and leadership workshop in office
A Community Information Resource Centre – Soochna Seva Kendra Management & Leadership Workshop was held at DEF office in New Delhi on June 3-4, 2016. Moderated by Deputy Director Dr. Syed Kazi, the workshop addressed solutions to improve the functioning of CIRCs and SSKs by understanding the needs and problems of communities. The workshop was attended by project coordinators from New Delhi, besides state coordinators, block coordinators and fellows; and was divided into various sessions focusing on topics like capacity & skill building, content & information, services, access and sustainability.

Governance & Citizen Services

A workshop to discuss progress with the European Union
The Right to Information Act passed by the Indian Parliament has led to increased transparency and accountability in the government. More and more people are now aware of their rights and entitlements, and this is the pre-requisite to demanding those rights and entitlements. Not all people, however, know, what has been set aside for them – and this is particularly true of the poorest of people in the remotest of remote locations. A European Union funded programme with 14 projects is now assisting Indian organisations to take this message and the information back to as many as 20 million people. Read more
Enabling the disabled
Thirty-two-year-old Reena Devi lives in village Selur Patti Juva in Thauldhar block of Uttarakhand. Wife of Darshan Lal, Reena Devi lives with her two sons Sumeet and Lucky, who are 10 and five years old, respectively. As Reena Devi suffers from a disability in her legs which has restricted her movement, her husband is the only bread earning member in the house. However, it’s not enough to even sufficiently feed the entire family. “Had my legs not been in this condition, I would have contributed something to the family income. I wouldn’t have been sitting at home like this,” says Reena Devi. Read more
Finding relief through RTI
West Champaran district of Bihar state was carved out of Champaran district in 1984. The geography of the area is such that the Goverdhana range forms the Indo-Nepalese border. Many rivulets have a source in this range, leading to tributaries of river Gandak. These rivulets, in fact, make the land fertile, rich in vegetation and ensure high ground water level all year round, making the district a high population density district, and Bettiah an urban centre within the chaotic district. Equally chaotic is Chavani Chowk, a major cross road at Bettiah where roads from Lauriya, Narkatiyaganj and Mainatand meet. Read more
Finding new opportunities in hotel management
Rajesh Singh, son of Shiv Singh Chauhan, is a permanent resident of Kangsali village in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. His parents are involved in agriculture, and his two sisters are in school. After completing XII standard, Rajesh wanted to pursue hotel management. However, due to their weak financial condition, the family couldn’t afford Rs. 50,000 for his higher education, which institutes were asking. For them, it was even difficult to make both ends meet. One day, Soochna Seva had organised a meeting for village youth where they spoke about various career opportunities for the young. Read more
DEF vows to spread the joy of giving in rural India
DaanUtsav, earlier called the Joy of Giving Week, is India’s ‘festival of giving’. Launched in 2009, the festival is celebrated from October 2 to 8 every year, bringing together Indians from all walks of life to celebrate ‘giving’ and experience the joy of giving. This year, Digital Empowerment Foundation has decided to celebrate DaanUtsav through its Community Information Resource Centres in rural India. DEF has a presence at 161 locations spread across 21 states of India. Through these centres, DEF staff will mobilise the local communities to celebrate DaanUtsav in whatever ways they can. Read more
Regular Features

Cyber Champ of the Month

Encouraging the public to become citizen cops
The Hyderabad City Police aims to deliver citizen services efficiently and so it has launched a mobile app called ‘Hawk Eye’. The app envisions to empower members of the public to become citizen police. With an idea of delivering public services and providing a safer atmosphere to its citizens through a mobile application, the initiative was started to motivate every citizen to report against any violation which might have been overlooked earlier. Here is what K. Srinath Reddy, Inspector of Police, IT Cell, Hyderabad City Police, has to say about the initiative that is dedicated to making Hyderabad a safer city.

e-NGO of the month

Greening Sikkim
Established in 1994, The Green Circle is an environment-oriented non-profit ogranisation consisting of professionals from various fields, who are making significant impacts in areas relating to awareness about the natural and cultural environment of Sikkim. The objective of the organisation is to develop ecological ethics – a change in the attitude of man, towards man, his heritage and culture, society and nature in realisation of man as part of nature and not alien to it. The Green Circle actively participates in activities to prevent and solving environmental problems, especially managing waste, and organises rural melas to create awareness about the environment.

Initiative of the Month

#SelfieWithDaughter campaign turns one
June 9, 2016, marked a year since the much-appreciated #SelfieWithDaughter social media campaign was launched in Jind district of Haryana, and then spread across the nation. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the campaign, the man behind the campaign and the then sarpanch of Bibipur village, Sunil Jaglan, launched an online museum for people to post selfies with their daughters across the country. Last year, when the campaign was launched in Haryana, which has one of the lowest sex-ratios in the country, the initiative had drawn 800 selfies in just a couple of days
Column of the Month
Social media has the potential to counter inequalities

Ronald Meinardus
Regional Director South Asia, Friedrich Naumann Foundation

Before joining the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), I worked as a journalist for many years. I produced radio programmes and enjoyed communicating with an invisible audience over the airwaves.
Communicating with others is a human want, a basic necessity. Never in human history has communication changed as dramatically as in the past few years. We are in the midst of an ongoing revolution. Read more

Bites from DEF's video channel

The Little Sisters of Dharavi

Empowering women farmers
for masses

Data & Analysis

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.
House No. 44, 3rd Floor Kalu Sarai, (Near IIT Flyover),
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