The transformation in the information and communication technology for development space has seen manifold changes in the past few years. The country is making constant efforts to capitalise on ICTs to improve and scale up service and governance indicators. A significant transition has happened in big cities with widening avenues for access, services, opportunities, skills, and livelihood and so on. However, rural India is still struggling with connectivity and access apart from other digital exclusion limitations.
At Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), there has been constant effort to work towards digital inclusion, to reach out to the unserved and underserved groups and communities who are still deprived of basic ICT gains and advantages. Through these steps DEF works towards bridging the gap between technologically advanced and technologically backward communities.
Apart from firm belief in power of ICT tools and platforms like the web, we at DEF, equally believe in the transformative power of the mobile and look at it as the change maker in terms of fulfilling information, service and communication gaps. With being affordable, accessible and transportable, mobile phone is really the ‘device of the century’. This month two of our mobile related projects are due to kick off. Through the project ‘Mobile for Social and Behavioural Change’ (MSBC), in partnership with UNICEF in India, we are holding one state consultation with all the key participants in the area of health and education covering beneficiary groups like women, children and service providers in Bhopal. In another mobile based project, the ‘Mobile for Good’ Awards, where Vodafone Foundation has collaborated with Digital Empowerment Foundation as implementation partner, we are due to hold two road shows this month in Kolkatta and Guwahati respectively to mobilize potential innovators in mobile usage of development and empowerment to participate in the nomination and award process, which is due to start this month.
In order to take technology to rural India, Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC), DEF’s rural centre based programme, conducted a workshop in collaboration with Rural Housing Knowledge Network (RHKN), IIT Delhi, to facilitate rural communities to build sustainable houses and follow sustainable practices in housing. RHKN is a project of IIT, Delhi under which durable and sturdy houses are constructed at a low cost. The course will now be included as a module across DEF’s 55 rural CIRC centers. The workshop conducted was for all CIRC trainers to learn more about the module so that they can impart the knowledge to the people in their community locations.
Last month in May, DEF along with UNESCO in India selected six fellows from Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi, for a fellowship programme. This is a first of a kind, six-month e-Heritage fellowship program, which will commence from mid-June 2014. The fellowship aims at empowering youth from Shahjahanabad to work towards protecting their heritage by using ICT tools.
In May, 2014, two projects were rolled out in Tura in West Garo Hills of Meghalaya, to facilitate the communities living in the hilly region with access and livelihood programmes. DEF has strengthened its Wireless for Communities (W4C) programme in Tura. The existing Tura Internet Services Centre (TISC) now provides high-speed Internet service to the people of Tura through wireless Internet service. Further, ten women entrepreneurs were selected from different backgrounds from self-help group, weaving community and cluster base activity to provide livelihood training and skills to start ICT based micro enterprise activities.
Through these projects DEF seeks to contribute to achieve the larger goal of a digitally connected India.