Past Projects

Chanderi Wireless Community Network

Year: 2010-2011

Funded by: The Internet Society (ISOC), Media Labs Asia (MLAsia), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), Govt of India

In 2010, Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and the Internet Society (ISOC) established the first wireless network in Chanderi district of Madhya Pradesh aiming to provide a holistic, community-empowered approach to connecting rural communities to the Internet. The main goal of this initiative is to revive the dying handloom craftwork of Chanderi and subsequently influencing the social as well as the economic sustainability of the poor weavers in that locality to make them self-reliant through established wireless connectivity.

The motivation for the W4C project is twofold – firstly to totally democratize the availability of connectivity and enable access to information at the will of citizens outside urban centres – and remote rural areas in particular; second is to address the lack of content, product and services originating from rural areas which affects the economy from percolating to the bottom of the pyramid. Pervasive connectivity will ensure that localized content and services are not only encouraged but also facilitated and produced – the sum of which will contribute linguistic and cultural diversity, help build the rural economy and bring the next billions online.

Specific objectives

  1. Establishing the Chanderi Weavers ICT Resource Centre (CWIRC) to serve as a self-sufficient community information resource centre
  2. Setting up a model wireless community network and distributing the internet connectivity
  3. Reviving the handloom craftwork of Chanderi using digital mediums
  4. Enabling digital literacy amongst weavers

Impact

  1. Setting up of a model wireless community network in Chanderi
  2. Provided smooth network connectivity in the town for better access
  3. Enhanced Internet connectivity at schools
  4. Enabled easy accessibility of information available online
  5. Created a positive environment for Internet access and use
  6. Connected public institutions, such as panchayats and aanganwadis, to the Internet

India Expansion Framework and South Asia Outreach

Year: 2011-2012

Funded by: The Internet Society

In 2011, DEF in partnership with the ISOC extending the success of the Chanderi in three new locations of the country by establishing the wireless network. These three locations are Baran and Tilonia in Rajasthan and Tura in North Tripura. The project also aimed to introduce the wireless for connectivity (W4C) programme in South Asian countries through ToT programme. The motivation of this project is to address network connectivity and access deficits enabling reduction of information and digital divide.

Impact

  1. Introduced of W4C programme in two South Asia countries through Training of Trainer programmes
  2. Set up three wireless communities at three locations with deployment of wireless mesh network
  3. Connected 10 CIRCs of Baan with Internet connectivity
  4. Deployed 35 point-to-point nodes for a relay station that covering 10-35 kms
  5. Reduced information darkness and digital divide through access to network and connectivity
  6. Addressed the issues of content, skill and services gap

Target locations

  1. Baran – Rajasthan
  2. Tilonia – Rajasthn
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Bhutan
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Expansion of W4C programme

Year: 2012 – 2013

Partner: The Internet Society (ISOC)

DEF and ISOC expanded the W4C programme in two ways – firstly to create community wireless networks in three districts of the country including Giridih, Jharkhand, Mandla, Madhya Pradesh and Nangaon, North Tripura. The objective of this programme is to integrate wireless infrastructural setup and content service framework in identified community settings and organise wireless network trainings for local youth community members. The training programmes were organised in two categories – users’ engagement with ICT and social entrepreneurship. These trainings aiming to introduce enhanced content and services in the existing regions of W4C programme.

Impact

  1. Established three wireless communities
  2. Setting-up wireless network training and management centres at 3 locations
  3. Conducted 18 capacity building and training programmes at 6 locations
  4. Conducted 18 user community-based workings at 6 locations
  5. Trained more than 170 people in content aggregation and services
  6. Organised one public engagement conference to build consensus for wireless communities

Target locations

  • Giridih, Jharkhand
  • Mandla, Madhya Pradesh
  • Nangaon, North Tripura
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Wireless in Unlicensed Band

Year: 2013-2014

Funded By: The Ford Foundation

Supporting Partner: Internet Society (ISOC)

The ‘Wireless in Unlicensed Band in Guna’ project, a joint initiative of Ford Foundation & Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) established the wireless network which is centrally located in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh, where there is a very large population of schedule tribes belonging to Bheel and Sahariya tribal communities. The project primarily aimed at making access to Internet feasible for the remote living population expecting that access will provide rights, opportunity and empowerment. The network established 130 nodes. Through this network, the project connected wide range of users from schools to small enterprises, gaming zones, bank branch offices, kiosks, college students, institutions, internet kiosks, shop owners and many individuals.

The project also recommended on having block-level ISP provider that can be managed, operated and sustained by community itself. Wireless in Unlicensed Band – Guna project provided internet connectivity to more than 100 users. The network connected wide range of users from SBI Kiosk, Toll Bridge, Petrol Pump, institutions, schools, nursing schools, cyber cafes; shop owners to individuals. The project has not only empowered local communities how to use internet connectivity in their daily activities but also trained local youth on setting up and managing the network. In the last two years, the project has shown an immense potential that it can be work as an independent entity like a social enterprise model having a sustainable approach.

Impact

The project opened up possibilities at many levels of the ecosystems of

  1. Internet Service Provision (ISP), and how it has limitations in connecting people living at the last mile;
  2. Spectrum, and how unlicensed spectrum could be used to benefit the communities across the country, especially in remote, hilly, and backward areas;
  3. Entrepreneurship, and how small-scale business with sustainability can offer Rural Internet Services to rural households, Panchayats (also known as village council), grassroots NGOs, and people in backward districts of India;
  4. Rural digital contents and services, and how such services could be delivered on the doorsteps of the people;
  5. Local governance, and how governance at the Panchayats (also known as village council), village and block level could achieve greater responsibility, accountability, and impact;

Target location: Guna, Madhya Pradesh

Wireless Women for Education & Empowerment (W2E2)

Year: 2014-2015

Funded by: ISOC

Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship & Empowerment (W2E2) aims to create ICT-based micro-level social enterprises owned and managed by women. In an effort to create an army of grassroots-level women entrepreneurs, W2E2 provides required infrastructure (including a computer, printer-cum-scanner and wireless Internet connectivity) to 50 women selected under this project in five locations of India — Baran in Rajasthan, Chanderi and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh, Ranchi in Jharkhand and Tura in Meghalaya.

Through W2E2, DEF aimed to contribute to an enabling Internet environment that is gender inclusive. Therefore, W2E2 promotes Internet-based social enterprises and entrepreneurship among women as change agents for social and economic empowerment. Activities under the project also help boost traditional skills among women in cluster-based environments, subsequently enabling them to reach markets and ensure improved livelihoods for their households and better sustainability for their produce/services.

For this purpose, selected women are given a six-month training in digital literacy and their capacity is built to own and run their individual enterprises. Three months into the programme, they were engaged in Helping Women Go Online (HWGO), a Google-sponsored initiative, a more elaborate project to help women receive digital literate to get online. These women are also supported in setting up their micro-enterprises by providing them infrastructure — such as hardware, software, ICT vocational skills, digital tools and wireless Internet connectivity — to strengthen their entrepreneurship skills and status. And the results have been overwhelming. While some women aspire to grow their enterprises, others want to share their knowledge with peers and youngsters in the community. But they all are heading towards a more informed and better equipped future.

Impact

  1. Promoted Internet-based social enterprises and entrepreneurship among women as change agents
  2. Advocated Internet and ICT for gender inclusion as a tool for social and economic empowerment
  3. Boosted traditional skills among women in cluster-based environments
  4. Selected 40 women across 4 location in India to provide training and capacity building to run their micro enterprise
  5. Helped women entrepreneurs reach market and sustainability
  6. Supported the women’s micro enterprises with wireless Internet to allow them to serve citizens access to public schemes, information, ICT services, ICT vocational skills & other supporting activities
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Inter-Networking of Networks: Shivpuri-Baran-Guna

Year: 2015-2016

Funded by: ISOC

Impact

  1. Created a wireless mesh network in three locations
  2. Connected three separate community networks to each other through intranet to share local content with each other
  3. To connect Baran from Guna, the project took backhaul connectivity from Guna to Umri (hopping station) to Bamori to Kurka to Nahargarh. This way, the project created three new hopping stations.
  4. While connecting Guna to Shivpuri, the project connected Umri to Kuttiyawad to Dungasara to Badarwas to Lukwasa to Kolras. As a result, five new hopping stations have been established to connect Guna to Shivpuri.
  5. Built technical capacity by training members of the local community in wireless networking
  6. Leveraged backhaul Internet connectivity from one location to connect other locations

Smart Village Programme

Year: 2016-2017

Funded by: ISOC

Internet Society (ISOC), in partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) implemented ‘Digital Smart Village’ project as the Phase 6 of “Wireless for Communities” program (W4C) in 2016-2017. The programme aims to adopt two villages and transform them into Smart Villages. The main focus of the project was to enhance the Panchayat (also known as village council) or Municipal Council operations and improve entrepreneurship and livelihoods of the local community through the use of Internet and Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs). The main objective of the program is to impart new-age skills like using computers and Internet to the local community for their own needs like getting information on govt. entitlements, improving chances of getting good educational opportunities, running their local businesses in a better manner and more.

Objectives

  1. Digital Smart Village Resource Centre in line with the demography of the village to understand the needs of the community and establish a Village Resource Centre with physical space, infrastructure and equipment.
  2. Digital Smart Village Wireless Network Development setting up a wireless community network utilizing unlicensed spectrum and provide basic infrastructure and Internet access within and surrounding the community. The wireless network will create an ecosystem by connecting schools, health centres and Anganwadi centres.
  3. Digital Smart Village Skills Development Programme focusing on skills development of village occupants to enhance their entrepreneurial skills; improve their living conditions. This included wireless network training programme; digital literacy, integrating them with tourism or local handicraft skills and so on, depending on the local environment.
  4. Digital Smart Village Enterprise Development providing support for Digital Smart Village Center (SDVC) for providing information-based, digital and non-ICT support services for the core and tertiary activities to the village, etc.

Impact

  1. Provided the basic infrastructure and Internet access to support the community
  2. Set up a Digital Smart Village Resource Centre to understand and cater to the needs of the community
  3. “Created a Digital Smart Village Wireless Network by utilising unlicensed spectrum”
  4. Connected schools, health centres, SHGs and aanganwadi centres to the wireless network
  5. Initiated the Digital Smart Village Skills Development Programme to improve the livelihood of village
  6. “Integrated and customised the wireless network training programme to support digital literacy, tourism, handicraft and other local vocations”

Target locations

Narayanpet in Mahbubnagar district of Telangana

Tham in Koderma district of Jharkhand

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Zero Connect

Year: 2017-2018

Funded by: ISOC

Zero Connect is an innovatively designed initiative to bring broadband Internet connectivity from far flung locations to different parts of the Little Rann of Kutch, an unsurveyed piece of land that accounts for 37 per cent of the Gujarat’s total salt production through diverse wireless technologies. These technologies include line of site and unlicensed spectrum — via a specially designed vehicle that comes equipped with LCD screen, tablets, printer, rooftop solar panels, back up batteries, 5-metre tripod-based antenna tower with dish antenna. The dish antenna can rotate at 360 degrees and align with available broadband Internet tower at the periphery of the Little Rann of Kutch. As the van drives around the region, it reaches out to individuals, households, groups, schools, health centres and panchayat ghar (also known as village councils), among other institutions, providing digital literacy, digital services and access to wireless Internet connectivity.

Objective

This project aims to give the Agariyas a digital voice through which they will be able to communicate between communities as well the outside world. It will help mark their place on the map, bring them online, improve their access to citizen rights and information and help them be recognized for the role they play economically and environmentally

Impact

  1. Brought broadband Internet connectivity from far flung locations to different parts of Little Rann of Kutch through the use of diverse wireless technologies, line of site and unlicensed spectrum
  2. Introduced a mobile van equipped with laptops, tablets, an LCD screen, rooftop solar panels, backup batteries and an expandable tripod-based dish antenna to catch Internet connectivity from backhaul tower
  3. Provided the Agariya community (salt farmers) of Little Rann of Kutch a digital medium to communicate within and outside their community
  4. Connected as many as 17 Rann Shalas (or makeshift schools) to each other and with the Internet
  5. Provided tablets to children to access edutainment content online or pre-stored on the device
  6. Linked a health van run by nearest primary health centre to a district-level hospital to facilitate quality consultations via video calls
  7. Digitally mapped all the houses of the so-far unsurveyed community
  8. Established digital market linkages for the salt extracted in this region
  9. Facilitated access to government services and citizen rights

Target locations

Little Rann of Kutch, Manish Rann, Kharagodah Rann, Patadi and Surendrangar – Gujarat

Wireless in Unlicensed Band – Guna & Pune (Phase 2)

Year: 2016 – 2018

Funded by: The Ford Foundation

Supporting Partner: ISOC

The Wireless in Unlicensed Band – Phase 2 is an extension of the phase-1 efforts focusing on expanding the connectivity in three blocks of Guna district. The project created a network ecosystem between three blocks – Aron, Chippon and Guna by establishing the hopping point at Chippon and took connectivity at Aron block where we have established the tower at the roof of the building. The tower established at Guna block and Aron block centre are solar-powered. This way, internet access infrastructure has been established to cover three blocks of Guna district. The wireless network has established 150 nodes and connected more than 200 users in Guna block, we are serving range of stakeholders from storage owners, bank kiosks, schools, hotels, tollbridge to individual users. Similarly, in Aron block we are serving bank kiosks, CSC (Common Service Centre), storage owners, individual owners. Soochna Seva Kendra and 5 Soochnapreneurs (trans. Information Entrepreneurs) for providing information services to people. These Soochnapreneurs also providing information services to ASHA workers, teachers, PHC officials, and other community members.

Impact

  1. Established 150 nodes and connected more than 200 users. Thus, it has created 75 access points in remote areas of three blocks to provide last mile connectivity. These access points have computers, internet connectivity and trainer for communities, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, women, and other minority communities. Thus, community members can access information as per need, receive training about how to use computer, internet and retrieve information about their right and services.
  2. The network model in Pune shown that people living in slums need the same level of connectivity as it requires for rural parts of the country
  3. Transformed the Guna wireless network centre as a wireless training centre and conducted 30 rural women on digital literacy, media and information literacy and wireless networking.
  4. On advocacy, Published the policy paper – “Community Networks: Policy & regulatory issues and gaps, an experience from India and contributed to GISW India Chapter titled “Women creating socially sustainable wireless community networks in India”
  5. Developed self-learning manual for barefoot wireless engineers so that they can learn wireless networking by themselves
  6. Increased policy interventions & policy options protecting free spectrum for wireless measured by citation DEF wireless services in policy documents

Target location: Guna, Aron & Chippon (Madhya Pradesh) and Pune (Maharashtra)

Safa Network: Connecting women of underserved urban community

Year: 2016-2017

Funded by: ISOC

Supporting Partner: Safa India

Safa India, DEF and ISOC came together to implement the wireless for communities (W4C) model to an urban slum area of Banjara hills of Hyderabad– where many of the same issues (and some different ones) prevail. Keeping the objective to provide the internet connectivity in slum region of Bholanagar, DEF, Safa & ISOC initiated Safa Network project in 2016. DEF provided complete technical and resource support for establishing digital literacy centres and SAFA facilitates in setting up the centres, provided its continuous operational support along with monitoring and evaluation.

Objective

The prime objective of the project was to make the Safa India centres wi-fi enabled and to make internet access available to more than 20,000 families around the locations they operate in.

Impact

  1. Provided connectivity to 5 Safa centres located in slums of Bhola nagar
  2. Each centre is now transformed as CIRC centre centres and offering a range of digital services like xerox, printing, scanning, colour photo print, internet surfing, exam results, e-ticket booking services,
  3. email, online bill payment (electricity, water, challans etc.), filling online applications (for example Aasra pension, Aadhaar card, ration card, pan card, etc.) and other related services.
  4. Five women from community members are identified to manage five Safa E-samaaj centres.

Target locations: Bholanagar, Hyderabad, Telangana

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Green Village Centre in Daun, West Champaran, Bihar

Year: 2018-2019

Funded by: The Internet Society

Digital Village Centre is the phase-8 of the W4C programme aiming to establish wireless network centres in two tribal locations of Daun region – Naurangiya and Bankatwa. These wireless network centres are serving as central points of connectivity for local public institutions. The centre facilitated unrestricted digital access to knowledge available online for community members, besides providing an array of services like digital literacy, digital services, information services, solar engineering training and wireless network skill building programmes.

Objective

  1. Deploy solar energy-powered Zero Connect’s Internet-in-a-Box solution in two locations of Daun region – Bankatwa and Naurangiya panchayats
  2. Provide wireless Internet connectivity in the two regions
  3. Provide solar and wireless network training to community members to sustain the centre and create local entrepreneurs
  4. Improve educational and livelihood opportunities by introducing rural entrepreneurship models based on community networks
  5. Enable easy and seamless access to information and information services available online

Impact

  1. Establishment two wireless centres with digital infrastructure
  2. Various door-to-door mobilization camps and campaigns were conducted enabling them to access information and information services online
  3. Integrated MeraApp service to provide the government schemes and entitlement related information service at household level
  4. Engaging with local youth as fellows to integrate entrepreneurship model and transform these fellows as ‘Information Entrepreneurs’

Target Location: Daun, West Champaran, Bihar

Barefoot Women Wireless Engineers strengthening community networks and community radios in promoting public Wi-Fi access

Year: 2019 – 2020

Funded by: Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Supporting Partners: Vanitha Jyoti Mahila Sangam (VJMS Awaaz Wanaparthy 90.4 FM) and Proto Village

The community radio stations’ strength lies in understanding local community, the local language, the local dialect, the local cultural content and the local problems. This vast knowledge is also essential for community network operators, so that they can contextualize the Internet for the local community to ensure maximum relevance of the technology. While CR stations bring with them knowledge of the local community, community network operators hold technical expertise in setting up towers, resources to manage the local content and services and legal knowledge on radio frequency allocation. This creates the synergy between CRs and CNs for connecting the unconnected. In both community spaces, one of the major challenges are social and economic sustainability due to youth migrating from rural to urban region to support their families in villages. Thus, DEF in 2019 selected two organisations – the one is community radio station in Awaaz Wanaparthy 90.4 FM by VJMS in Mehboob Nagar (Telangana) and community village named Proto Village in Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh for setting up this project.

Objective:

  1. Create community owned spaces in telecom dark zone areas that not only provide universal access to the internet but uniform access to local content stored locally;
  2. Create network of 24 barefoot women wireless engineers to manage and operate campus wide wireless network of two community radios stations to sustain it socially and economically. This will also bridge gender divide in technology and internet environment.

Impact

In 2 locations, Digital Empowerment Foundation has identified 24 women beneficiaries as ‘barefoot wireless engineers’ and later they will become a barefoot wireless entrepreneurs and service providers‟ for the community. They have setup their digital centres and through that centre, entrepreneurs will provide various digital services, e-governance services, entitlement delivery, online surveys and data collection and other digital services along with internet/wifi connection for the household.

Digital centre also known as “Community Information Resource Centre” has been set up in

both the places, where these network engineers are getting trained as digital services providers.

Target Locations: Wanaparthy, Telangana and ProtoVillage, Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh