Chapter Hundred: Reviews of Digital Developments - Positives & Negatives

In this centenary chapter of TypeRight, we are bringing to you all major publications, reports, and research that has been produced by the Digital Empowerment Foundation and also some other publications where our work was written about by others. We cover a wide range of topics, including the Gendered Digital Divide, Digital Exclusion, Digital Inclusion, Digital Access, Meaningful Connectivity Misinformation, Disinformation, Fakenews and Hate Speech, Data Justice, Global Digital Reviews, Entrepreneurship, Cultural & Heritage Endangered Language, Indigenous Issues, and so on. Keep reading till the end to see how to access our publications!

An AI generated image of the similar kind as above real on site photo from Salem in Tamil Nadu…

Digital Ecosystems and Social Impact: WSA 2024 Global Review of National Developments

The book is being released at the WSA Global Congress in Chile

“Digital Ecosystems and Social Impact: WSA 2024 Global Review of National Developments,” is the title edited by Osama Manzar and Dr. Peter A Bruck. This an interactive anthology discussing what could be the national status of various countries in terms of digital developments. The book was produced in less than one month's time, in March 2024 and was released in Santiago and Patagonia in Chile. The background of the anthology is that there is an institution called the World Summit Award which was formed in 2003 under the United Nation’s framework of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), and since then it has organised a meticulously curated methodology of finding, selecting, recognising and awarding best of digital practices that would impact societies at large. The latest grand jury of WSA was held in Hyderabad at T-Hub hosted by Digital Empowerment Foundation, where more than 26 digital national experts of WSA from as many countries got together to select the best of WSA of 2024. In the same meeting WSA and DEF and its founders got together to invite various grand jury members and national experts to contribute chapters for their country’s digital ecosystems though responding a set of questions. Here is that book that would give you a glimpse of 26 countries and also those who contributed through knowledge and expertise. Following are the screenshots of the covers of the book and images of the names of WSA national experts and also the names of those 26 countries.

Connected Resilience: Gendered Experiences of Meaningful Connectivity through a Global Pandemic

“Connected Resilience: Gendered Experiences of Meaningful Connectivity through a Global Pandemic”. This well-researched report by GDIP (Global Digital Inclusion Partnership) was released in New York on 14th March on the sidelines of UN’s CSW 68 Consultations. Digital Empowerment Foundation was also present in the release of the report and had earlier contributed to the surveys, data collection and FGDs from India. The report focuses its arguments in Asia and Africa across countries like India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda. As you can see and read through the following pages picked from the report, it highlights the cost of non-availability of meaningful connectivity and the unhealthy gender digital divide - so much so that the cost of digital exclusion could be as high as $500 billion. The report clearly argues that we have no alternative and no option other than focusing in including women in the digital economy. The report uses several fascinating stories of connected resilience reported from India.

India's Million Missions: 75 Years of Serving Towards Nation Building

“India's Million Missions: 75 Years of Serving Towards Nation Building” is an interesting compilation of deeply researched and tabulated compendiums of anthology that brings out the facts and stories of civil society, its work, and its impact on Indian development, including its contribution to GDP. The publication is a collective effort of several civil society organisations and individuals who brought the attention to multifaceted civil society organisations to understand, trust and convey to the government and corporates that there has been a significant and deep impact on the national development. Digital Empowerment Foundation contributed a chapter in the book and also gestured to take responsibility for publication and distribution.


We work on more than Digita Rights! In our A-Code project, partnering with Lamakaan and CDPP, we have also brought out this book on Urdu Poetry, which was, according to the author, a "voice of revolt against religious orthodoxy, fundamentalism, injustice, despotism, and tyranny. It powered the Indian freedom movement and then turned its ire against oppression and authoritarianism." It is an easy and friendly introduction into the magic of ghazals and Shayris, with transliteration and translations to guide you through, from Ghalib to Faiz, and beyond.

Internet Shutdowns

Digital Empowerment Foundation always ensures that if the Internet Shutdown is for a longer time period then the incident must be recorded. Some of the country's and the world's longest internet shutdowns happened in the last couple of years, in Kashmir and Manipur. In our publication, we highlight ground narratives of what the shutdown did to the economy - both financial and informational, and how the move caused a spread of fake news instead of curbing it.

A reminder that the internet shutdowns were the topic we covered in the first-ever chapter of Typeright, over three years ago! Here is a flashback:

Aadhaar Card Please...

The impact and exclusions from the forcing of Aadhaar on our citizenry has been documented by several noted economists and social scientists, including Dreze and Khera. What DEF did is to use our ground-team of SoochnaPreneurs to understand in detail how they gauge this forcing down:

DEF contacted its SPs to understand their perception regarding Aadhaar-based service delivery. By gauging the perceptions of the SPs, we aim to understand the current state of implementation of Aadhaar-based services and how this implementation impacts the citizenry.

to figure out that-

Largely, while Aadhaar seems to foster financial inclusion, it is doubtful how much it fosters social protection inclusion and its stated aim, especially for the most marginalised citizens.

Community Networks

DEF has been working with Community Networks for the past several years to bring communities at the margins of connectivity closer to the internet.

In this publication by Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3), a component of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF), DEF's Osama Manzar and Syed Kazi has contributed a paper titled Internet Access, Freedom and Empowerment of the Tea Tribe and Adivasi Community in Assam in India: An Initiative in Community Network.

Access to the internet has become an essential tool for economic and social development in the 21st century. However, many marginalized communities, such as the Tea Tribe and Adivasis in Assam in India, have been left behind in the digital divide due to historical, social, economic and institutional exclusions as an indentured labour community. This abstract explores the transformative potential of the Community Network (CN) in bridging this gap and empowering these communities. The Tea Tribe and Adivasis, often residing in remote tea gardens and forested regions in Assam, are perennially facing socio-economic challenges due to limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. The CN is a community-driven initiative that leverages existing mobile network and internet connectivity, creating a digital bridge to these underserved areas. Through CN, the tea tribe community members are gaining access to critical information, educational resources, healthcare information, public schemes, citizen entitlements, and alternative opportunities. Additionally, the internet, through the garden level Community Internet Library (CIL), provides a platform for preserving and promoting their local oral Sadri dialect, local heritage, and traditions. Internet access not only empowering these communities’ information and services wise, but also playing a crucial role in fostering social and civic awareness. This paper highlights the potential of the Community Network as a transformative force, bringing internet access, freedom, and empowerment to the Tea Tribe and Adivasis in Assam.

You can access the publication here, and read more about our work in the tea plantations here:

Our contributions are also highlighted here:

The next publication talks about the state of connectivity in the north-east, and how we could exploit Community Networks, among other means to try and improve it.

Still I rise

Still, I Rise is a celebration of Samvaad, a homage to its conviction that indigenous peoples and their collective wisdom may lead humanity into a truly sustainable and equitable future. Samvaad, since 2014, has emerged as an ecosystem that ties together tribes of India and beyond for constructive dialogue. It has already brought more than 30,000 people from 157 tribes across 25 states and five Union Territories of India, and 17 countries, into impartial contemplation of indigenous narratives.

It features a chapter by DEF's Founder Osama Manzar, 'Of Building Digital Bridges: For and By Indigenous People,' on digitally connecting and enabling members of the adivasi community. Find the book here.

Gendered Digital Divide

India must be at the top of the world in terms of its skewed gender digital divide status and concern. India’s women are far behind in any meaningful adoption of digital tools. This book and anthology by none other than Springer, brings out a huge volume discussing “unequal gender relations in India”. The title of the volume is “Transforming Unequal Gender Relations in India and Beyond - An Intersectional Perspective on Challenges and Opportunities”, edited by Saroj Pachauri and Ravi K Verma. The introduction of the book says, “Osama Manzar and his colleagues, in Chap. 5 titled "Bridging the Digital Divide for Girls in India: Logging Her in!" present an insightful analysis on how the digital divide is affecting adolescent girls and highlight the key areas that can help bridge the gendered digital divide for girls in India.” This particular chapter of the volume is an abridged version of the entire research report by DEF and C3 called “Bridging the Digital Divide for Girls in India”, released immediately after Covid19.


Curated by Osama Manzar and Dushyant Arora, “Truth and Deception in The Digital Age: Navigating the Culture of Misinformation” offers an intersectional examination of the multifaceted challenges of misinformation in India. Through diverse lenses— Gender, Class, Geo-Politics, Public Health, Cinema, and more—this anthology unravels the intricacies and implications of a post-truth society in one of the world’s most complex democracies.

With the advent and explosion of misinformation on the internet, DEF’s mission and challenge suddenly expanded manifold. Insofar as empowerment is concerned, the difference between the connected and the disconnected has blurred. It is now essential that the connected be assisted in their journey towards becoming ‘Media and Information literate.’ In the past few years, DEF has been expanding efforts towards combating misinformation. One such effort is called Developing Rural Ecosystem Against Misinformation (DREAM). This is a project DEF is doing in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in order to counter the misinformation. This is a hyper-local fact-checking initiative rooted in community-level interventions through Community Radio Stations (CRSs) and Digital Community Information Resource Centers (DCIRCs). The project used Community Radios (CRs) as a tool to reach the larger community. Community Radios, as institutions, have a mandate to serve the information needs of the community and can be potential stakeholders in dealing with unintended consequences of an information-dense ecosystem and increase penetration and adoption of mobile phones, the internet, and social media platforms like WhatsApp.

Here is one such highlight- the following documentary by CNA Singapore “Fact Vs. Fiction: India’s War on Fake News has a good 7 minutes of coverage of the work of Digital Information as how they are fighting misinformation and fake news at the grassroots level using a unique model of training and preparing fact checkers at the village level and that too by a cadre of women and it has been effectively done at more than 500 locations.

Data Justice

This book is part of a research project we collaborated with the Alan Turing Institute and GPAI, where we looked at different narratives of automation, digitisation and the AI-Data revolution that we are now seeing upon us.

We are in a transitory stage of adopting and adapting to these AI technologies, and as we were reminded the last day at the academic paper discussions, this transitory phase is when we need the most critical inputs to ensure there is justice as we begin to live with these technologies. There have been several discussions and academic work on feminist perspectives of AI, and our work with ATI is an extension of this - adding the intersectional aspects of decoloniality. In the long history of colonial use of technology to discipline vernaculars and gain control of the informational economy of the people, how do we see new attempts at digitisation and automation? What happens when we force the digital on the poorest and marginalised sections, where does it leave space for redress and communication? And to move forward do we only look at these aspects in a critical lens, or can we also look at other wavys of reimagining data, and alongwith, the frameworks so that it can be in line with social justice and equality?

Documenting and Preserving ancient and endangered languages

How do we preserve and carry forward ancient languages? Digital preservation is one method, as we explored in this earlier typeright:

We have, along with CDPP, published this useful guide on a specific framework, Wangboo, to learn Lepcha. With around half a lakh speakers and a script of their own, the language is spoken mostly in Sikkim and Darjeeling.

FinTech for the masses

An interesting book by Chowdry and Ahmed that asks the question, can we consider ourselves financially literate and developed just because we have Aadhaar linked bank accounts and UPI payment interfaces? How does this actually help the masses of the country? DEF is highlighted here, through our Digi-Prayas program, that sought to increase financial literacy in rural India, partnered with Axis.

Social Media for Empowerment Award Book 2023

Social Media is inherent to the society. Perhaps no one lives without it. It is a media in your pocket and often works as a parasite to the consumption of time on any individual. DEF instituted an award to identify how social media is used in a creative way to benefit societies and communities across various life cycles. For more than 10 years, it has meticulously mobilised, identified, and recognised the best practices. This award book is the latest catalogue of the finalists and awardees of the year 2023 and is a must volume for your library for reading and referencing.

mBillionth Award Book 2023

Since 2010, mBillionth Award has been cataloguing the best of mobile innovations selected out of the nominations from across South Asia. The 2023 version is the latest in the series that compiles and profiles the award winners as well as the finalists.

eNGO Challenge Award Book 2023

NGOs and social enterprises have come of age. Their special identity through dot org and dot ngo and even through dot net has proved that the Internet is adapted to the lives of social organisations and social purposes. DEF is an early adopter of technology and also advocates that the technology must be adopted by one and all - especially by social organisations. Because more than anyone else, social organisations can use digital technologies to be more efficient, to reach more people, to minimise their cost of execution of projects, to disseminate better, to mobilise effectively, to be more transparent, and to be more accountable and visible. Accordingly, DEF instituted the eNGO Challenge, an award mechanism to identify such social organisations who are the flag bearers of effective use of digital tools and technologies and recognise them to take them to the next level. Hundreds and thousands from South Asia have been recognised under the eNGO Challenge, and this book of 2023 is the latest compilation of the finalists and awardees of the eNGO Challenge.

Women Empowering Women

This book is a collection of stories of resilience at various levels - digital, gender, rural, economic and meaningful connectivity. Digital Empowerment Foundation has built a network of rural-digital-entrepreneurs who serve “hyper-local unconnected communities” for their dependencies on all those services and entitlements that are possible to avail only through digital medium. A large cohort of these digital foot soldiers, who are officially called Soochnapreneurs and spread across 2000 locations, are women. This book “Women Empowering Women” is a collection of 25 women’s stories who were meticulously selected from a large sample of thousands of Soochnapreneurs, because they are tough, proactive, resilient, relentless, social entrepreneurs, social workers, communally sensitive, emotionally intelligent, very perceptive, natural leaders, solution providers, fearless and great mobilisers. These stories of extraordinary women narrate the practical challenges faced by common women and men in villages and how the woman Soochnapreneur is solving all problems at the grassroots level with an innovative approach to digital connectivity and infrastructure.

We have covered this book in detail in a previous chapter of TypeRight!

This is another publication, on empowerment through GOAL-

This book is narratives from the ground on DEF's GOAL program - Going Online as Leaders: a digital mentorship program that connects rural women with urban leaders in their fields, enabling their access and exposure to digital tools and technologies.

First trained in 2019, GOAL has had a clear impact on the lives of both its mentors and mentees. In 2019, we connected 100 of young women from rural communities across India with 20 urban, professional women to create strong support networks and safe learning communities for new skills. To say these support networks had a life-changing effect on mentees is to say the least. Along with measurable increases in their technological skills, mentees reported a notable increase in their desire to take on prominent roles in their community and work for social betterment. Mentees attributed this to their mentors, who they said were often the first people not to laugh at their dreams.

In the next publication listed, we look at mission drift occurring with micro-entrepreneurs. What is a mission drift? The compromises businesses and business models make on the social benefit part of their objective, in favour of financial gain - mostly from issues of scaling.

In early 2018, DEF implemented a major change of bringing in significantly more female micro entrepreneurs to achieve gender equality and empower women. Our study examines the effects of DEF’s intervention to add more female micro- entrepreneurs in four of its seven district locations. We analyze the social welfare and financial returns of treatment and control district locations before and after the intervention.

Other Publications

Our article in Common Cause, screenshots below, makes a case for digital rights being an integral part of human rights in this time and age.

In this publication next highlighted, we-

aim to provide a comparative analysis of the policies drafted by the US, the EU, China, and India that would somehow regulatemisinformation and mitigate the social impacts of the hyper-consumption of online information. The US, EU, and China are selected for the comparative analysis as they are considered the pioneers of data regulation and innovations in advanced digital technologies. In addition to the comparative analysis, this paper argues that in India, hate crimes when wedded to the uncontrolled spread of information across the internet require legislative, judicial, and educational interventions. This paper helps policymakers and academia nd the best practices worldwide. Apart from identifying best practices, it also aids in formulating a tailored policy to control the misinformation in the internet channels of communication.

Where do I Get to Read These?

DEF believes in inclusivity and access. We align with the principles of Creative Commons, an alternative to copy-righting that maintains our research and information are to be used by the public.

This means that everyone can access almost the entirety of our self-published work from our website at

The books mentioned in the chapter available externally are mentioned here:

Community Networks: Building Digital Sovereignty and Environmental Sustainability Official Outcome of the UN IGF Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity

Still, I Rise by Samvaad, Tata Steel Foundation

Fintech for Billions, Penguin India

We will be back next week with the 101st chapter! Meanwhile, a reminder to participate in the world's largest exercise of elections and vote wisely!

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TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad, is a weekly conversational bulletin curated through the news and discussions on social media as well as what's happening on the ground. Through the eyes and ears of Digital Empowerment Foundation across rural India and global south, TypeRight aspires to focus on bringing the contextual relevance of digital technologies and developments on the society - both connected and unconnected.