Vol 4 Issue 1 | January - February 2015
 
 
  Is all well with National Optic Fibre Network?
Letter From the Editor
Dear Readers,

As usual the New Year, 2015, has started with a flurry of activities.

Let us first give you some great news. As you know, since our inception in 2002, we at DEF have been at the forefront of efforts in India, South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region to bridge the digital divide, smash the information barrier, empower people and bring about greater socio-economic equality.

Our journey has been nothing short of exciting. Despite facing some hell or high water once in a while, which always happens when you embark on a long sojourn, we have still crossed many milestones and notched up quite a few satisfying achievements.

We now feel we need to document our peregrinations, successes and failures over the past 12 years in the form of a documentary film. The good news is well-known Australian film maker and musician Andrew Richard Mathew Garton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Garton) has especially flown down from Melbourne, Australia to take up this task of telling the story of how our work has impacted millions of lives in India. Upon arrival in India, he wasted no time and together with our audio-visual team straightaway began work on retracing our trail.

Read about this “Journey Within A Journey” in this issue. You may also visit our blog http://upliftdoco.tumblr.com for an interesting blow by blow account on the making of this documentary. And of course, please do send in your views and suggestions.

But journeys require vehicles and one of the primary vehicles that we use to cross the information barrier is the Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC). CIRCs play a vital role in creating digital infrastructure in remote and rural areas and empower information-dark marginalised or underserved communities through various ways such as spreading digital literacy, providing access to health and education, connecting rural markets to mainstream markets, enabling people to know about their rights and entitlements, allowing them access to as well as demand government services and so on.
In this issue read about two of our CIRCs in somewhat remote locations in the North East Indian state of Assam.

Empowerment of women is one of the key destinations in our journey. We launched the Red Rickshaw Revolution in 2012 with the objective of empowering 200000 women across India. After travelling through various places in West and North India, the Red Rickshaw reached its final destination Kolkata on December 17, 2014. Read our report on this journey.

Our expedition has always been interspersed with advocacy campaigns on such issues as Internet Rights, role of governments and data security and of course, government policies and initiatives to bridge the digital divide. Read three reports on DEF’s participation in conferences on Internet Rights and data security.

Finally, do read our status report on one of the most ambitious government initiatives to end information darkness in India – the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project. Under the project, the government has set up a special purpose vehicle named Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) to connect all the 250000 village Panchayats in India through an optical fibre network that would ensure a minimum broadband connectivity speed of 2.5 mbps by 2015 (revised schedule, earlier the end date was 2014).

You will be appalled to know that the programme is not only way behind schedule but even the pilot project that the government claims it completed in 2012 connecting some 59 Panchayats seems horribly underperforming and in some cases simply incomplete. It is obvious from this report that the Prime Minister’s Digital India vision will remain just a vision and never a reality unless the government pulls itself up by the bootstraps to make BBNL a more effective and efficient agency for bringing about connectivity across the country.

You may also read our founder and Director Osama Manzar’s column in Mint on this issue Building another pipe dream? . This premier business newspaper has also published another report on the same subject - Study disputes effectiveness of govt’s optical fibre project.

Perhaps, it is time to call in the cavalry and go for a larger role of the private sector in this project. It is up to the government to decide how but state-owned companies such as BBNL and BSNL simply do not seem to have the ability to deliver any kind of results, leave alone effectively and efficiently.
This issue is of vital importance to the cause of digital inclusion. Please use our platform to voice your concerns and offer your recommendations.
We will not hold you back any longer from all the interesting material that lies before you in this issue. Happy reading dear readers!

2014 has been a remarkable journey for Soochna Seva. With ardent effort and contribution of the team there are now 25 fully functioning centers successfully set up at the five targeted locations Tehri District (Uttarakhand), Barmer District (Rajasthan), Ranchi District (Jharkhand), Guna District (Madhya Pradesh) and West Champaran District (Bihar) equipped with furniture, Laptops, PCs, LCD, Projector, Printer, etc. Read more
Recent Activities
 
“Future Of The Internet”
New Delhi, India—Internet Rights team—Niki Shah and Priya Alika Elias—attended the roundtable discussion with Vint Cerf on “Future of the Internet” hosted by Observer Research Foundation. In his keynote lecture, Dr. Cerf traced the history of internet and how it got started in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the United States. Based on the historical overview and in the India context, Dr. Cerf noted that the objective of the internet was to make it open so that all countries and communities can access it for information, develop products and services that cater to the local population and can serve as a networking tool. Read more
Journey Within Journey
Digital Empowerment Foundation has been providing digital empowerment to grassroots communities across India for eleven years now. Our journey so far has been nothing short of exciting. Hence, we are embarking on a mission to document our journey through a documentary film. For this purpose, an experienced Film-maker and Musician, Andrew Garton has especially arrived in India from Melbourne, Australia, to give shape to our vision. Andrew dived into a series of script and production meetings straight away, with his team delegated by DEF. It will be a challenge to delineate a journey which is flowing unabated with a consciousness. Read more
Security, Governments, And Data: Technology And Policy
New Delhi, India–The Internet Rights team—Niki Shah and Priya Elika Alias—participated in the Security, Governments, and Data: Technology and Policy conference jointly-organized by Observer Research Foundation and the Centre for Internet & Society. The conference focused on the technologies, policies, and practices around cyber security and surveillance. The conference was well attended by a number of key stakeholders including civil society, industry, government, and academia to explore the present scenario in India and reflect on ways forward. Read more
Internet Access: Perspective From Rural Rajasthan
Alwar, Rajasthan—Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) Internet Rights team visited the Community Information Resource Center (CIRC) at four villages in Alwar district of Rajasthan—Vijay Mandir Palace, Mulla Ji Ka Vas, Chandoli, Mungaska, and Mala Khera—to study the linkages between Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) and human development and the role CIRC’s can play in enhancing access to information and ways communities exercise their internet rights, namely, freedom of expression, association and assembly in rural India. Read more
National Optic Fibre Network
The National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) is a government project aimed at providing broadband connectivity to 2, 50,000 Gram Panchayats in an effort to provide last mile connectivity as critical infrastructure. Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was created to implement the project. Through funding of Rs. 20,000 Cr from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), the government committed itself to delivering this project effectively (BBNL 1). The NOFN’s aim was to provide all necessary government services to citizens in an effort to allow then access to information which would lead to their empowerment and development. Read more
 
RED Rikshaw Revolution
 
Empowering Women Across The Nation
After travelling to Alwar and Baran (Rajasthan), Mandvi (Gujarat), Raigarh (Chhattisgarh), Kolaras and Pohra (MP), Keonjarh and Bhadrak (Orissa), South 24 Parganas (West Bengal), the journey came to a close after reaching its final destination, Kolkata (West Bengal). The last destination was marked with a press conference at the press club of Kolkata on 17th December, 2014. The conference was graced by the presence of Mr Rohit Adya, Director, External Affairs, Vodafone India, Mr Osama Manzar, Founder and Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation. Read more
Partner Events
 
WSA-MOBILE GLOBAL CONGRESS
The World Summit Award Mobile (WSA-mobile) is a global initiative to select and promote the world’s best in mobile content and innovative applications within the framework of, and in cooperation with, the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), mandated by the WSIS Plan of Action and executed in collaboration with UNESCO, UNIDO and UN GAID. WSA-mobile emphasizes cultural diversity and identity, the creation of varied information content and the digitalization of educational, scientific and cultural heritage Read more
DEF Special Study
 
Study disputes effectiveness of govt’s optical fibre project
The government claims to have connected 59 village councils with high-speed Internet connections in a pilot project, as part of a programme to provide communications, health and government services on tap to the remotest corners of the nation. The reality, according to a survey by a non-profit group, is anything but that. The survey by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) found that only 67% of the panchayats were connected to the fibre-optic backbone in the pilot phase of the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project, while the rest had no means to access the services that the NOFN network can potentially enable. Read more
Circ Updates
 
Upholding Human Right
The month of December earmarks a number of days upholding concerns to human societies such as World AIDS Day, International Day for Persons with Disability, Kisaan Diwas. One such day is the 10th of December which is celebrated as World Human Rights Day in honor of the human race; it is celebrated to remind ourselves of the fact that all human beings are equal and have certain rights as a human being so as to live a fulfilled life. As a mark of respect to mankind and the lives surrounding CIRC Batadrava, the centre celebrated Human Rights Day on 10th December, 2014. Read more
From the community for the community
Nagaon is a minority concentrated district covering an area of 3831 sq. km. The population of the district is 2314629, it is Assam’s highest contributor in terms of demography. Moreover, the minority population of the district constitutes fifty two percent (52%). The literacy rate of the district is seventy four percent (74 %); with the males contributing to a 68.27 % and the females contributing to a 54.74 %. Batadrava is a rural area situated in Nagaon, it is one of the eighteen (18) blocks comprising the panchayats of Amlakhi, Batadraba, Bhumuraguri, Bilotia, Dhanaiyabheti, Dhupaguri, Kandhulimari, Katahguri, Kodomoni, Rampur Satra, Saharia, Silpukhuri, Sologuri, Tuktuki and Upper Dumdumia. Read more
Honoring the golden harvesters
The farmers are the backbone of the country. They are the bread makers as well as the bread earners of the household. The nation feeds on their produce yet our farmers go hungry at times, there is an air of poverty and grief surrounding this sector as most of our farmers are very humble; in fact the word ‘humble’ meagerly defines the severity of their condition. Honouring the birth aniversary of Chaudhury Charan Singh, the sixth Prime Minister of free India and a noted farmer; CIRC Sonapur celebrated Farmer’s day through a half day long programme. The centre celebrated the day jointly with the Department of Agriculture (Govt. of Assam; Read more
A day among the Youth
he youth are the backbone of the Nation. It is very important to uphold their spirit, unite their strength and reemphasize their confidence from time to time. In sync with the entire nation the 19th National Youth Day was celebrated at CIRC Sonapur on 12th January, 2015 honoring the birthday of Swami Vivekananda. The celebration was almost a day long affair; the event started at 10:00 am and went on till 1:00 pm. The guest of honor Md. Muslim-Uddin Barbhuyan (honorable faculty Sonapur College and KKHSOU) bestowed his humble presence to cheer the youth participating in the programme. Read more
OSAMA MANZAR COLUMNS
 
Building another pipe dream?
The difference between cities and villages in India has always been stark. Services that people in urban areas take for granted are often simply not available in the countryside. This is particularly true when we look at the digital divide that creates a gulf between urban and rural India. ilonia is a small village in Ajmer district in Rajasthan that has a panchayat (village council). The village has been made globally famous due to the great work done by Barefoot College. Read more
Technology and public libraries
Libraries are the life blood of a nation. This is particularly true for a country such as India, which has a large number of young people aspiring for a better life. Yet, our public libraries are grossly neglected. Each one of the country’s 676 districts has at least one public library, an enormous resource that can deliver a critical public good if properly utilised. Have public libraries become relics of a bygone era with rarely utilized resources? Are they struggling to survive in the contemporary world, amid change and new generational demands? Read more
 
 
News to Know from https://www.facebook.com/DEFIndia
हिंदी सोशल नेटवर्किंग साइट 'शब्दनगरी'
आईआईटी मुंबई के एक पूर्व छात्र ने अपने कुछ सहयोगियों की मदद से हिन्दी में सोशल नेटवर्किंग वेबसाइट ' शब्दनगरी' शुरु की है। यह साइट फेसबुक से प्रेरित है लेकिन उसकी हूबहू नकल नहीं है। 'शब्दनगरी' पर आप राष्ट्रभाषा हिन्दी में अपनी कहानियां, कविताएं और कॉमेंट डाल सकते हैं, साथ ही अपनी विचारधारा वाले लेखकों और हिन्दी भाषी लोगों से बहुत आसानी से जुड़ सकते हैं। Read more
 
भारत में ई-कॉमर्स क्षेत्र में एफडीआई में ढील की मांग
वाशिंगटन, 23 जनवरी| अमेरिका के राष्ट्रपति बराक ओबामा के भारत दौरे से पहले दो अमेरिकी सांसदों ने उनसे भारत के प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी से ई-कॉमर्स के क्षेत्र में विदेशी प्रत्यक्ष निवेश (एफडीआई) पर लगी पाबंदी में ढील देने का अनुरोध करने के लिए कहा है। सीनेट की भारतीय मामलों से संबंधित समिति, जिसमें अमेरिका की दोनों प्रमुख राजनीतिक पार्टियों के सदस्य हैं, के अध्यक्षों ने ओबामा से यह अनुरोध किया। Read more
 
आदिवासियों को जनपत्रकारिता से जोड़ने की कोशिश
छत्तीसगढ़ में आदिवासी समुदाय के बीच काम करने वाली संस्था सीजीनेट स्वरा ने एक जनवरी से छत्तीसगढ़ की राजधानी रायपुर से जनपत्रकारिता जागरूकता यात्रा शुरू की है. इस यात्रा का उद्देशय सीजीनेट स्वरा की जन पत्रकारिता के बारे में नुक्कड़ नाटकों और नाट्य प्रस्तुतियों के ज़रिए जागरूकता फैलाना है. इस यात्रा के दौरान मध्यभारत के छत्तीसगढ़, मध्यप्रदेश, महाराष्ट्र Read more
 
Windows 10 upgrade to be 'free' for one year
Microsoft has revealed that Windows 10 will bring its voice-controlled assistant Cortana to PCs. It also unveiled a headset that it said would one day project the operating system over views of the real world. In addition, the firm announced that the OS upgrade would be offered free of charge. Read more
 
Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb
AS much as we love our digital devices, many of us have an uneasy sense that they are destroying our attention spans. We skitter from app to app, seldom alighting for long. Our ability to concentrate is shot, right? Research shows that our intuition is wrong. We can focus.Read more
 
Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Startup ZipDial
SINGAPORE— Twitter Inc. is acquiring India-based mobile marketing startup ZipDial in its first acquisition in Asia as it seeks to tap users in emerging markets. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Bangalore-based ZipDial is known for its success at “missed call” marketing. Read more
 
Indian bank allows payments via Twitter
India’s ICICI Bank has launched a new service called “icicibankpay” that allows customers to transfer money using Twitter.Customers simply need to follow the bank’s Twitter account to register their mobile phone with the bank and then send @icicibank. Read more
 
Andhra Pradesh government plans 15 Mbps broadband service at Rs 150/month
Andhra Pradesh government, led by tech-savvy Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, plans to provide broadband connections with peak speed of 15 Mbps to twelve million households for as low as Rs 150/month in the first stage of its about Rs 5,000-crore optical fibre project. Read more
 
गूगल ला रही है सस्ते मोबाइल इंटरनेट डेटा का ऑफर
इंटरनेट के क्षेत्र की दुनिया की नंबर 1 कंपनी गूगल जल्द ही मोबाइल इंटरनेट डेटा प्लान्स पेश करने वाली है। रिपोर्ट्स के मुताबिक, गूगल ने इसके लिए एक मोबाइल इंटरनेट सेवा कंपनी से शुरुआती बातचीत भी की है। गूगल ने इसे ‘प्रॉजेक्ट नोवा’ नाम दिया है। नोवा के तहत गूगल तेज और सस्ता मोबाइल इंटरनेट लॉन्च करेगी। Read more
 
2500 शहरों को मिलेगी मुफ्त वाई-फाई सेवा
केंद्र सरकार अगले तीन सालों में देश के 2500 शहरों और कस्बों में मुफ्त हाईस्पीड वाई-फाई की सुविधा मुहैया कराएगी. हालांकि मुफ्त सेवा का लाभ तय समय के लिए मिलेगा और इसके बाद यूजर को इंटरनेट यूज करने पर चार्ज देना होगा. सार्वजनिक क्षेत्र की कंपनी भारत संचार निगम लिमिटेड (बीएसएनएल) द्वारा लागू की जाने वाली इस योजना में सात हजार करोड़ रुपये निवेश किए जाएंगे.Read more
 
देश के पहले हाई-स्पीड ग्रामीण ब्रॉडबैंड नेटवर्क का शुभारंभ आज
केंद्रीय संचार एवं सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी मंत्री रवि शंकर प्रसाद केरल के इदुक्की जिले में आज यानी 12 जनवरी को डिजिटल इंडिया कार्यक्रम के अंतर्गत आयोजित एक समारोह में भारत के पहले हाई-स्पीड ग्रामीण ब्रॉडबैंड नेटवर्क का शुभारंभ करेंगे। एक आधिकारिक बयान में कहा गया है कि डिजिटल इंडिया के नए युग के सूत्रपात में यह आयोजन एक महत्वपूर्ण मील का पत्थर है। Read more
 
Facebook's impact on Indian economy pegged at $4 billion
Facebook enabled USD 4 billion economic impact on the Indian economy and contributed to 335,000 jobs in some or the other way during last year, according to a report by consultancy firm Deloitte. The study titled ‘Facebook’s Global Economic Impact’ analyses how the social networking site has facilitated growth. Read more
 
At 90, She's Designing Tech For Aging Boomers
In Silicon Valley's youth-obsessed culture, 40-year-olds get plastic surgery to fit in. But IDEO, the firm that famously developed the first mouse for Apple, has a 90-year-old designer on staff. Barbara Beskind says her age is an advantage. "Everybody who ages is going to be their own problem-solver,". Read more
 
Single smartcard soon for workers' social security benefits
New Delhi, Jan 19: Labour Ministry plans to issue a single smartcard for formal sector workers to help them avail of a host of benefits under different social security schemes such as pension, provident fund and health insurance. The ministry will seed employees' details such as Universal PF. Read more
 
How the Camera Doomed Google Glass
Since its debut in 2012, Google Glass always faced a strong headwind. Even on celebrities it looked, well, dorky. The device itself, once released in the wild, was seen as half-baked, and developers lost interest.Read more
 
Rural Internet must connect users to utilities, finance –25 quotes from India Digital Summit!
The ninth annual India Digital Summit (IDS), hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, wrapped up in Delhi this week with dozens of speakers addressing a range of important issues. How big is the Internet market in India today? How fast is smartphone penetration increasing?Read more
 
 
Stay connected with 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.
DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT FOUNDATION
House No. 44, 3rd Floor Kalu Sarai, (Near IIT Flyover) New Delhi – 110016
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