Smartpur has been a very successful community centric initiative which has been very dynamic in the role it plays at the village level. The stories from the ground from this initiative motivate us to be more creative and bring about local sustainable solutions to bridge the digital gap. The Smartpur team is actively engaged with the beneficiaries and as part of reinforcing the vision of the project, a Refresher Workshop was conducted by the management team in Delhi. Pramod Verma, a SoochnaPreneur from Gazipur district of Uttar Pradesh provided a testimonial on his take on the workshop.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced everything to go online and this has restricted the movement of people in the workplace and offline workshops and training have been put to a halt. The Smartpur team has not been able to meet physically since December 2019, when their last refresher training was conducted in Jaipur. The offline workshops and training sessions help the team to connect and grow, which is very limited in the online sessions. The Smartpur team had their three-day workshop from 23rd to 25th June 2022 in Bilaspur, Haryana. The team members were delighted to attend the three days power packed workshop. The Smartpur team from all the locations arrived in New Delhi on 22nd June and left for the training by 23rd June morning. The venue for the workshop was Park Inn by Radisson, Bilaspur.
I have been travelling to Smartpur locations across the ten districts in India and this is a travelogue of my journey to the district of Nuh, Haryana where there are 10 Smartpur centres. Having connected with the district coordinator and the entrepreneurs of the ten centres on call I knew them, however, I was excited to meet them. Around 11 am, we reached the Nuh Hub centre, in Tain village. As a humble gesture we were welcomed by the Smartpur team there. I witnessed the hard work that the team has put in to gain the confidence of the community in Nuh. Initially when the Smartpur project started in Nuh the community was extremely critical and apprehensive about the initiative.
Parwada in Visakhapatnam is an industrial area; consequently, talks of industrial safety measures and fire hazards are frequent among its inhabitants. Ever since a fire broke out last year and claimed eleven lives, the frequency of such conversations has, understandably, increased. DEF believes that not only the workers at these factories, but also their children, should be provided with adequate information and made aware of safety measures so that they are able to help themselves and others. Therefore, DEF collaborates with the local government school and runs drills and practical workshops. Our Project Officer, Tiru Patel, is particularly engaged in and motivated to make sure that the children in Parwada gain practical knowledge, become aware of the circumstances around them and learn how to react appropriately.
On the occasion of International Women’s day, Kaithwalya Hub Centre in Ghazipur district held an elaborate celebration to commemorate its women participants and its students for their outstanding contributions. Our SoochnaPreneurs also addressed the women at the centre and spoke to them about their rights and laws that guarantee those. After this, the students who come to the centre to learn computer skills addressed the people at the centre through a presentation on women who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of society. The students spoke of Mother Teresa, Savitribhai Phule, Rani Lakshmi Bai and of many such women who have inspired countless others through their work, fearlessness and dedication. Some students even recounted their own stories of overcoming hurdles and cited them as examples of female agency.
Since the establishment of a DEF Centre at Vikrampur two years ago, we have worked tirelessly to organise activities and drives that help us remain true to the vision of ‘Smartpur’. Many noteworthy activities have transpired in the past and, with our most recent events, we are determined in our efforts to carry the endeavour forward. On 17th February 2022, Vikrampur Hub Centre organised a governance camp where two retired government doctors, Dr Jagat Narayan Singh and Dr Mukhtar Singh, informed the attendees about various government schemes that they could avail. This session was attended by thirty-two of the most senior inhabitants of the village, among others.
When the lockdown was first imposed in March 2020 and everything was shut down, rural and remote India was the worst hit. Unlike the urban populations, people from rural and remote locations in India didn’t have access to fast-speed Internet connectivity, many of them did not possess a digital device per household member or have access to the many mobile apps that made the stay-at-home a little more bearable for their urban counterparts. Transitioning to online banking, grocery and food delivery or work from home didn’t come as easy to them. This population was not just unable to access services but was also ignored by the systems largely, leading to their further marginalization due to reverse migration, loss of livelihood, poor access to health care, reduced access to food supplies and disconnect from educational opportunities, among others.
Chouttupal is a one hour drive from Hyderabad on the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway. Jagdish, Digital Empowerment Foundation’s project officer in Chouttupal had sent me the location of DEF’s centre in Chinna Kondur village near Chouttupal. As I drove on the busy highway I wondered why DEF had opened a centre so close to the city as we are known to be present in remote locations. All my doubts about this centre’s location were assuaged as I turned left from the highway at Chouttupal. The 6 kilometre drive from the highway till Chinna Kondur is through a forest, the one village that comes before Chinna Kondur seemed like a rural village in the heart of a forest.
On 11th Feb, 2022 I got an opportunity to visit the Smartpur centre in Nuh. The primary vision of the program is to empower marginalised communities in information dark regions to access, consume and produce information online using digital interventions and ICT tools. The district has lush green fields on both sides and as I crossed them I felt excited to see what awaits me at the centre in the village of Tain. I along with my co-worker were welcomed by Mr. Samar Khan, the district coordinator. He gave us a brief introduction about DEF’s activities in the district and then he showed us the classrooms where digital literacy classes were being conducted by Mr. Deepak, the computer trainer.