Beyond Money
Redefining Literacy

Dr Nita Mukherjee describes a decade-old effort that is bearing rich fruit

 

Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), a Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation, was founded by Osama Manzar in December 2002 under the Societies Registration Act. Its objective is to uplift the downtrodden using information, communication and technology (ICT). Since Mr Manzar worked in a software company, he was acutely aware of the need to bridge the digital divide which haunts India. A large chunk of India’s population is deprived of even basic ICT; telecom facilities and power are either not available or there’s errant supply. Penetration of computers and Internet is low, despite pious government pronouncements. 
 

DEF believes that lack of information is at the root of poverty and exploitation. Mr Manzar says, “If you lick the problem of information poverty, you would, to a large extent, overcome economic poverty.” He opines that just as, if you build a road, people begin to use it, if you have digital media, people start creating and sharing information. So it is necessary for the State to create and provide the infrastructure for digital media. DEF’s basic premise is that digital media—connoting anything that bridges physical distances for communication—radio, broadband, film projectors, mobile telephony, Internet, etc, have made it easier to empower people with information. Once people are empowered, good governance will follow.
 
In 2003, Mr Manzar gave up his job to concentrate on DEF’s operations. DEF uses three mechanisms for its development interventions, namely, advocacy, networking and project implementation. Its advocacy initiatives are facilitated by the fact that 
Mr Manzar is a member of government’s working groups on Internet proliferation & governance, national optic-fibre network for universal service obligation fund and screening committee for community radio licence. The Manthan Award, launched on 10 October 2004 to recognise the best practices in e-content and creativity, has enabled DEF to establish a wide network in the social sector. DEF has a database showcasing 5,000 social sector best practices from all over south Asia. Although 70%-80% of these are from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are important contributors.
 
DEF has done considerable work in ICT application at the panchayat level; although Mr Manzar says they have just made a beginning. Of the three million panchayat members in the country, DEF has trained 5,000 through the 30 rural centres it has opened and created 500 panchayat websites which can be accessed through epanchayat.in. DEF has held 60 e-literacy workshops for NGOs and developed 2,000 NGO websites for free. Mr Manzar says, “Since our objective is to enable NGOs to create information and share it by making it available in the public domain, we provide the entire service—creating full-fledged web domain and hosting it completely free of cost for one year. We develop websites in the language of the NGO’s choice. From the second year, we levy a nominal annual charge of Rs3,000. All these sites can be accessed through 
engo.in or pirengo.org.”
 
Digital literacy is predicated on availability of broadband, because information at the grassroots is easier to create and communicate in audio-visual rather than textual formats. This has been DEF’s learning, especially in the field of education where it has enabled some 500 schools to upload content on gyanpedia.in. Again, this is a drop in the ocean, but a beginning at least. “We have nearly 1.4 million government schools in the country but not even a tenth of them have IT connectivity. The challenge in such a scenario is: Can the government redefine literacy and announce that we are going to work together towards not higher literacy but for digital literacy. It would indicate that India is working on the medium of the future rather than that of the past.”
 
DEF has obtained FCRA registration which enables it to raise funds from international donors like the Ford Foundation, Vodafone Foundation and Intel Foundation. It also gets grants from the ministry of IT, Internet Society and Public Interest Registry
 
Digital Empowerment Foundation
House No. 44, 3rd Floor, Kalu Sarai (Near IIT Flyover), New Delhi 110016 
Tel: +91-11-26532786
Fax: +91-11-26532787
Email: [email protected] 
Website: www.defindia.net

 

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Nifty, Sensex may hit a wall: Weekly Market Report

The Nifty will find it hard to break through 6,000 in this rally. If it does, the next resistance would be around 6,025

The market settled in the green, snapping its five week losing streak, mainly on signs of economic activity across the world picking up. Positive indicators from Japan, China and the US supported investor sentiments. Indian investors will look at the factory output data and headline inflation figures in the week ahead, which may dictate the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) stand in its policy review on 19th March.

 

The Sensex climbed 765 points (4.04%) at 19,683 and the Nifty advanced 226 points (3.95%) to close the week at 5,946. The market is likely to see a correction. The Nifty will find it hard to break through 6,000 in this rally. If it does, the next resistance would be around 6,025.

 

 The market settled marginally lower on Monday on unsupportive global cues following news that the Chinese government is looking to introduce initiatives to rein in property prices. The market settled in the positive on Tuesday on global support. Firm economic indicators from the US supported gains in the domestic market on Wednesday.

 

A recovery in the second half of trade helped the indices close higher on Thursday. The market closed in the positive on Friday on gains in oil & gas, FMCG, metal and banking stocks.

 

In the sectoral space, BSE Realty jumped 7% and BSE Bankex surged 6% while the BSE Consumer Durables (down 2%) was the lone loser this week.

 

The top Sensex gainers were Sterlite Industries, ICICI Bank (up 8% each), Larsen & Toubro (up 7%), Cipla and Hero MotoCorp (up 6% each). Hindustan Unilever (down 3%) and Bajaj Auto (down 1%) were the losers.

 

The Nifty was led by IDFC (up 10%), Sesa Goa (up 9%), ICICI Bank, Jaiprakash Associates and Siemens (up 8% each). The key losers on the benchmark were HUL, Ambuja Cements (down 3% each), Bajaj Auto and NTPC (down 1% each).

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday expressed confidence that the economic slowdown will not continue and the country will bounce back to the growth rate of 7% to 8% in next two to three years.

 

Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) chairman C Rangarajan said policy rate cut by the central bank will depend on inflation movement, among other factors. Inflation measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) had declined to 6.62% in January. It was 7.18% in December and 7.24% in November.

 

In international news, The US added 236,000 jobs in February, while unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, the lowest since December 2008, according to the Labor Department. Investors look at the nonfarm payrolls data as a measure of economic recovery. The Federal Reserve had said it will maintain its low interest rate policy until unemployment falls to 6.5% and inflation rises to 2.5%.

 

Meanwhile, China maintained its GDP growth target at 7.5% for 2013 and raised its budget deficit forecast as the government reduces taxes and looks at fresh initiatives to support consumer demand.

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Finance minister meets SEBI board; discusses plans for foreign investors

SEBI chairman UK Sinha informed the media that the finance minister has emphasised on the need for the regulator to be alert on various issues concerning the capital markets, including the technology related challenges

 
Finance minister P Chidambaram on Friday discussed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) the future agenda for growth of capital markets, as also steps needed for simplified KYC norms for foreign investors.
 
After a meeting between SEBI board members and Chidambaram, SEBI chairman UK Sinha told reporters that the finance minister has emphasised on the need for the regulator to be alert on various issues concerning the capital markets, including the technology related challenges.
 
Sinha said the Chidambaram addressed the SEBI board which made a presentation to the finance minister regarding various steps taken by the regulatory authority, as also on its future agenda.
 
The issues discussed also included simplified set of KYC norms for foreign investors and various new offices being opened by the regulator in different parts of the country for the benefit of the markets and investors.
 
With regard to the ongoing probe into a crash in some mid-cap stocks recently, Sinha said that the investigations are continuing and SEBI has collected some data in this regard.
 
SEBI chief said that the information collected so far is not conclusive in nature and the probe would take some more time.
 
“But, we want to assure everyone that we are acting very fast whenever there are attempts for market manipulations,” Sinha said.
 
SEBI chairman said that the finance minister also expressed satisfaction over various steps being taken by the regulator for the capital markets. 
 
According to Sinha, Chidambaram expressed satisfaction on various measures by SEBI including 25% public shareholding norm.
 
Further, Sinha said that the finance minister has assured that PSUs would follow the minimum public shareholding norms.
 
He said the market regulator is planning to open more offices across the country. “We also told him (finance minister) of our plans to reach out to various parts of the country. For example SEBI has been opening new offices in the last two years,” he said.
 
“There is a plan to open more and more offices,” he added.
 
On the subject of Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, the chairman said that process is on to make the norms simpler for the investors.
 
“We will be able to do it (KYC norms) in a manner that both domestic and foreign investors find that investments are becoming easier in the country,” he said.
 
Sinha further said SEBI would not “compromise on the KYC part in the sense that any risk will not be allowed to take place and also ensure how we can make it more simple,” The process is on and very shortly SEBI will be announcing that, he said.
 
Further, Sinha informed that the Chandrasekhar Committee which working on guidelines for foreign investors would be holding a meeting on 19th March.
 
Responding to question on Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme, he told reporters that SEBI is ready on its part.
 
“If you read it (the budget document) clearly the changes have to be made by the government... It is more of a tax issue,” he said.
 
With regard to the mid-cap crash in July last year where shares of certain companies had fallen in the range of 20%-26%, the SEBI chairman said that it is still under probe and will take more time.
 
“We have acted fast... It will take a little more time. Let me assure that if there is any attempt by anybody for manipulation we will act very fast,” he said. 
 

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