2002

17,000,000

people with access to the internet

2022

700,000,000

people with access to the internet


The difference now is that the 98.5% who did not have access to the Internet in 2002 were not in complete information darkness, but in this hyper-connected post-COVID world, the 50% who are not online are in complete information darkness.

Today digital tools and connectivity are the most important and democratic tools to pull people out of deprivation and provide them with equitable access to information about education, health, livelihood, governance, rights and more. Almost every piece of information is parked online. Governance has moved to e-Governance. Access to entitlements is now available through the online route.

However, there is still a large populace of rural Indians who don’t have access to the Internet. We understand the importance of providing people with connectivity, to make people digitally literate, to encourage people to adopt digital tools and to establish connectivity as basic infrastructure.

Within this context, there is huge scope for the digital to create a big impact at the grassroots level bringing in access to information and digital knowhow to the communities by connecting them to the larger world digitally. For this, the digitally equipped youth have a huge role to play by working with communities to bring out a digital revolution at the grassroots.

Founded in 2002, DEF has been dedicated to empowering marginalized and unconnected communities by enhancing their digital capacity, access, and rights. DEF’s initiatives cover sectors such as education, entertainment, livelihood, finance, health, agriculture, culture, and heritage, with a particular focus on digital rights for women and adolescents. Working on the ground with a robust network of 10,000 digital grassroots leaders, DEF has reached 2,000 locations across more than 200 districts in 26 states of India.

Despite the progress of the digital revolution, many communities still face barriers such as marginalization, affordability issues, lack of connectivity, digital illiteracy, and the absence of universal digital access.

Building on the extensive work in bridging the digital divide in rural India in more than two decades, DEF identified a critical gap: the lack of institutions offering fellowships, courses, or specialized training for youth in the digital domain, especially focused on addressing the barriers hindering rural development. To bridge this gap and build a generation of experts in the digital and development sector, DEF launched the Digital Swaraj Fellowship.

This initiative nurtures a new generation of youth, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to drive digital empowerment in rural and underserved regions. Through grassroots exposure, skill-building, and mentorship from project leads, fellows are expected to take ownership of their projects, bridging learning, experience, employment, and entrepreneurship, and preparing them for a career in the digital and development sector.

With the DEF’s vision of empowering marginalized communities through digital capacity building and sustainable development initiatives, the Digital Swaraj Fellowship program resolves to prepare youth to become experts and leaders in the digital domain, enabling them to effectively integrate with and work with communities, creating success stories, and fostering deep learning.