Empowering women in the digital age: India’s digital inclusion journey.

The internet came to India in 1995 and with it came a host of opportunities for this rising economy and developing nation. A few tech pioneers grabbed this opportunity and explored this brave new connected world.

Seven years later, on the 16th of December 2002, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) was established to connect and empower India’s one billion plus people, taking the first step in the country’s digital development story. At the time, most Indians did not have access to information, education, and opportunities. Our mission is to bridge that through digital literacy and tools, bringing government services within reach of its people.

In 2002, less than 17 million people had access to the internet, making up only 1.5% of the country’s total population. DEF set out first to change this and, in time, bridge this digital divide through policy interventions and on-ground work. Fast forward two decades later, nearly 700 million people—about half of the country—can now access the internet.

Internet use has been slower to take hold in rural India, where around 65% of the population lives

While today’s digital issues are far more complex and require comprehensive solutions, in many ways, the fundamental challenge remains the same: the digital divide is still holding the country back.

The 98.5% who did not have access to the internet in 2002 were not in complete ‘information darkness’, but in this hyperconnected post-COVID world, the 50% who are offline are excluded more than ever.

To close the digital divide and provide access to information and digital services, DEF works across finance, governance, education, livelihood, and health to empower communities in rural, tribal, marginalised, and unreached areas.


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