, tablet or laptop and she could coordinate with a student who needed it. “I started sending messages on my groups, and initially there was just silence. But I kept reposting and finally started getting responses from people,” she adds. Since then, Dedhia has facilitated the donations of over 200 devices to students in Mumbai. They, in turn, recommended friends and
who also had no way to access online education.
Much has been said about the revolutionising power of online education, but the digital divide has never been starker, says Sandeep Rai, chief of city operations at
for India. But now both non-profits like Rai’s and individuals like Dedhia are stepping up to bridge it with digital donations. “Of the 32,000 kids in low-income communities we serve, a survey showed that 60-65% of our students do have access, but that still leaves 8-10,000 students without a device. Those who do have one are often sharing it with a parent who works,” says Rai. They have been seeking devices as well as funds so they can buy tablets for their students. “We’ve been able to get 1,000 devices so far and that’s allowed us to get instruction for class 9 and 10 going. Now we’re trying to make that happen for 5th to 8th graders.”
One of the more ambitious drives is Digital Empowerment Foundation’s new initiative
, founder and director of DEF, says they set out to solve the problem of a lack of “meaningful digital connectivity” in India. “Having a smartphone doesn’t mean I can go for an online class or afford a broadband connection. Plus, in a patriarchal country, the drop-out rate and exclusion of girls is going to be much higher. We need to look at digital infrastructure for the digitally excluded,” says Manzar.
So, they have a three-year plan of collecting, refurbishing and donating 1 million devices. They have set up a website, Digital Daan, and are not only collecting functional laptops and phones, but also printers and cameras. They’re also planning on using their infrastructure of digital resource centres in 130 districts and 23 states as points of procurement and distribution. “Even though we set the website up just three days ago, many people have donated devices like laptops and phones and we’ve already got confirmation of 20,000 desktops from a corporate,” says Manzar.
They’re also collecting funds, since transporting the device and refurbishing it isn’t cheap.
Advertising professional Abhishank Babbar was disturbed by the news of a father dying by suicide because he couldn’t buy a smartphone for his child. He says, “Many of us sit and debate whether we should buy a Rs 40,000 phone or a 50k one. What about everyone else?” He posted about this on social media, and someone pointed him in the direction of Digital Daan. He is now about to donate a phone and plans to get another one repaired and then donate it.
Minal Salva, who donated a laptop to Dedhia, says, “We got the laptop a few years ago, but haven’t used it much. We’re a little old also and never quite got the hang of it. It makes me feel goo