Chapter Four: A Tribute to Mohd. Arif - Strength and Hope of DEF and Mewat

Kisi ki muskuraahaton pe ho nisaar, Kisi ka dard mil sake to le udhaar. Kisi ke vaaste ho tere dil mein pyaar, Jeena isi ka naam hai.

Mohd Arif? If you ask most women in Mewat they will probably tell you that "Arif Bhai" helped women become financially self dependant-entrepreneurs.

Babita, the first woman in her village to graduate and get employed credits her achievement to Arif.

In remote areas of Mewat, villagers will tell you that he was there whenever Digital India forgot about them. Working with Digital Empowerment Foundation, he set up many Community Information Resource Centers in rural areas of Mewat.

Dozens of families where a loved one had been lynched by a mob or made the victim of a fake encounter will tell you that he was a messiah for them, their comrade in their quest for justice.

All these answers/descriptions are incomplete. Mohd. Arif was a freedom fighter. He dedicated every moment of his life to doing all he could to ensure that people around him could live with a little more dignity, a little more freedom. Arif is no more. He succumbed to the second wave of covid/not being able to access the vaccine in time.

At Digital Empowerment Foundation, we are in mourning.

How many people are dying because vaccinations aren't available? It is impossible to say because there are plenty of reports which point out that the number of deaths are being under counted. In our second chapter we had pointed out the cruel exclusion that the Co-Win website creates, because only the extremely privileged are able to access vaccines. This continues to happen in India.

It bears repeating-the Indian Government's primary tool for vaccine administration requires knowledge of english, access to internet, a smart phone or a computer, electricity and the ability to find a slot ahead of tools created by techies- telegram channels etc.

Thankfully some governments seem to be waking up to this reality:

Important to reproduce an excerpt from the aforementioned report:

"The JHAR-WIN app works both online and offline and is backed up with a call centre to facilitate registration of low-digitally literate population group and can provide on the spot registration at vaccination centres, officials said. Considering the issue of non-delivery of SMS/OTP and to make it more user-friendly, OTP authentication has been removed in JHAR-WIN which is available in both English and Hindi, they said. 

“The Co-WIN platform and the process of registration by design perpetuate digital exclusion and inequality especially in a state like Jharkhand. With a high tribal and marginal population mostly in rural areas and the rising threat of the virus in villages, it is necessary to ensure no one is left out, an official in the Chief Minister’s Office told"

Meanwhile the Central Government is also busy. Multiple Bhartiya Janta Party leaders and others affiliated with the BJP published a document on Twitter which they claimed was a 'Toolkit' created by the Indian National Congress to defame India and derail efforts to combat Covid-19. After countless people tagged twitter demanding that it takes action, twitter classified multiple tweets with the said document with the tag of 'manipulated media'.

The Central Government has written to Twitter asking it to remove such tags:

It has also asked asked Twitter to delete all tweets with the words "Indian Variant".A Reuters journalist pointed out that the Indian government routinely refers to variants with the name of the company they emerged in.

Experts however have pointed out that the government has no such powers.

Pratik Sinha, the founder of Alt News had an interesting perspective:

Mr. Sinha's argument is valid and nuanced. He is saying that instead of having a transparent policy for designating a tweet or the attachment with it as 'manipulated'- one which allows anyone to a request and see why it was allowed/rejected, Twitter responds arbitrarily.

We believe that the process can in fact be automated, at least in cases where a code detects that there has been substantial editing/manipulation with the media attached with the tweet.

At Digital Empowerment Foundation we have been doing less important things, like creating awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated

If you have 27 minutes to spare and want to hear about the challenges being faced by those in India's villages, listen to DEF's founder Osama Manzar talk to BBC:

We need your help. Digital Empowerment Foundation has again launched an ICT-enabled and community-specific relief programme, "COVID-19 DIGITAL EMERGENCY RELIEF PROGRAMME 2.0", through virtual community and service facilitation. 

10000+ foot soldiers are being trained to work as COVID Soochnapreneurs in their communities who will implement the following activities:

  1. Distribution of the preventive necessities (pulse oximeters, masks, sanitisers, dry ration) to 1 million people by COVID Soochnapreneurs.

  2. Dissemination of Information in the form of audios, videos and infographics through WhatsApp Groups/messaging.

  3. COVID Soochnapreneurs will disseminate verified helpline numbers for local aid resources through WhatsApp and Facebook.

The link to the page: 

Until next time. Please, stay safe.

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TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad, is a weekly conversational bulletin curated through the news and discussions on social media as well as what's happening on the ground. Through the eyes and ears of Digital Empowerment Foundation across rural India and global south, TypeRight aspires to focus on bringing the contextual relevance of digital technologies and developments on the society - both connected and unconnected.
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