Towards digital inclusion
The Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS) has been researching digital inequality amongst socially- and economically-excluded urban communities in India since 2013.
The digitally-excluded are often those who are already disadvantaged along the traditional axes of inequality. They include the poor who do not have the economic capital to buy the infrastructure required to log on to the web; those who do not have the social capital — including education and ICT skills — to use computers and the internet; and those who do not have the freedom or autonomy to use digital technologies — such as women. Digital inequality ends up reinforcing existing social inequalities, and therefore constitutes a major social inclusion and public policy issue.
Our first study, Towards Internet Inclusion: Barriers to Internet Access for Economically- and Socially-Excluded Urban Communities, was published in 2015. The research was conducted among low-income and marginalised communities in Pune, the eighth-largest city in India, and a major industrial and IT hub. The study offers a reality check on the digital 'revolution' that is being celebrated in India and points out that digital equality is not just about getting people connected to mobile devices and the internet. It is about ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to access high-speed and affordability internet services, as well as the media/digital literacy to use the technology to the fullest.
Our study recommends the reframing of the digital divide debate: digital equality must be viewed as not just access to technology, but access + adoption, with a focus on the social contexts of technology.
In addition to the research, CCDS has built innovative campaign and learning material on internet literacy, and conducted trainings and workshops in low-income settlements, particularly for women. CCDS was also the research partner for a pilot project (implemented by a consortium of partners including the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation) providing free WiFi to an entire slum, as well as a computer literacy training centre within the settlement to help residents make full use of the WiFi access.
CCDS is presently researching the digital preparedness of children from low-income and marginalised urban communities. We are examining the awareness, exposure and access of children to ICTs, and the ICT training they receive in government and private schools. The study aims to find out whether children from marginalised backgrounds are being prepared to participate equally in a digital world, and to recommend measures to ensure that they are fully equipped to use digital technologies for education, livelihoods, social and democratic participation and lifelong learning.
CCDS's research on digital inequality is supported by the Ford Foundation.
The Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS) was set up in 2002 to create and promote open spaces for research, communication and dialogue on social justice, sustainable development, pluralism and transparent governance. CCDS works to build knowledge for social change, and to take information for social change out of the seminar rooms and to the people. CCDS's major programmes have included:
www.infochangeindia.org, an award-winning open-access, multimedia resource base featuring thousands of pages of original content on development and social justice in India. Infochange content, built between 2001 and 2013 by a network of over 400 writers and analysts, has informed scores of advocacy movements, campaigns and policy-makers, and been linked, cited and reprinted worldwide.
Infochange Agenda, a print and online dossier that combined background, perspective and data with research and reportage on themes such as migration and displacement, malnutrition, gender and sexuality, urbanisation and urban poverty.
Open Space, a unique outreach process that encouraged citizens — particularly youth — to explore and engage with issues related to pluralism, human rights and sustainable/equitable development. Open Space collaborated with leading writers, filmmakers, artists, activists and academics to introduce young adults to these issues through creative processes such as cinema and literature, as well as through workshops and campaigns.
Anjula Srivastava, Research Associate: Anjula has a doctoral degree in Population Studies from the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai. Prior to joining CCDS, she worked as a research specialist with Saksham, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Round-7, HIV/AIDS Counselling Programme at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has been a visiting scholar at the Centre for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University, USA. She has published in national and international journals, has co-edited a book, Challenges of the Twenty First Century: A Transdisciplinary Perspective (2011), and a journal volume. Her areas of research include gender and labour market; social aspects of HIV/AIDS; and urban poverty and technology.
Hutokshi Doctor: Director, CCDS: A communications professional with over three decades of experience, Hutokshi was a senior editor in mainstream media before electing to work in social change communications. She co-founded CCDS in 2002. She has conceptualised, launched and edited Infochangeindia.org and Infochange Agenda since inception, and conceptualised and guided CCDS’s civil society outreach programmes. She has worked on several communications projects for international and national development organisations and institutions.
Sawankumar Somwanshi, Researcher: Sawankumar has a master's degree in social work, with a specialisation in urban and rural community development. He has an MPhil in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and is working towards his PhD.
Tejal Mahashabde, Research Associate: She has a masters degree in economics from the University of York, United Kingdom. She works as an independent research consultant with different organizations that work in the field of education and socio-economic intervention. She has earlier worked on a project based around reverse migration and returnee entrepreneurs, executed by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in association with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She has also started an initiative called Learner Centric, which aims at generating digital resources for teachers, parents and any other stakeholder associated with school education.
Vinita Datye, Research Associate: Vinita has a master’s in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She began her career in adoption and later shifted to research. She has 15 years of experience in social and health research including public-private partnerships, HIV/AIDS, TB, H1N1, reproductive health and, more recently, in the evaluation of the quality of education in local body-run primary schools.
Technical and admin team
K C Dwarkanath, Finance and Admin Head: Retired manager of a nationalised bank, he has been in charge of finance and personnel at CCDS for over 10 years, building sound financial and organisational systems for the organisation.
Balram Khandare, Administrative and Technical Coordinator: Balram has 19 years of work experience at the National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune, where he worked with administration and computer systems, and as a media associate. He has also worked in the IT sector on quality testing of mobile and web applications.
Vishnu Walje, Office Assistant: Vishnu has been working with CCDS for six years.