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India's Journey towards Comprehensive Digital Literacy

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Internet is a platform for every individual to share, exchange, discuss and debate their views and opinions. Over the years it has undergone many changes. Today, the internet is not just about how interactions occur, but also about how corporations, schools and governments operate as well. It undoubtedly has become one of the main forces in the information era of social transformation.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, there has been a 70 percent rise in the usage of the internet last year. While it is esteemed as a great equalizer, internet access often aggravates existing societal inequalities. For instance, while there are approximately 500 million internet users in India, only 40 percent women in urban areas and 31 percent women in rural areas use the internet. The social and power dynamics within families force women to stay aloof from the global marketplace. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of the women experience online abuse, resulting in extreme agony and about 20 percent of them shut down their social media eventually.

With the rise in internet penetration and usage of technology, even the basic services like education, which is needed by all, is increasingly becoming a thing of the internet and it has become necessary for the people to be digitally literate to even ensure the right learning conditions for their children. .

"Digital literacy is not about assisting people to use the computers alone, but also strives on building skills required to get necessary information while finding jobs, setting up a business and join global communities.

Facebook sheds light towards a solution to the aforementioned predicaments in the digital age; through We Think Digital – a training program designed with a focus on digital literacy and citizenship, addressing issues around privacy, safety, and misinformation. We Think Digital was announced yesteryear on the occasion of Safer Internet Day, in partnership with the National Commission for Women (NCW), CyberPeace Foundation and Autobot Infosec. The program was first launched in Uttar Pradesh and about 300 women were trained.

Initially it was launched in 2018 as the Digital Shakti Campaign, where 60,000 were trained in digital literacy and online safety. Now, the phase two of the initiative has been successfully completed on the occasion of Safer Internet Day, 2021. Over 167 webinars were organized, and 105,000 netizens were sensitized across India since its launch in 2020.

Digital literacy, however, goes beyond internet connectivity and includes the skills required in a trusted environment to use information and communication technologies

The training program is devised to give prior importance to digital literacy and citizenship, addressing issues centering privacy, safety and misinformation and will provide digital literacy training to more women across seven states including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. The program’s workshops emphasize on improving protection, privacy and detecting misinformation on digital platforms, while the sessions also concentrate on data and digital footprint awareness, responsible online behavior, countering disinformation and cybercrime.

Currently Google India’s Internet Saathi Program and Microsoft’s YouthSpark are already existing digital literacy programs aimed at empowering women in the rural areas. The Internet Saathi Program was launched as a pilot project along with Tata Trust in 2015, and its objective is to empower women in the rural areas on how to use the Internet. It now covers 2.6 lakh villages across 20 states.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark Program was designed for developing digital skills of unemployed youth and marginalized women, and it also has a program to improve skills of weavers in north eastern states.

Digital literacy, however, goes beyond internet connectivity and includes the skills required in a trusted environment to use information and communication technologies. Participants were motivated to learn about cyber conscious digital users and to think critically about empathetic digital discourses.

At present, Facebook is collaborating to educate users regarding how to utilize web based resources safely, securely and responsibly. Past last decade, it has been focusing on constructing a safe online environment for its users through portals such as Facebook Safety Centre, Facebook Parent’s Portal, Facebook Youth Portal, Facebook Bullying Prevention Hub, and Facebook Online Well-being Hub.

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