June 17, 2024

Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), in partnership with Center for Development Policy and Practice (CDPP), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad, Broadband India Forum (BIF) and Internet Society (ISOC) Hyderabad Chapter, organised the 5th Digital Citizens Summit (DCS) on 2nd, 3rd and 4th November 2023, at T-Hub, Hyderabad. This year, we are proud to have collaborated with the Government of Telangana and T-Hub, India’s pioneering innovation ecosystem.

This year’s Summit focused on addressing crucial topics related to internet governance, human rights, and the future of the internet. The global multistakeholder Summit with the theme being, ”Commoning the Internet for a Vibrant Democracy“, brought together diverse voices and perspectives of tech- and social innovation experts, academicians, practitioners, Civil Society Organizations, and stakeholders from the government who are working towards building inclusive, sustainable, and contextual models and solutions of digital technology and social innovation, and envisaging an equal digital future for all.

The theme highlights how digital is gradually taking over our lives. If the internet is compared at the several stages of evolution in the last three decades, following questions and concerns emerge:

  1. Is the internet helping in strengthening democracy or eroding democracy?
  2. Has technology fallen into the hands of a few tech giants?
  3. Are governments using the internet as a tool to control its citizens?
  4. Has the transformation of various public goods and human interactions into platforms led to a negative impact on society such as increased circulation of unreliable information, including misinformation and disinformation, hate speech, surveillance, false narratives, and unsafe engagement in online spaces?
  5. The internet we know is hardly common. It is elitist. It is English. It is unaffordable. It is expensive. It is patriarchal. How do we build commons?

With the stated objectives, we welcomed hundreds of participants and guests, coming from diverse backgrounds and walks of life, including students from several schools, colleges and universities, IT professionals, tech experts, fact checkers, journalists, startups, academics, NGOs among many others, all fervently dedicated to exploring the convergence of digital technology and society. The Summit showcased keynote speakers, research presentations, and workshops conducted by organizations in the allied fields working towards strengthening the digital ecosystem.

The main objective of bringing diverse voices to this platform has been to offer different and valuable perspectives on the digitization challenges faced by India and other nations, striving for a more inclusive and just society. The Summit was held with the aim to stimulate collaboration, foster innovation, and enhance our collective understanding of the digital era.

Day 1: 2nd November, 2023

ACADEMIC PRESENTATIONS

The first day of the summit was dedicated to Paper Presentations. Selected papers are to be published in a Special Issue in the Journal of Development Policy and Practice, a testament to the Summit’s dedication to advancing knowledge in the field. Journal of Development Policy and Practice aims to document and discuss the process of development policy formulation, its practice, and outcomes, bridging the gap between scholarship and practice, and reflecting on the relationship between theory and application of public policy. The papers to be published in the Special Issue will cover various topics ranging from Data Ownership, Data Protection, AI Regulations, AI Dark Patterns and Digitisation of the Indian Judiciary System to Platformised Unionism, Problems faced by Transgender persons in the Digital Age and Minority surveillance. The authors of these papers were from diverse backgrounds & esteemed organizations in the country.

The paper presentations commenced with a lineup of speakers, including Prof. Abdul Shaban from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Mr. Ashhar Farhaan, Founder of Lamakaan, Ms. Maitreyi R Kollegal, an Educationist & Development Management Trainer, and Prof. Anirban Dasgupta from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad.

The presentations in this session covered diverse dimensions of the influence of digital technologies on Indian society and governance.

  1. Dona Mathew, Digital Futures Lab, shed light on “Datafication in Indian Justice System,” emphasising concerns about AI introduction into the legal industry, particularly highlighting issues related to bias and judicial independence.
  2. Lovansh Katiyar, NITI Aayog, explored “Platformised Unionism for Socio-Economic Inclusion,” examining the potential of platformisation in India to empower the workforce and promote social inclusion.
  3. Syed Asif Ali Zaidi, Article 21, delved into “Technological Policy Interventions in MGNREGA and Workers’ Right to Employment,” focusing on the impact of technology on MGNREGA and its implications for workers’ rights.
  1. Shrishti Sinha, Digital Empowerment Foundation, conducted an “Ethnographic Study of Social Engineering Attacks Among the Rural Populace,” with a keen focus on gender disparities and data privacy concerns in rural India.
  2. Firasha Shaikh, Center for Study & Research, analysed “Digital Technologies as a Means of Regulation and Control: Muslims in the Surveillance City of Hyderabad,” examining the use of digital tools for surveillance in Muslim-majority areas and its effects on privacy and discrimination.
  3. Bindaalakshmi K., Independent Researcher, studied “Debunking the idea of single (digital) identifier: The case of identification documents for transgender persons in India,” discussed the challenges that transgender persons in India face in changing their name and gender on their identification documents.

The session concluded with a dedicated Q&A time for attendees to engage with presenters, exchange thoughts, and pose questions on the insightful topics discussed. The subsequent session continued the momentum with an equally compelling set of presentations:

  1. Aakansha Natani, IIIT Hyderabad, explored “Who Owns Data?” by discussing emerging debates on data ownership, distribution, and protection in digital democracies.
  2. Krishna Deo Singh and Anupriya, OP Jindal Global Law School, Tilburg Law School, addressed “AI Generated Persuasion and the Regulatory Void in Indian Law,” highlighting the impact and regulatory challenges of AI-generated persuasion and dark patterns.
  3. Agnidipto Tarafder and Aniruddh Vadlamani, OP Jindal Global Law School, explored the potential impact of EU AI regulations and lessons from the GDPR on data regulation in India.
  4. Nanda Rajiv, IIIT Hyderabad: Reviewed Stephen Weymouth’s book on “Digital Globalization,” discussing its influence on global economies and technology.
  5. Intifada Basheer, IT for Change: Analysed the “Bias in the Algorithm” in AI-based face recognition technology, focusing on its ethical and legal implications on minorities in India.
  6. Ranjini C R, Bangalore University: Advocated for “Localizing Public HIS” by introducing the subsidiarity principle in digital health for improving health outcomes in low and middle-income countries.

Overall, the symposium served as an intellectual platform for comprehensive discussions, providing valuable insights into the multifaceted impacts of digital technologies on society and governance in India. Participants left with enriched perspectives on research methods and a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding technology integration and its effects on various aspects of life.

After the presentations, the day moved ahead with a comprehensive discussion involving local and global experts in technology, public policy, and development. The discussion named ‘Access to Rights and Rights to Access – In Conversation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)’ was moderated by Mr. Osama Manzar, the Founder-Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation. The panel included figures like Ms. Ayesha Rubina, Mr. Ashhar Farhan, and Mr. Saeed Mirza. Professors from various universities were also in attendance.

The discourse shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of technological advancements in India and worldwide. Participants deliberated on the evolving role of digital technology, which has transitioned from being optional and alternative to becoming an indispensable necessity over the past two decades. The discussion underscored the integration of digital access into various facets of life, spanning from policy implementation to fundamental rights. While technology has connected some, it has distanced others, revealing both its significant benefits and vulnerabilities. Striking a balance between utilisation and avoidance was deemed crucial to maximising positives and mitigating negatives.

The panel drew attention to the worrisome shift in the reliability of information, the prevalence of online hatred, and the alarming instances of financial breaches. They underscored that both connected and disconnected segments of society are experiencing dissatisfaction. Renowned director and scriptwriter, Mr. Saeed Akhtar Mirza, pointed out that the increasing isolation driven by technology is a recurring concern, significantly impacting human interactions and community engagement. The constraints on discussing sensitive topics due to online censorship and the gradual erosion of the sense of communal belonging were emphasised as distressing societal consequences. He expressed the view that technology is transforming individuals into robots, where every thought is dictated by external influences, depriving people of opportunities to gather, speak, and even think independently!

Moreover, the diminishing robustness of wired networks, contrasted with the rapid rise of wireless connections, partially attributed to the push for 5G technology, was a subject of discussion. The panelists emphasised the diminishing concept of the ‘commons’ in the digital age and the relentless promotion of an individual-centric society, further isolating individuals from a collective identity. This situation has reached a point where families and communities are becoming less relevant while international considerations are gaining importance, causing local aspects to fade and global elements to emerge. Establishing meaningful connections is crucial for survival, yet it is becoming increasingly challenging to nurture successive generations. Contrary to expectations, the escalating use of technology is bringing about more challenges. Studies indicate a rise in the number of cases involving children with special needs. Therefore, there is a call for regulating mobile usage, and children must be educated to differentiate between fictional shows and cartoons and real-life situations.

Technology is the medium through which the population of ‘global citizens’ is increasing. The absence of an online presence is equating to a complete lack of presence. While recognizing the positive transformations brought about by technology is crucial, there is a pressing need to address the associated threats, particularly regarding the safety of online spaces for girls in India. The emphasis was placed on individuals taking collective responsibility for leveraging technology for the common good. Concerns were raised about the collaboration between politicians, corporations, and the media in shaping narratives. The participants expressed that while posing questions is essential for driving development, there is a lack of scrutiny directed towards the nature of these questions. Technology, viewed as formless and uncompassionate, has positioned humans in a subservient position. The upcoming challenge resides in understanding and imparting how technology should be utilised, as the ‘digital’ evolution started with technology, transitioned into a medium, and has now evolved into an ‘oxygen’ source that is being contaminated, inhaled, and causing harm.

The discussion was concluded by Dr. Ashhar Farhan, who acknowledged the formidable influence of market forces and technology in shaping today’s world and the transformative nature of technology from a mere tool to a fundamental societal necessity. The discussion illuminated the growing complexities of the digital era, calling for a collective and conscientious approach to navigate these evolving landscapes while also raising pertinent questions about the role and responsibility of individuals in this rapidly changing technological ecosystem.

Day 2: 3rd November, 2023

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

Welcome Note by Dr. Amir Ullah Khan Research Director, Centre for Development Policy & Practice (CDPP)

The Digital Citizen Summit commenced with Dr. Amir Ullah Khan, the Research Director at the Centre for Development Policy and Practice, setting the stage with a warm welcome and contextualizing the summit at the opening session. He emphasised that the aim of the summit was to discuss the issues around digitization and citizenship; the issues that gravely concern the country today.

Keynote Address by Chief Guest, Mr. Shri Jayesh Ranjan, lAS Principal Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications (ITE&C) and Department of Industries & Commerce

The Keynote Address that followed was delivered by Mr. Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary of the Department of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications (ITE&C), and Department of Industries & Commerce, Government of Telangana, from 10:05 AM to 10:15 AM.

He delved into the initiatives that the Government of Telangana has taken to use digital technologies to reduce the day-to-day inefficiencies of the disadvantaged factions of Telangana, especially in agriculture.

A Plenary Session on the theme “Commoning the Internet for a Vibrant Democracy

Panelists:

Mr. Shri Jayesh Ranjan, IAS Principal Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications (ITE&C) and Department of Industries & Commerce,

Ms. Sonia Jorge Executive Director, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership

Dr. Shiv Kumar Principal Advisor, Broadband India Forum

Mr. Nikhil Dey, Founding Member, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

Mr. Kunal Kamra, Stand Up Comedian

Ms. Kavita Iyer, Editor, Article 14

Moderated by Osama Manzar, Founder-Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

This set the tone for the day, paving the way for the Inaugural Plenary Session, which had eminent panelists speaking on this year Summit’s central theme of ‘Commoning the Internet for a Vibrant Democracy.’ The session, held from 10:15 AM to 11:30 AM, featured prominent speakers, including Mr. Jayesh Ranjan, Ms. Sonia Jorge, Dr. Shiv Kumar, Mr. Nikhil Dey, Mr. Kunal Kamra, and Ms. Kavitha Iyer. The discussion, moderated by Osama Manzar, Founder-Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, delved into how the world is becoming increasingly digitised, and that we are all forced to become digital citizens. Given this situation, how do we build an inclusive and equal digital future for all?

The inaugural panel located digital citizenship in the democratic constitutional framework and re-instated that even in digital spaces if a citizen’s fundamental rights are violated, they should be able to approach the Supreme Court. Given the landscape of digitization in India, the policies that rely on digital architecture are moving faster than the connectivity in households. Consequently, when Aadhaar is made mandatory in schemes like MGNREGA or Aadhaar-based systems, it further excludes the marginalised population, especially women.

Even for those who have access to the internet when they come onto platforms like Instagram or YouTube, they would have to deal with community guidelines set by these corporations. These platforms lack independent bodies that fact-check and hence they rely on government orders, which means people on these platforms are subjected to control by private tech giants and governments.

Exhibition, Launch & Tea

Museum of Digital Society – Story of Digital Development in India Mr. Srinivas Rao Mahankali, CEO, T-Hub Smt. and Deepthi Ravula, CEO, WE-Hub

Following this enlightening plenary session, the Summit took a creative turn with the launch of the Museum of Digital Society and the unveiling of the ‘Story of Digital Development in India.’ Mr. Srinivas Rao Mahankali (CEO, T-Hub) took the stage, providing insights into the digital evolution as well as the tech and innovation ecosystem of Telangana. Tea was served as delegates and participants explored this innovative exhibition.

Following the launch of the exhibition, parallel sessions unfolded at four different locations within the venue, each offering a unique perspective(s) on digital rights and development.

Panel Discussion: ‘Going the Extra Mile’

By Broadband India Forum, Broadband India Forum (BIF) functions as an independent policy forum and think-tank that works for the development & enhancement of the entire broadband ecosystem in a holistic, technology-neutral, and service-neutral manner.

Panelists:

Dr. Sarat Chandra Babu, Chairman, BIF Committee on Cyber Security

Dr. Madhuri Dubey, Founder Director, National Skill Network

Mr. Rama Krishna Nelli, PGM (NGN), BBNW, BSNL Hyderabad

Mr. KK Thakur, Advisor, Global Cyber Peace Foundation and Ex-Chief General Manager, BSNL

Moderated by: Dr. T Hanuman Chowdary, Advisor Global Cyber Peace Foundation

This session was about broadband connectivity in India, it presented statistics of how broadband connectivity has increased over the years but claimed that the figures were still lagging in an India that we imagine as digital. The session provided solutions on how broadband can become affordable in the country.

Today, the country can use broadband to help people in villages earn livelihoods and Common Service Centers, establishing such centers can help one person earn Rs. 25,000-35,000. This can also help solve the migrant crisis. We can also imagine digitally connected Self Help Groups (SHGs) like we have seen in China; this will help people gain market share and increase their networks.

Key outputs: We need broadband that is readily-available and affordable even though currently in India broadband’s costs are lowest. Broadband is paving a path for India to become an information and knowledge society. Broadband connectivity can also help in telemedicine, education, and crime control.

Panel Discussion: ‘Peeking into the Future of Development’

By Centre for Development Policy & Practice (CDPP)

Centre for Development Policy and Practice is an independent and non-partisan organisation working to influence public policy with a focus on the development of minorities. It is involved in research, advocacy, training, and outreach to disseminate its research findings.

Panelists:

Dr. Abdul Shaban, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai Vijaya B Marisetty, Professor Fintech and Financial Analytics, University of Hyderabad

Dr. Anant Maringanti, Geographer, Urban Expert and Director, Hyderabad Urban Labs

Ms. Kalpana Ramesh, Founder, The Rainwater Project

Moderated by: Dr. Amir Ullah Khan, Research Director, Centre for Development Policy & Practice

The conversation began by addressing the importance of understanding land use, water availability, and aquifers. Dr. Kalpana Ramesh emphasised the role of technology in grasping the basics of water availability and addressing mismanagement issues. Despite the substantial data collected by government departments, questions were raised about its practical impact and the potential for technology to bridge the gap between communities and research.

The discussion transitioned to urbanization concerns, highlighting the prioritization of modernity over the inherent nature of the land. Challenges in balancing development and environmental conservation were underscored, with Mr. Anant Maringanti stressing the need to invest in young minds exploring ways to overcome constraints for a better future.

The panel linked technology with democracy, emphasizing that easier access to information through digitization can enhance the democratic process. Infrastructure, including telephone lines and accessibility, was deemed essential for successful digitization. The session stressed the importance of the technology-democracy cycle, wherein information leads to knowledge, action, and empowerment, playing a pivotal role in the democratic process.

Key outputs: The discussions covered a spectrum of issues, from water scarcity and urbanization challenges to the role of digital technology and artificial intelligence in ensuring inclusive development. The key takeaway emphasised a holistic approach involving technology, democracy, public participation, and actionable steps to achieve desired development outcomes.

Workshop: ‘Why is Evidence Important?’

By Campbell South Asia Campbell South Asia is Regional Centre for the Campbell Collaboration. Campbell Collaboration’s National and Regional centres (NRCs) are responsible for promoting Campbell in their respective regions, encompassing activities like organising trainings, garnering media coverage, and publishing Campbell products.

Speakers:

Dr. Bhumika TV, Director General, Campbell South Asia

Dr. Swati Mantri, Consultant, Evidence Synthesis Specialist, Campbell South Asia

This workshop was designed as a masterclass. The investigation methods discussed in the workshop with activities enabled an understanding of how an EGM makes available evidence across different sources and in identifying the research gaps or dearth of evidence in any given research area. It focused on investigating methods and understanding how evidence, through activities, reveals gaps in research areas. Discussions covered steps, software, and the role of evidence in topics like gender, digital empowerment, trafficking, migration, and climate issues.

The workshop served as an initial step for researchers to learn the methodology. Audience questions centered on coding, methods, and research techniques, with speakers providing brief explanations and examples related to systematic review techniques.

Key outputs: The masterclass highlighted the need for visual data analysis to understand what research has already been done in the intersection of technology and health and where research is needed. This workshop provided the participants alternative ways to find a research gap and dedicate their efforts where it is required.

Panel Discussion: ‘Tech4Good-AgriTech’

MXR.world (Mixers across the World) is a hybrid media platform for showcasing innovations. The combination of physical events and online platforms delivers unique value to innovators, investors, and ecosystem enablers.

Panelists: Shalini Kala, Rural Development and Agriculture Specialist

Ashhar Farhan, Founder, Lamakaan

This exciting mixer brought together the brightest minds in AgriTech to explore how technology is revolutionizing agriculture and improving the lives of farmers and communities. Discovered cutting-edge solutions that address pressing agricultural challenges, promote sustainable practices, and empower digital citizens. It was an opportunity of networking, learning, being inspired by the tech for good movement and shaping the future of agriculture in India and beyond.

The session highlighted the main problems that challenge an AgriTech startup, emphasis was placed on the agriculture still being rain-fed and uncertain conditions. A start-up owner needs to keep these challenges in mind and anticipate them by putting in their research.

Key outputs: India’s diverse landscape and large populations creates an opportunity and possibility for a variety of crops. As people’s income and standard of living rises, there is a noticeable shift towards costlier goods like millet. In this ecosystem, people need to actively work towards bridging the gap between investors and agriculturalists to understand where good investment opportunities lie.

Lightening Talk: ‘We, the Digital Citizens of India’

By Harsh Mander, Writer and Peace Advocate

The Summit broke for a Networking Lunch, providing participants with the opportunity to engage and share insights. The afternoon continued with lightning talks, featuring thought-provoking topics such as ‘We, the Digital Citizens of India’ by Mr. Harsh Mander, where he spoke about the need to revisit the pledges of our constitution and Indian democracy through the digital lens.

Harsh Mander reflected on whether we have a sense of fraternity and mutual belonging in digital spaces. As our government is rapidly digitizing, we need to ask ourselves if we are excluding more people than we are including.

Lightening Talk: ‘Repair as Urban Development Ethic’

By Dr. Anant Maringanti, Geographer, Urban Expert and Director, Hyderabad Urban Lab

Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL) Foundation is an interdisciplinary research and action initiative based in Hyderabad.

Anant Maringanti shared experiences related to housing challenges in Hyderabad. The focus is on the importance of repair and maintenance over constant innovation. The speaker highlights the lack of support for self-built housing and the shift from state-supported housing to market-driven solutions. The consequences of neglecting repair, such as inadequate infrastructure leading to health issues, are discussed. The talk emphasizes the need to prioritize repair in urban planning and policy considerations for sustainable development.

Lightening Talk: ‘Perceived Perception of Aadhar’

By Vineetha Venugopal, Digital Rights Researcher

In the talk, challenges in Aadhaar-based services were discussed. A major issue is fingerprint mismatch, reported by 60% of Service Providers (SPs), affecting the elderly, disabled, and children. The demand for streamlined allocation of ration, pensions, and scholarships without authentication barriers was emphasised. Delays in One-Time Passwords (OTPs) due to weak mobile connectivity, insufficient enrolment centers in rural areas, and long waiting times were highlighted as concerns. While 62% perceived reduced corruption with biometric checks, 13.16% noted bribery demands at enrolment centers. The positive impact of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) in rural areas, especially for vulnerable groups, was acknowledged for its convenience in eliminating travel and queues associated with traditional banking. AEPS through banking correspondents was deemed beneficial for illiterate individuals struggling with form-filling at banks.

Lightening Talk: ‘Internet Shutdowns: Selective banning of content on OTT platforms’

By Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC)

Speaker:

Syed Mohammed Haroon, Research Fellow, SFLC

This talk showed that India has lost 255.2 million dollars in six months of 2023 due to internet shutdowns. Just in the last year, India has had the highest number of shutdowns in the world even compared to the war-torn countries. Consequently, people lose their independence, learning opportunities, and livelihood. Supreme Court has emphasised that the government can only use internet shutdowns as a last-resort and hence we need to explore selective banning as an alternative.  

Panel Discussion: ‘Is your News Lying to You?’

Parallel Room 1 (5th Floor) Launching the book ‘Truth and Deception in the Digital Age: Navigating the Culture of Misinformation: An Anthology’ curated by Osama Manzar and Dushyant Arora by Digital Empowerment Foundation

Panelists:

Osama Manzar, Founder-Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Harsh Mander, Writer and Peace Advocate

Shruti Jahagirdar, Author

Arun Teja, Author

Pankaj Pachauri, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Go News

Pothuru Vamsi, PhD Scholar 

Moderator: Dushyant Arora, Preamble Advisors

The session ‘Is Your News Lying to You?’ saw the launch of the book ‘Truth and Deception in the Digital Age: Navigating the Culture of Misinformation: An Anthology’ curated by Mr. Osama Manzar and Mr. Dushyant Arora.

The book has attempted to capture how misinformation has affected various factions of our everyday life ranging from mental health to our political systems and overall threatens our democracy. Fake news online has real consequences that translate into our offline lives for example the 2017 WhatsApp killings. The sessions helped participants understand that the biases we hold in offline lives in our society and communities, further seeps into our online worlds as well. The session also quoted the roots of misinformation in the legitimacy of the country of Palestine in the Parliament.

Key outputs: Fake misinformation feeds into our existing prejudices and hence while we focus on our online world, we also need to address the deeper problems in our civilization. Tech giants like Apple have been able to build empires due to profits earned due to such misinformation.

Panel Discussion: ‘Let’s Account for DPDP’

By Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Social Accountability Forum for Action and Research (SAFAR)

Panelists:

Mr. Pranvendra, Mr. Khush, Ms. Rakshita, Mr. Naurat, and Mr. Chatar Singh.

MKSS is a People’s Organisation and part of the growing Non-party political process in India. The MKSS works with workers and peasants in the villages of Central Rajasthan. 

SAFAR is a collective of activists, researchers, and development practitioners. We work at the interface of the state, law, and society to deepen institutions and practices of social accountability and improve access to welfare rights.

The speaker emphasizes the importance of public information, particularly related to government spending and resource allocation. They argue for transparency to prevent misuse of public funds and highlight the need for public access to information, citing instances where this has exposed corruption. Additionally, they discuss challenges faced by the underprivileged, such as difficulties accessing digital systems for services like pensions. The speaker touches on the privacy debate, advocating for a balance that prioritizes public interest over individual privacy in matters of public concern. They also raise concerns about data security and government accountability.

The session also invited beneficiaries who shared their experience of being at the receiving end of the digital architecture and highlighted the challenges that they face.

Key outputs: The session added to the existing discourse on the conflict between the Right to Information Act and the Digital Personal Data Protection Act that amends the first Act taking away the citizen’s right to know where their money is being spent and if government spending is being allocated as promised.

Panel Discussion: Rooting for Change Through Internet

By Aadiwasi Janjagruti

Aadiwasi Janjagruti is an initiative by Ulgulan for Social Change Foundation, which is working on Social Justice, awareness, and entitlements in Dhadgaon block of Nandurbar Maharashtra through mobile video films.[1] It allows tribal people to highlight their issues in Pawari, Bhilori and Aahrani language by using citizen Journalism.

Speakers:

Nitesh Bhardwaj, Co-founder, Aadiwasi JanJagruti

Rakesh Pawara, Co-founder, Aadiwasi JanJagruti

The session commenced with an introduction of Aadiwasi Janjagruti, an initiative by the Ulgulan for Social Change Foundation, actively engaged in promoting social justice and awareness in Maharashtra’s Dhadgaon block. Speakers detailed their efforts at the grassroots level, emphasizing the critical role of the local community in nurturing leaders and the significance of hyperlocal journalism for positive transformations.

During the Q&A session, key questions were addressed. One inquiry focused on the organization’s future trajectory, to which the speakers clarified their commitment to development while acknowledging the freedom of volunteers to contest elections. Another question explored the community’s trust in the organization, which the speakers attributed to active local participation. In response to a query about financial stability, the speakers shared the organization’s self-sustainability over the past five years and recent support from sources like the Google News Initiative and APPI, contributing to ongoing operations and growth.

Key outputs: The session highlighted Aadiwasi Janjagruti’s strong focus on development, supporting volunteers in cultivating ethical leadership. Community trust is attributed to active local participation. Financially self-sustainable for five years, recent support from Google News Initiative and APPI adds stability. The speakers emphasised hyperlocal journalism’s impact on local issues and misinformation, affirming the organization’s commitment to positive social change through media.

Panel Discussion: Your Mirror Speaking Against You, Search and Seizure of Electronic Devices

By Software Freedom Law Center

SFLC is a donor supported legal services organization that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, students, and technologists to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.IN promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make Free and Open-Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice The main objective of this intervention is to help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.

Panelists:

Adv. Prasanna S, Advocate on Record, Founder and Trustee at

Article 21 Trust

  1. Q. Maqbool, RTI Activist and FTR Activist

Moderator:

Syed Mohammed Haroon, Research Fellow, SFLC

In discussions on digital rights, speakers addressed concerns about potential law enforcement overreach in electronic device searches. The lack of transparency raised worries about privacy violations. The key takeaway was the need for a balanced legal framework, considering national security and individual privacy, with clear guidelines and oversight for search and seizure powers.

During Q&A, the audience sought insights into real-life scenarios of electronic device searches and safeguards. The panel stressed the necessity for improved frameworks outlining safeguards and rights, providing a checklist for individuals to preserve their rights.

Key outputs: The growing prevalence of electronic devices and the extensive data they store presents a notable challenge for law enforcement agencies. It highlights the importance of establishing clear and consistent legal guidelines for the search and seizure of electronic devices. To address this, law enforcement agencies should develop standardised procedures for these operations.

Museum of Digital Society: A VISUAL STORYTELLING SESSION hosted by Digital Empowerment Foundation Showcasing digital and technological development through digital tools in India through the T-Works Expo

The late afternoon featured a visual storytelling session at the ‘Museum of Digital Society: Story of Digital Development in India,’ hosted by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF). The Museum of Digital Society aims to serve as a testament to the transformative narrative of DEF’s 22-year journey of digital empowerment and digital development in India.

The Museum of Digital Society served as an interactive space, chronicling the transformative journey of the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) over the past two decades. Through diverse media, including publications, digital innovations, ground stories, archival documents, and tablets, the museum aimed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of digital inclusion in 24 states and 135 districts across India. The primary objective was to commemorate and celebrate DEF’s 20-year journey, showcasing key milestones, projects, and initiatives that highlighted DEF’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and empowering marginalised communities.

The museum served as an educational hub, offering insights into the power of digital inclusion through interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, and real-life success stories, inspiring individuals, organizations, and policymakers to contribute actively to the mission of digital empowerment.

During the Digital Citizen Summit 2023, the Digital Empowerment Foundation along with Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), Centre for Development Policy and Practice (CDPP), and Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) also showcased their work through knowledge products, publications, and experiential presentation for the audience.

The day concluded with a showcase of digital and technological development through the T-Works Expo. T-Works is India’s largest fully integrated hardware prototyping center, an initiative of the Government of Telangana, aims to create and celebrate a culture of hobbyists, makers, and innovators in India; who explore and experiment without the fear of failure. This was followed by the presentation of startups and technology innovations at by T-Hub.

Panel Discussion: ‘Digital Rights & Wrongs: Dialogue with a Sufi on Society’s Quest to Digital Culture Conversation

Panelists:

Mr.  Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Indian Screenwriter and Director

Ms. Elahe Hiptoola, Indian Film Producer and Former Actress, and

Mr. Osama Manzar, Founder & Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation.

The evening took a cultural turn with ‘Digital Rights & Wrongs: Dialogue with A “Sufi” on Society’s Quest to Digital Culture’. This informal, artistic, and cultural dialogue explored the evolution of digital technologies and their impact on society, culture, and the arts, particularly in the context of cinema and films.

The conversation featured Mr.  Saeed Akhtar Mirza, acclaimed for films like Naseem, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, and more, bringing a unique perspective to Digital Citizen Summit. He authored the novel, “Ammi: Letter to A Democratic Mother”. He was joined by Ms. Elahe Hiptoola, Indian Film Producer and Former Actress, and Mr. Osama Manzar, Founder & Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation.

The conversation delved into the misuse of digital platforms as administrative tools for control and governance through data. Mirza raised alarms about cultural shifts tied to digital adaptation and emphasised the plight of those digitally marginalised. Coordinating through WhatsApp, the discussion drew parallels between digital interactions and the platform’s susceptibility to spreading false narratives, propagandist politics, and disinformation, contributing to the increasing toxicity of the digital space.

The Summit concluded with a Cultural Folk Performance and Dinner, featuring Marsukola Kalavathi and troupe who sang about misinformation, providing a delightful end to a day filled with insights, discussions, and cultural celebrations.

Day 3: 4th November, 2023

PANEL DISCUSSIONS

Welcome Address by Mr. Osama Manzar, Founder-Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

The stage was set for the day with a warm welcome by Mr. Osama Manzar, Founder-Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation.

Panel Discussion: ‘Responses to Online Gender-Based Violence: Creating Safe Spaces Online’

By the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC)

SFLC is a donor supported legal services organization that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, students, and technologists to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.IN promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make Free and Open-Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice The main objective of this intervention is to help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.

Speakers:

Aatman Vaidya, Full Stack Engineer, Tattle Civic Technologies

Bishakha Dutta, Programme Lead, Point of View (POV) Suroor Mander, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist

The panel discussion aimed to share diverse experiences addressing instances of OGBV in India from legal, civil society, and technology perspectives. Each speaker discussed their engagement with survivors and considerations for seeking redress through law enforcement. Examples included Point of View’s awareness sessions, Tattle Civic Technologies’ browser plugin for filtering violent online content.

Emphasizing collaboration, the speakers acknowledged that addressing only one aspect is insufficient. Suroor Mander highlighted resilience as crucial for survivors when navigating redressal hurdles. The panel’s main takeaway: responses should prioritize the survivor’s perspective, urging different stakeholders to collaborate for a more just environment.

Key outputs: The session highlighted the need for multi-stakeholder actions, not limiting to discussions but to ensure implementation at the ground level.

Workshop: ‘Hacking Digital Gender Norms’

By Point of View (POV)

Point of View is a Mumbai-based not for profit that works on changing social norms, mindsets, and cultures around gender, sexuality, and violence that keep women and gender minorities in permanent states of inequality

Speakers:

Afrah Umapathy, Communications Associate, POV

Debarati Das, Co-lead, Capacity Building, POV

The session emphasised that gender norms impact our digital lives, affecting women, queer, and trans individuals online just like offline. It argued that solely relying on technology will not create a feminist internet, calling for agency and autonomy. During the Q&A, the audience shared personal experiences and perspectives on case studies. Some challenged the session’s message, citing examples where phone use in their households was not gendered. However, discussions revealed nuanced situations, such as a father having a second work phone. The gendered privilege of access raised questions about privacy needs. Another attendee highlighted women’s limited access in rural India, leading to a discussion on how patriarchal structures restrict digital freedom, even among breadwinners. The dialogue exposed the subtle yet powerful impact of gendered expectations and fears on digital autonomy.

Key outputs: The audience’s lived experiences do reflect that one’s gender and sexuality have a strong influence on a person’s usage of digital technologies. Through anecdotal evidence, it was understood that women, girls, and people of marginalised genders approach digital spaces with caution. Prejudices against women, girls and people of marginalised genders that exist in our physical world also translate into our digital experiences.

Masterclass: ‘Peeping into Practices, Policies, and Platforms’

By Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST)

ISST has been consistently working towards bringing social change with a focus on livelihood and well-being of vulnerable communities. It attempts to bring to the center stage and address gendered dimensions of labour.

Speakers:

Ms. Anweshaa Ghosh, Research Fellow and Program Lead, Institute of Social Studies Trust

Ms. Kritika Goel, Research Consultant, Institute of Social Studies Trust

As the participants were new to the topic, clarificatory questions arose regarding the platform economy. The discussion delved into the worker rights of platform workers and the policies ensuring their rights and governing platforms.

During the Q&A session, participants asked clarificatory questions about worker rights, safety, and policies, particularly focusing on women platform workers.  The speakers addressed these concerns by explaining the diverse safety mechanisms available to women platform workers, noting variations across platforms, and sharing the experiences of women using these mechanisms. They highlighted the importance of approaching any issue with a gender and intersectional lens.

Key outputs: The audience was introduced to the gendered asymmetries of power and how it plays out in the gig economy. It mainly helped the participants to put on a gender and intersectional lens in understanding gendered experiences of the platform economy and work at large.

Panel Discussion: ‘We are Just Collecting Your Data’

Book Launch: Conversations on Data Justice in India: Combatting Algorithmic Exclusions and Building Fairer Frameworks, edited by Osama Manzar, Jenny Sulfath & Ananthu RA          

By Digital Empowerment Foundation

Panelists:  

Nikhil Dey, Author

Rakshita Swamy, Author

Shaik Salauddin, Author

Srinivas Kodali, Author

Ananthu, Research Scholar, IIT Delhi

Deepak P, Author

Rahul Panicker, Author

Nikita Sonavane, Managing Trustee and Co-Founder Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project

Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership

The session made a case to advocate for the exclusion of public data from legal discussions on data privacy, exemplified by the impactful Right to Food campaign and the Right to Information Act. This campaign utilised transparency about subsidised food recipients to shed light on misallocation and corruption, fostering public awareness and engagement. The strategic use of publicly available information underscored the importance of transparency in specific contexts to hold institutions accountable.

The imperative to differentiate between personal and public data is underscored by three fundamental questions: Does withholding information empower or disempower me? Does it enhance or hinder my pursuit of justice and dignity? Does it obscure or reveal the utilization of public resources? In the Indian context, all data is inherently imbued with caste distinctions, emphasizing the need for the de-brahmanisation of data, extending beyond mere decolonization efforts. This entails conducting a caste census to understand resource distribution and scrutinizing existing data, including criminal records, for caste-based patterns, acknowledging the pervasive impact of caste on all data.

Key outputs: Despite its initial aim to empower people, systems like Aadhar have fallen short, particularly in reaching intended beneficiaries and lacking transparency in data usage. The discussion highlights the disparity between claims and actual outcomes in the context of social security distribution. The adverse effects of algorithmic capitalism on workers underscore the need for legislation to hold platforms accountable. Simultaneously, there is a call for more international discussions akin to this one, recognizing the global relevance of addressing these issues.

Public Hearing: ‘Digital Technology in Governance and Social Exclusion’

By Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and SAFAR

MKSS: Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, (MKSS) is a People’s Organisation and part of the growing Non-party political process in India. The MKSS works with workers and peasants in the villages of Central Rajasthan.

Speakers:

Paras Banjara, State Coordinator, SAFAR

Nikhil Dey, Founding Member, MKSS

Rakshita Swamy, Founder, SAFAR

The session invited gig-workers from Rajasthan to understand the experiences of the people who work for the gig-economy. The session highlighted how traditionally offline roles have been transformed through digitization.

In the rapid age of digitization, gig-work has emerged as a flexible and comfortable option for many, especially the youth. However, platformised work is not as glamorous as we have been led to believe. The workers are stripped of their titles as ‘workers’ and called ‘partners’ by tech corporations to avoid giving them the benefits that every full-time worker should have.

Key outcomes: Through narratives, the session explained how gig workers are stripped of their autonomy when it comes to their profession and the actual role of tech and the engineers in creating and disturbing gig work which is inherently disadvantageous to the worker.

Panel Discussion: ‘Mission Alignment – Women as Leading Digital Transformation Agents’

By Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)

Ms. Aindrila Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, Institute of Management Technology

Ms. Sowmya Kidambi, CEO and Director, Barefoot College

Mr. Deepthi Ravula, CEO, WE-Hub

Dr. Saleema Razvi, Senior Research Economist, Copenhagen Consensus Centre

The session began with a panelist sharing experiences from 18 years in government and later as a college director. Key points included the distribution of 1.4 million mobile phones for women, highlighting challenges in patriarchal norms and emphasizing the need for digital financial literacy.

The conversation underscored the broader understanding required for women entrepreneurs in the digital space and stressed the role of women as transformation agents. Personal narratives from women in network engineering and digital literacy illuminated the transformative power of acquiring digital skills.

The session concluded with the launch of a report on empowering women entrepreneurs and gratitude for on-the-ground efforts. The session seamlessly transitioned to the next segment.

Key outputs: The need for digital financial literacy for women was emphasised, suggesting that current efforts in this regard were inadequate. Furthermore, the conversation pivoted towards a broader understanding of the potential of women entrepreneurs in the digital realm.

The panelists stressed the role of women as agents of transformation and the critical importance of creating role models. They underscored the necessity for demonstrating tangible financial outcomes to showcase the impact of digital skills training.

Workshop: ‘A Deep Dive into Digital Technologies for Livelihood Promotion

By Institute of Livelihood Research and Training (ILRT)

The Institute of Livelihood Research and Training (Formerly, The Livelihood School) is a practice based academic institution promoted by Basix Social Enterprise Group, a livelihood promotion conglomerate, for knowledge management on livelihood and related issues.

Speakers:

Mr. Alok Pradhan Country Business Head, Basix Farmers Market (BFM) Bhartiya Samruddhi Investments and Consulting Services (BASICS) Ltd.

Mr. Chakradhar Gandhe, Delivery Head – Transformation Projects, Samunnati Agro Solutions Pvt. Ltd

Mr. Sasidhar N. Thumuluri, MD & CEO, Sub-K IMPACT Solutions Ltd

ILRT hosted the session to explore how livelihood institutions incorporate digital practices. It discussed the shift from physical to technology-enabled lending, emphasizing the importance of technological solutions like digital assistants. Prof. Ghosh underscored the need for considering business models and highlighted regional dynamics’ impact on business. The session concluded that digital apps offer broader reach, but organizational and staff buy-in for customer-centric changes is crucial.

Prof. Ghosh highlighted technology’s role in enhancing efficiency and effectiveness, emphasizing the importance of aligning business models, practices, and systems for scalable impact. He highlighted the integral presence of front-end, back-end, and data teams that generate intelligence, which seamlessly integrates into markets. A notable instance is the NBFC sector, where a digital platform connects 6,000 FPOs and 7 lakh farmers, showcasing the transformative power of digital connectivity.

Key outputs: The discussion on transitioning from physical to tech-enabled lending underscored the significance of solutions, such as digital assistants, to bridge generational gaps. Emphasizing regional dynamics, business models, and executives’ role in engaging with farmers, the session concluded that, although digital apps have extensive reach, prioritizing customer-centric changes is vital. It was emphasised that technology offers choices, and successful adaptation hinges on attitudinal change.

Panel Discussion: ‘Digital Strategies for Justice-Changemaking in India’

By Law For All, Ashoka

Ashoka Law for All Initiative (LFA) searches, selects, and supports both established and young social entrepreneurs innovating to make the legal system more accessible, inclusive, and effective in India. LFA is equipping such social entrepreneurs in the law and justice sector with resources and networks.

Panelists:

Osama Manzar, Founder-Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Nikita Sonavane, Managing Trustee and Co-Founder, Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project

The panel delved into CPA Project/DEF’s work, emphasizing the cultivation of on-ground leadership and strategies employing digital technology for justice. Discussions highlighted overlooked economic injustices and varying perceptions of justice. The use of AI in policing, particularly in marking crime hotspots, was explored, prompting a call to reassess the current institution of policing. Strategies to counter tech failures were discussed, with an emphasis on administrative/policy challenges and the value of community fact-finding over CCTV. The overall takeaway emphasised the intricate interplay between technology, justice, and community empowerment, advocating for a reevaluation of existing frameworks and community-driven approaches.

Key outputs: The panel highlighted the often-overlooked economic injustice, emphasizing that achieving justice is more expensive for the poor than the wealthy. They underscored the oversight in neglecting poor infrastructure as an injustice, urging consideration of the costs and difficulties in accessing entitlements.

Lightening Talk: ‘Reimagining Legal Systems’

By Mr. Atreyo Banerjee, Agami

This workshop focused on the importance of seeing law as a site of innovation. Historically, the law had been used as a vehicle to support justice causes, but the problem had rarely been reframed to view the law – legal systems in particular – as sites ripe for innovation. Following this, the workshop used examples of technologies available in open source that harbored the potential to radically reimagine the way legal systems operate. Using India as an example, the workshop highlighted the importance of innovating in sectors such as law, which saw negligible innovation, and shed light on how this innovation was not the mandate of one organization but was a community-led, managed, and built effort.

Key outputs: The session focused on catalyzing ideas that serve justice, building networks for collective impact, and developing digital public goods to increase innovation. Agami’s initiatives include supporting online dispute resolution, fostering the AI ecosystem for justice innovations, and advancing digital courts.

Panel Discussion: ‘The Future of Internet and Cybersecurity Concerns’

Panelists:

Ms. Reetwika Banerjee, Corporate Cyber Security Strategist & President of Public Safety & Security Council, Bengal

Mr. Tamal Kanti Mukherjee, Founder MD of FHCC and Director – Operations & AI Strategy

The panel discussion addressed the escalating cybersecurity challenges in an increasingly digitised world. Reetwika Banerjee emphasised a multi-layered defense strategy, including encryption, audits, and employee training. Tamal Kanti Mukherjee highlighted AI’s role in enhancing threat detection and response capabilities but cautioned against sole reliance on it. They navigated topics such as data privacy, regulatory compliance, and ethical AI use, encouraging collaboration among stakeholders to strengthen cyber defenses. Their dialogue underscored the need for proactive measures and inclusive approaches to address evolving cyber threats while leveraging the transformative potential of the internet securely.

Panel Discussion: ‘Arts for Social Change: A Conversation with A-Code Members’

Panelists:

Mr. Swaraj Shetty, Co-founder, Khaana Chahiye Foundation

Mr. Ashwini, Co-founder, Travellers’ University

Mr. Govind, Founder, Protsahan India Foundation

Speakers talked passionately about their organization, explaining the important work they do and the positive changes they have made so far. They did not just focus on their successes but also shared the tough challenges they faced in their important missions. They were honest about the real situations on the ground that shaped their efforts.

The speakers told stories that highlighted the many different aspects of their organizations, showing a strong dedication to solving real-world problems and making a noticeable impact.

Moreover, the speakers talked about the resilience needed to handle the complex situations they deal with, recognizing that their work is always changing. By openly discussing challenges, they showed not only a readiness to face difficulties but also encouraged cooperation and learning among the audience. Overall, the session provided a genuine and thorough exploration of the organizations’ goals, accomplishments, and the complex challenges they encounter in their meaningful work.

Key outputs: During the session, speakers raised fundamental inquiries about the role of organizations in promoting social change through the arts. The focus is on understanding how these organizations can actively contribute to bringing about positive societal transformations through the medium of art. The term “social change” implies a conversation or discourse centered around the language or communication related to societal transformation. The questions posed likely revolve around how organizations can leverage the arts to address and influence social issues, fostering positive change in the community or society at large.

Lightening Talk: ‘Facts in an Opinionated Age’

By Ms. Kavitha Iyer, Editor, Article 14

Article 14 occupies a unique space among India’s digital news publishers, with a thrust on careful research and nuance rather than speed and immediacy. This talk focused on how they presented old-fashioned reporting, including from difficult-to-access regions in rural India, for the digital news consumer—fused with academic rigor, using digital tools, social media, etc. The discussion covered the role of digital journalism as a digital documentation of events, the creation of digital archives of events during a challenging time for the news industry, and Article 14’s focus on facts and data, undistorted by opinion.

The talk included a segment on Article 14’s database of sedition cases as an investigative repository for the public, and the role of independent media in a time of press freedoms being curtailed, exemplified by their work from Kashmir.

Lightening Talk: ‘Digitizing Crime: Everyday Policing in Madhya Pradesh’

By Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project

The Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPA Project) was founded in 2020 as a litigation, research and capacity-building intervention committed to ending the casteist policing and criminalisation of marginalised communities by the criminal legal system.

Speakers:

Nikita Sonavane, Managing Trustee and Co-Founder Criminal Justice and Police

In this session, the speaker discussed their work examining arrest records, particularly First Information Reports (FIRs), to uncover patterns in police targeting. They revealed a notable trend of police predominantly focusing on individuals from specific communities for relatively minor offenses like gambling and liquor-related activities. Moreover, a concerning pattern emerged where a single complainant, often a police person or informant, filed multiple cases against numerous individuals. This overrepresentation of certain communities in the prison system raised questions about the broader implications of police practices.

The analysis provided valuable insights into micro patterns, highlighting which communities were disproportionately charged for specific offenses. Contrary to common perception, the speaker pointed out that a significant portion of police efforts was directed toward addressing low-level offenses rather than high-profile cases like sexual violence. Overall, the session aimed to challenge preconceptions about police work and draw attention to the potential overcriminalization of specific communities for minor infractions.

Lightening Talk: ‘Internet in Nepal’

By Nepal Internet Foundation, Bikram Shreshta, Founder, Nepal Internet Foundation

This session delved into the digital development scenario in Nepal, highlighting a substantial increase in internet penetration, particularly through mobile networks, which has significantly enhanced digital connectivity and information access. Despite this growth, rural areas still grapple with accessibility challenges, underscoring the need for an expansive internet infrastructure. The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) plays a pivotal role in overseeing the digital realm, focusing on areas like data protection, privacy, cybersecurity, and content regulation.

The government is actively promoting e-governance initiatives to enhance service delivery and transparency. However, there are persistent challenges, including narrowing the digital divide, augmenting, and modernizing digital infrastructure, fostering digital literacy, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. Nepal is on the brink of a continued digital transformation, with collaborative efforts from the government, private sector, and civil society to formulate policies aimed at improving access, addressing regulatory hurdles, and leveraging the potential of the digital economy.

Given the dynamic nature of the digital landscape, it is crucial to recognize that policies and regulations may undergo changes to adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities over time.

Report Release & Lightening Talk: ‘Everyday Impact of Internet Shutdown – Manipur Case Study’ Report by Digital Empowerment Foundation

By Ms. Jenny Sulfath, Research and Communication Manager, Digital Empowerment Foundation

In this discussion, the participants shared their experiences and perspectives on the impact of internet shutdowns. They highlighted instances where internet access was disrupted due to social unrest and protests, leading to difficulties in various aspects of life, such as education and job applications. The speakers also touched upon the role of technology infrastructure, monopolies in the telecommunication sector, and the need for public outcry to address the recurring issue of internet shutdowns. The conversation emphasised the broader implications of denying communities their basic right to communication and the importance of rethinking governance structures to prevent such disruptions in the future.

Participatory Dialogue: ‘Women’s Rights, Welfare, and Digital Technology’

Speakers:

Shaik Salauddin, Founder, IFAT

Rakshita, Founder, SAFAR

Gender Transformative Digital Policy

By Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP)

The Global Digital Inclusion Partnership is a coalition of public, private, and civil society organizations working to bring internet connectivity to the global majority and ensure everyone is meaningfully connected by 2030.

Speakers: Sonia Jeorge, Executive, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership

This participatory dialogue session was designed for participants to learn and share knowledge on gender transformative policies, primarily through case studies and first-hand experiences. It challenged participants to select a policy from their own country or context and discuss how it could be improved to tackle the digital gender divide.

Participants responded well to the presentation, which included an overview of the gender divide in India and elsewhere in terms of affordable meaningful connectivity, and introduced the REACT framework as a method to address the several policy concerns limiting opportunities for women and girls. Discussions focused on actions that participants can take to influence policy as well as the restrictive realities faced by women and girls in India society.

Key outputs: Participants raised several issues, shared experiences, and provided some suggestions as to how they have or could influence change, in terms of policy, but mostly in terms of creating opportunity, and facilitating women’s use of technology. They were introduced to and learned how to apply the REACT framework. Policy-makers learned how they can choose specific areas to influence and impact with a simple reminder of the concrete issues to address.

Workshop: ‘Open-Source Software for Public Goods’

By ISOC Hyderabad Chapter

The Internet Society supports and promotes the development of the Internet as a global technical infrastructure, a resource to enrich people’s lives, and a force for good in society.

Speaker:

Ramkaran Rudravaram, Vice President, IOSC Hyderabad

In this session, the speaker discussed the concept of digital public goods, including open data, open-source software, artificial intelligence, and open content. The focus was on the importance of shared resources and collaboration between civil society and governments. The speaker emphasised the prevalence of mobile phone usage in India and the impact of technologies like UPI and Aadhaar in simplifying transactions. Challenges related to internet access, affordability, and the need for continuous connectivity were also addressed.

The session aimed to promote digital citizenship through paperless transactions, easy money transfers, and ownership of personal data. The speaker acknowledged the progress made by India Stack in achieving these goals while highlighting the ongoing challenges.

Key outputs: The overarching goal of the session was to promote digital citizenship, emphasizing principles like paperless transactions, easy money transfers, and personal data ownership. While acknowledging India Stack’s limitations, the speaker noted notable achievements in enhancing digital services and transactions.

The Summit continued with a collective discussion on the highlights and future directions, led by Mr. Osama Manzar. The concluding session – The ‘Road Ahead: Digital Citizen Summit’s Highlights and Collective Discussion on Future of the Digital Citizen Summit’ featured Dr. Amir Ullah Khan, Prof. Vijay Bhaskar, Prof. Rekha Pandey, Mrs. Sonia Jorge, Ms. Ayesha Rubina, Mr. Bala Prasad Peddigari, Mr. Vijay Nadiminti, and a book release titled “New Challenges for Indian Muslims: Beyond Citizenship Concerns” edited by Dr. Amir Ullah Khan and Nahia Hussain.

The day wrapped up with an expression of thanks, marking the successful culmination of the 5th Digital Citizen Summit 2023.