21 April, 2020:…In an inspiring interaction with Krea students, Osama Manzar shared his experiences of working on the frontlines of COVID-19.
With 10000 foot soldiers spread across 130 districts in 25 states, Digital Empowerment Foundation’s (DEF) on-going Covid-19 Digital Emergency Relief Programme uses digital connectivity and assets to link people in the most rural parts of India with opportunities in the new reality.
Osama Manzar, Founder- Director, DEF brought out the top down disparity in understanding ‘digital’. While the metropolitans are densely connected, DEF works at connecting last mile communities. He added that as urban India speaks of misinformation, privacy and safety security issues pertaining to digital, it’s a critical component in most remote areas of India aiding in education, better access to health, skills and livelihood. The organization also collects data from the ground to facilitate research, policy making and advocacy.
Commenting on the existing crisis, Osama explained how DEF volunteers have adapted to the situation in making it enterprisingly relevant, planning for new opportunities and challenges. They are structured as entrepreneurs and not paid employees of DEF and trained to use the digital assets for connectivity. This in turn has shaped their risk-taking skills. Using digital power intelligently, they have been conducting imperative activities, some as simple as delivering money from banks to houses during the lockdown.
Citing the example of a migrant worker who walked from Delhi to Bundelkhand and was stranded in a jungle, wanting not food but mobile talk time to stay connected with his family, Osama explains, “Value of connectivity and digital assets is not in its globalization, it is in localization.” It’s about how it allows one to connect in a local, geographical and linguist peer group, allowing efficient communication. He also spoke about the importance of local infrastructure and supply chain amid the restricted situations of the now.
He emphasised the need for education to hone leadership qualities, and critical thinking.