CIS-A2K/Events/Roundtable on Digital Access

The Centre for Internet And Society (in association with Meta) is conducting a series of roundtable conversations across the country on the role of digital technologies and online platforms in governance, communication, cultural production, access, safety and everyday life. These discussions seek to serve as a platform for grassroots organisations, cultural institutions and various regional stakeholders to highlight their experiences and concerns with, and needs from web-based tools and platforms. These discussions also help facilitate discussion between Meta and these organisations on the role of social media platforms in building safer online communities, facilitating access to information and much more. A Roundtable discussion on the theme of ‘Digital Access’ for various CSOs, stakeholders Bhubaneswar, Odisha was organised after three successful events about ‘Misinformation and Disinformation’ (Bengaluru), ‘Digital Governance’ (Pune) and ‘Digital Cultures’ (Bhopal).

The proposed key questions for discussion were:

  • What does the internet look like for people? Is their language represented on the internet?
  • Has the multilingual nature of knowledge websites reflect the concerns and needs of the respective communities? Does the content facilitate the processes on ground?
  • Has the ability to deliver and receive education improved? What has been the experience with EdTech products?
  • Government and industry are massively engaged in digital transformation of healthcare delivery. What are the changes being felt on ground?
  • How easy or difficult is it to access capital for businesses and individuals?
  • How are digital systems and user flows designed to accommodate the needs of first-time internet users, disabled persons, young adults? Do they empower or disempower?
  • Protocols such as ONDC have enabled development of less-exploitative commerce platforms such as Namma Yatri and Yatri to serve the average auto rickshaw driver. This has been transformative. What are CSOs’ thoughts on this?

Participants edit

  1. Tushar Dash - Independent Researcher
  2. Y. Giri Rao - Vasundhara
  3. Akhila Bihari Ota - Retd. Secretary ST & SC dept
  4. Arun Prasad Dehudi - Aviyan
  5. Chinmayee Mishra - Odia Wikimedian
  6. Dron Chandrakar - Foundation for Ecological Security
  7. Shilpi Rath - Aaina
  8. Sangram Senapati - Odia Wikimedian
  9. Ramjit Tudu - Santali Wikimedian
  10. Jayanta Nayak - Jagruti
  11. Abijeet Patro - Wikimedia Foundation
  12. Raj Kishore Das - Vasundhara
  13. Nilamani Mahapatra - Vasundhara
  14. Premanand Panda - Retd Director, SCSTRTI,
  15. Antim Alok Saraf - CYSD
  16. Ranjita Patnaik - Vasundhara
  17. Manali - Vasundhara
  18. Nihas Das - Vasundhara
  19. Prativa Ghosh - Vasundhara
  20. Debashish Pradhan - Vasundhara
  21. Ranjan Rout - Consultant
  22. Nityanand Rai- Vasundhara
  23. Jagdanand - CYSD
  24. Rakhi Ghosh - Journalist
  25. Gargi - Journalist, Sambad
  26. Rajendra Hota - Consultant

Discussion edit

Differently-abled individuals faced hurdles accessing government facilities during the pandemic, encountering fingerprint mismatches and outdated Aadhar details. To enhance digital literacy, proposals include integrating consent, digital rights, and privacy into basic education. Website accessibility improvements are urged, emphasizing user-friendly interfaces in regional languages. Tailored digital education methods for diverse age groups are advocated for relevance. Aligning technology with regional cultures is stressed, recognizing the importance of local requirements. Open-source platforms are recommended for community data ownership and transparency. Essential services, easily accessible during emergencies, are highlighted. Initiatives like Citizen Assistance Centers and Internet Saathi aim to boost digital literacy. Balancing offline and online portals for surveys is suggested for rural inclusivity. Concerns about the widening gap between technological advancements and public awareness are raised. Local context consideration is underscored for effective technological implementation. Digital access, while simplifying processes, necessitates safeguards against increased dependency and transparency loss. Common service centers need improvement in facilitating government services. Grievance redressal mechanisms require enhancements for better communication and issue resolution. In remote areas with limited internet access, digital challenges risk 'Digital Slavery,' emphasizing the urgent need to address disparities.

Recommendations edit

  1. Tailored Digital Skill Modules: Develop customized training modules for specific needs, such as e-governance for government officials, project monitoring for Panchayat Raj members, and online fundraising for NGOs. This ensures the training is relevant and directly applicable to each stakeholder group.
  2. Common Digital Platform: Design a centralized, user-friendly platform in regional languages that integrates training materials for various stakeholders. Ensure cultural sensitivity in visuals and language to enhance accessibility and engagement.
  3. Community-Centric Research Studies: Encourage and support small-scale research studies focused on identifying community-specific challenges. This approach fosters a bottom-up problem-solving strategy, tailoring solutions to the unique needs of local communities.
  4. Awareness and Community Engagement: Leverage local media and community spaces for disseminating information on digital initiatives and schemes. This not only raises awareness but also promotes community engagement and ownership of the digital skill-building program.
  5. Gender-Sensitive Digital Spaces: Incorporate modules on online safety and create supportive digital environments that encourage women's participation. Address and alleviate gender-specific concerns to ensure inclusivity in digital spaces.
  6. Clarity of Technology's Intent: Develop training content that emphasizes the practical applications and real-life examples of technology. Ensure users understand the purpose and positive impact of technology on communities, fostering clarity of intent.
  7. Inclusivity and Accessibility: Design educational content considering both physical and cognitive disabilities. Ensure digital infrastructure is accessible to all, promoting an inclusive learning environment that accommodates diverse needs.
  8. Digital Safety and Security Advocacy: Integrate modules on digital safety and security. Advocate for robust data protection policies at the policy level to assure confidentiality and build trust in digital platforms, encouraging greater participation.
  9. Policy-Level Changes for Rural Areas: Advocate for policy changes that address specific challenges faced by last-mile users in rural areas. This ensures equitable access to digital services and fosters an environment conducive to digital skill development.
  10. Technology as a Tool, Not a Solution: Emphasize in training that technology is a medium, not an ultimate solution. Encourage the development and adoption of need-based technological solutions, promoting a nuanced approach to technology use.
  11. SEO-Friendly Government Websites: Advocate for better SEO practices in government website design. This ensures that citizens can easily find relevant information on top search engine results, improving accessibility to government information online.
  12. Mass Digital Literacy Programs: Implement and scale up digital literacy programs targeting diverse groups, including youth, SHG women, and senior citizens. This ensures broad-based inclusion and societal progress through widespread digital literacy.
  13. Digital Governance Under Forest Rights Act: Develop digital tools and platforms rooted in local languages and practices for better governance under the Forest Rights Act. This promotes inclusivity and community involvement, empowering local communities through digital access.