How Pratham InfoTech Foundation is making marginalized communities digitally literate
In a digital world, there are several people who still do not have access to necessary digital tools, andhas been working tirelessly since 2004 to bridge this digital divide and spread digital awareness and literacy.
The internet has made life so much easier for everyone. From shopping to education, the internet has brought the world to our fingertips and brought us closer to people who are away. But, the digital divide is very real, and there are several people around the country who do not have the access to digital tools to enhance their skills.
Pratham InfoTech Foundation (PIF) is a non-profit organisation that works towards bridging the digital divide, facilitating the adoption of information technology in education, and equipping disadvantaged youth with the skills, tools, and capabilities that the new global economy demands. Founded in 2004, the non-profit organisation has reached out to over 1 million children through direct intervention and over 10 million children in partnership with various state governments.
Origin of a non-profit organisation
Co-founded by Prem Yadav and Rajesh Thokale, PIF was founded with an aim to train the youth in digital literacy and soft skills, thus equipping them with employable skills and connecting them to relevant jobs in the market.
Prem says that the idea behind the organisation was to reach out to marginalised communities and provide them with access to digital technology in the educational sector. “Since 2004, we have taken up a project in low-income private schools and government schools. At the same time, we also work in the community to train youth so that they can gain good employment in the emerging economy,” he says.
He says that when they started off in 2004, they noticed that most people belonging to marginalised communities did not have any access to technology. He adds that the idea was to provide the marginalised communities with access to technology so that they could also take full advantage of the benefits that technology has to offer.
PIF offers various programs like Computer-Aided Learning, Digital Literacy as Life Skill, India Digital inclusion, and My E-School to spread digital literacy, and bridge the digital divide. These programs cater to various age groups and help students understand the importance of digital tools in the modern-day.
Prem says that he is proud of PIF for reaching millions of children and youth through its website and product. He says students can reach them easily through their products, and their website has played a major role in making them more accessible.
USP and growth
Prem says that the USP of the non-profit organisation is the fact that they train local youngsters, 70 percent of whom are women. “After training, the trainees run the programmes in schools and the community, and their role is defined as community leaders so that they can contribute to their society,” he adds.
Speaking about how the organisation’s website has helped them grow, Prem says that it has helped them increase their user base, and spread the news of their work to every corner of the country.
Prem says that even though they couldn’t avail the .com domain, choosing the .in domain did not disappoint them, as it stayed true to their mandate of targeting the Indian people. He adds that they selected .in domain in order to be a part of the Indian success story.
Speaking about the challenges that they faced while starting off, Prem says that access to technology was non-existent then, and the cost of hardware procurement was very high. He adds that finding and managing manpower to work for the marginalised communities was also difficult.
Prem says that in order to solve the manpower challenge, they started training the youth of the local community so that they could take over as trainers and contribute to the growth of their community. He adds that they also tied up with major multinationals, who chipped in to help them with the procurement of hardware and other donations.
Looking forward, Prem says that PIF dreams to create a 100 per cent digital literate India. “We have contributed to not more than 1 per cent of the population of the country, and throughout the pandemic, we reached about 10 million people through our initiatives and other digital tools, but our target is to reach every single student out there who needs to be educated. Our aim is not just to tie up with schools, but also with different non-governmental organisations, as well as commercial organisations,” he concludes.
The Shaping India Inc's Online Growth series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.