The internet was envisioned by its creators as a platform for redefining public spaces by making them accessible to all. Slowly and gradually, it transformed not only how interactions happen but how businesses, schools, and governments function. It has been one of the key drivers of social evolution in the Information Age. The internet facilitates making personal stories globally accessible and global news accessible locally. The entire world is now only two clicks away. In the last year itself due to the pandemic, there was a 70% surge in the usage of the internet.
While technology is touted as a great equaliser, it often exacerbates existing inequalities in the society due to issues related to access and trust. There are about 500 million internet users in India, but in urban areas only 40% of women use the internet and in rural areas, it is estimated that there are only 31% of women users. There remain major concerns around infrastructural roadblocks but the social and power dynamics within families force women to stay aloof from the global marketplace. Additionally, about 60% of women have been at the receiving end of online abuse which also leads most women to extreme agony and about 20% inevitably shut down their social media accounts.
With the increase in internet penetration and usage of technology to access even basic services like education which are needed by all, it has become necessary for the people equipped with the right competencies to enhance digital literacy amongst the citizens. Digital literacy includes but is not limited to assisting people to use computers. It also focuses on building skills required to get necessary information to find a job, set businesses, and join the global community.
Facebook’s “We Think Digital is a global digital literacy program, was announced last year on the occasion of Safer Internet Day, together with the National Commission for Women (NCW), CyberPeace Foundation and Autobot Infosec, within the committed timeline of a year. It aimed at providing digital literacy training to effectively use online resources and grievance redressal mechanisms to 100,000 women across states including, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar.
It was launched initially as the “Digital Shakti” campaign in 2018, under which 60,000 women were trained in digital literacy and online safety across India. On the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2021, phase two of the initiative has been successfully completed. A total of over 167 webinars have been organised and over 105,000 netizens sensitised across India since the launch in 2020.
The training program has been designed with a focus on digital literacy and citizenship, addressing issues around privacy, safety, and misinformation. Digital literacy goes beyond internet access and encompasses the skills required to use information and communication technology in a safe and secure way. The curriculum for the “We Think Digital” sessions focussed on strengthening safety, privacy and identifying misinformation on digital platforms. The sessions were centered around understanding data and digital footprint, responsible online behaviour, fighting misinformation and cybercrime and redressal. The participants were also encouraged to be responsible digital citizens who are cyber aware and think critically about digital discourses with empathy. It also informed people including women on how to be safe in digital spaces. Thus, ensuring users trust in the technology, augmenting user safety and empowering them to make the most of the internet.
Facebook is also working to educate users on how to use web-based tools effectively, safely, and responsibly. It has been working to create a safe online space for its users since last decade through portals such as Facebook Safety Centre, Facebook Parent’s Portal, Facebook Youth Portal, Facebook Bullying Prevention Hub and Facebook Online Well-being Hub.