Coronavirus times have witnessed a noticeable increase in the use of online platforms. The lockdown and inexpensive availability of data have led to an explosion of digital users, without a real understanding of the space, its nature and dimensions. Every day we navigate through various digital platforms, communicate through them and create our own digital worlds without understanding it and without recognising our privileges and obligations. Lack of knowledge of the digital world can pose a serious threat to a user’s well-being. We think that by clicking a few buttons and browsing, we know the world of the internet. However, in this urgency to acquire information, we consume whatever is available without thinking about how one’s digital activities and actions are not only long-lasting but can have an impact on the real world as well.

In order to deepen this understanding and to spread awareness among people, Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation (SMART) in partnership with Facebook undertook a project to train community radio stations on Digital Media Literacy (DML). The objective of the project was to impart media literacy that can help access, analyse, evaluate, consume and create media and equip communities to understand issues of safety, privacy and responsible use of digital platforms.

Digital Gyaan poster.

The focus was on community radio stations (CRs) working in rural and tribal areas of the country so that their communities could get a better understanding of the digital space and enable them to develop critical thinking skills.

 

Towards achieving this end, SMART conducted a series of three webinars from July 22 to July 27 with 35 CR stations spread across India. Spanning over 11 hours, these webinars decoded concepts such as digital footprint, digital identity and reputation, digital citizenship, privacy, positive online engagement and digital safety and security, among other aspects. The idea was to develop aware and informed digital citizens who have the skills of critical thinking, empathy and are respectful of diversity and are informed about their digital rights and digital responsibilities.

Participants at the webinar.

 

The webinars included several engaging activities and exercises with the stations so that they can get clarity on the various concepts of the digital space. Nitika Kakkar, Senior Programme Manager at SMART, led the training of the stations. “The number of digital users in the country is increasing every day, especially from small towns, villages and tribal areas. Their introduction to the digital space is usually through social media platforms, but they are not aware of how their content and visibility is not restricted to (only) one platform. There are many aspects to the digital world that digital users need to be aware of, and that is the purpose of running this program,” she said.

 

The sessions also featured experts of the digital space. Mr. Rohan Vyavaharkar, Director of Marketing & Communications from Omidyar Network India, addressed the stations in the second webinar and emphasised the need to build an understanding of the digital world and the need to change our digital behaviour. “Behaviour change is about awareness, attitude and action. To bring out behavioural changes towards digital privacy, community radios have to track and increase the awareness levels in the communities. They also have to work in changing the attitude of people towards the usage of the internet,” he said.

Rohan Vyavaharkar speaking at the webinar.

 

Dr. Sarayu Natarajan, Founder of Aapti Institute, a research institution working in the field of technology and society, demystified intricacies of digital privacy to the participating stations. “When a company takes data on you without your permission or knowledge, your autonomy over your life is compromised. Does this loss of autonomy mean you have been wronged? These are the questions we need to think about,” she said while speaking to the stations.

Dr Sarayu Natarajan speaking at the webinar.

The stations appreciated the training sessions. Ms. Shamantha from Radio Sarathi Jhalak said the sessions were practical and result oriented. Mr. Bhaskar Bhuyan from Radio Brahmaputra called the webinars interactive and engaging.

 

After the training, the stations have been making programs called ‘Digital Gyaan’ to sensitise their communities on the digital space and broadcasting them regularly. A total of 175 programmes will be produced and broadcast on ten relevant themes.

 

Komal Sharma,

Programme Manager

SMART