Digital Citizen Fund
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
The Digital Citizen Fund empowers young women in developing countries by allowing them to succeed in a global market through access to technology and education.
The modern world’s shift to a knowledge-based global economy has made it a necessity to provide women with the essential tools to be active, skilled participants of the digital era—especially in societies where gender inequality and shaky economic development are prominent issues. Digital Citizen Fund centers have trained young Afghan women in critical technology and job skills that allow them a chance to compete in an ever-growing global economy connected by the Internet. To date, more than 10,000 young women have been trained in digital and financial literacy, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a global marketplace, resulting in an improved economy and social environment for their families, communities, and country.
In a developing nation like Afghanistan, where DCF has built 13 IT centers, women are largely denied autonomy. Additionally, with a literacy rate at 31%, an unemployment rate at 40%, and with only 6.8 Internet users for every 100 people Afghanistan, Afghan women face serious disadvantages in entering and competing in the global economy. Even women who are able to enroll in local schools face discrimination, resulting in a scarcity of professional skills. Although digital literacy can directly enable financial independence, access to technology for young women in these countries is limited due to both cultural and resource barriers.
Why our solution will solve the problem:
We empower Afghan women to impact beyond their borders through: Comprehensive training in financial and digital literacy and critical skills training, enabling women to gain the education they need to become professionals. The coursework taught includes ICDL modules, social media, web design, and financial literacy. Assisting in starting, managing and scaling their businesses by helping them with business plans, marketing strategies, and partnerships. Providing an online marketplace to connect with peers, collaborate on ideas, and partner with the local chamber of commerce in each area. This platform also allows them to sell products and services in Bitcoin, expanding economic horizons.
Our target outcomes:
DCF aims to disrupt and eliminate global barriers in gender equality by providing women in developing countries access to the technology and opportunities that have eluded them. Our vision for the future is a world where all women have an equal opportunity and access to technology and education, where everyone has the chance to realize individual potential and acquire the education to make their dreams reality. In addition to further expansion throughout Afghanistan, we’ll extend our program into other countries. By expanding, we’ll ensure that every woman has a voice in her future and the future of her community.
The populations we will benefit initially:
The regions we will benefit initially:
Why our solution is unique:
DCF leverages technology as our core lever for change through our use of IT centers as places of learning and creativity for student entrepreneurship. Programs start with learning computer basics and culminate in student initiated work. Students previously gained both voice and economic freedom by starting their own anonymous blogs, earning Bitcoins for their work. The discrete nature created an outlet for women to write about issues like women’s rights. Following this, and to encourage student entrepreneurship, our online marketplace will enable students to market through a one-stop shop interface, streamlining entrepreneurship and empowering women who have culturally been discouraged.
Why our solution is human-centered:
With the aid provided by DCF, women have a more equal opportunity to be adequately prepared for inclusion in the digital economy. They are effectively equipped with the skills necessary and the social support that they need for collaboration and entrepreneurship. The success of these programs is evident in the many lives that each of these women have individually touched.
How people will access our solution:
DCF’s 13 IT and media centers have provided Internet access to 55,000 people, while over 10,000 women have been trained in digital literacy, financial literacy and entrepreneurship in Afghanistan. In the most recent installment of the program, 100 women launched startups in different industries, and many of these startup companies created 3-5 additional jobs. Current DCF students in Herat have also used their skills to win a national robotics competition, and will be the first team to represent Afghanistan at the FIRST Global Robotics Olympiad in DC.
Technology-Readiness Level:9 (Commercial)
How we will sustain our team financially:
DCF’s operations have been funded through 2 main revenue streams. We build centers with revenue generated by ventures between co-founders, and maintain the level of income reliability with strategic partnerships. We balance our funds with our mission to ensure stability of current programs before taking on new projects. DCF has developed 3 initiatives for revenue. First, revenue streams that align with income generation opportunities for communities we support. Second, a program to generate revenue through recycling electronics. DCF collects e-waste from firms, and our partner assists in data destruction and repurposing the material; 100% of the profit goes to DCF. Through current partnerships we will make one of our initiatives 100% self sustainable by 2017. Third, we are becoming an incubator for our students. In exchange, we ask for 2% of profits. With a cost of $30/student and 2,500 enrollment annually, we are well positioned for stability and growth.
The factors limiting our success:
DCF operates in the uncertain and ever-changing security conditions of Afghanistan. The young women in our program are under great strain living in a country that has experienced extreme violence, so their success is an even greater testament to their fortitude, motivation, and perspicacity, as well as the dedication of our teachers. A recent congratulatory graduation post on the DCF Facebook page, exemplifying these dangers, features blurred faces in group photos for the safety of the students. It is in the face of these significant barriers and threats that Digital Citizen Fund works to empower and educate young women nonetheless.
How long we have been working on our solution:4 years
How long it will take to develop a pilot:12-18 months
How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:3-6 months
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