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Digital Inclusion in Rural India


Apna Empowerment Platform

Digital Inclusion in Rural India



Graduate work
Advised by Aynne Valencia
6 weeks, 2017

my role

Experience Designer
(solo project)


Design research
Interaction design

the participation divide

As internet availability is addressed and smartphone penetration increases, rural India is gaining access to the internet. However, villagers are finding little value in having access and are not taking advantage of being connected to improve their livelihood. This is often referred to as the Participation Divide. Two primary reasons for the Participation Divide uncovered are (1) lack of relevant content and (2) lack of contextualization.


Opportunity & hypothesis

In understanding the needs of Rajasthani villagers, research uncovered a gap in access to information between the local government, the Panchayat, and villagers, as well as between villagers of neighboring villages. The opportunity became: How might we enable villagers in rural Rajasthan to have access to the information they need to improve their livelihood?

The hypothesis is that closing this information gap through a digital service will bring value in access to the internet. With content created at the hyper-local level, villagers will be encouraged to participate online.


concept: a Knowledge sharing platform

Apna aims to be a platform in which village communities are empowered to access and share meaningful information through a positive digital experience. It is a district-centric knowledge base that allows villagers to ask questions locally and get valuable answers. It is also connected with the local Panchayat government enabling the community to be better informed and have a voice in local matters.

It is designed to be a Progressive Web App to adapt to the environment of rural Rajasthan.


relevant & contextualized

Apna is designed to account for environmental and cultural norms of villages, thereby encouraging participation and reducing barriers for villagers to take advantage of the platform.



connection to panchayat

Villagers have a voice in local matters that directly affect their family. 


Conscious Data Use Preferences

Prepaid data is expensive. Conscious data use settings allow users to control when to use their data to refresh content. 


Offline First

Being offline is more typical than being online. Apna is designed for such environments where draft posts are automatically saved, time of last update is clear and the user is still able to browse cached information while offline.


Reducing Barriers for Women to Participate

SECONDARY OPPORTUNITY: How might we make conscious design decisions that will reduce barriers for women to take advantage of the platform?

Women rarely own their own phone and are typically discouraged from using technology in rural areas, often with considerable harassment. Apna uses avatars rather than personal profile photos and allows multiple users to use a single account. 

Local Panchayat government office

Local Panchayat government office