Fall 2014, I made a month long trip to Bangalore, India to meet with non profits, NGOs, curators and artists to discuss building bridges between artists and organizations nationally and internationally. I spent one week visiting Hackergram, a bottom up sustainability project, currently located 70 kilometers Northwest of Banglore. Devrayanadurga is a small village of about 200 families. The agricultural community face many challenges that Deepta and Arjun, co-founders of Hackergram, facilitate addressing. I previously met Deepta at Tactical Tech’s info-activism camp in 2013 where we quickly became friends. Deepta’s interest in working with and incorporating artistic and creative methods into Hackergram’s work lead to my visit and the upcoming collaboration between Hackergram and AWAC.
The next series of blog posts are summaries and clips from several interviews I conducted with Deepta and Arjun. This post is about Deepta and Arjun, Hackergram and the work they are doing. The next posts will be about the process and ideas that have lead to our upcoming collaboration.
— Diana Arce
Hackergram is a community-based organization building its second space at the Janastu base camp in Durgadahalli, Devrayanadurga. Founded in 2012 and based first in Bhopal, Hackergram is created out of the desire to create a communal space where people could be themselves, pursue their goals, and work holistically to creative innovative and sustainable solutions for the community.
Meet Arjun and Deepta
Arjun used to in the US selling software to Wall Street, but after moving back to India, he started working with non-profits. He worked mostly on projects that get information out of media dark areas and conflict regions. He decided to co-found Hackergram to make a self-sustainable, community model for these practices. He is a 2014 Ashoka Fellow and a founder of the Mojolab Foundation.
Deepta spent the first ten years of her career training people for corporations such as American Express, IBM and Wipro before co-founding Hackergram to work on issues of bottom up sustainable living and development. In 2013, she met Diana at the Tactical Technology’s Infoactivism Camp in Italy and was inspired by the idea of AWAC.
In 2014, Deepta is working on a multicultural education program eventually to be aimed at children, adolescents and young adults in the communities that host Hackergrams. The program uses the diversity of a Hackergram community to sensitive people to different cultures through direct interaction. At the same time, it also gives people an incentive to pick up language and articulation skills to improve social interaction.
What does Hackergram do?
The technology boom over the last few decades has helped improve social and cultural connectivity throughout the world. However, it has also led to the creation of media dark areas, areas companies deem too rural or unprofitable to install internet or fiber-optic lines. As a result, technology has led to a widening of inequality between technology haves and have-nots.
This is not a problem of having trouble accessing Instagram or Twitter. For communities around Hackergram, a lack of digital connectivity has led to an inability for local producers to access accurate wholesale market prices. This, combined with a language barrier, has led to many community members getting scammed at local markets when selling to wholesale buyers.
In collaboration with local partners, Deepta and Arjun conducted a needs assessment, to find out which services community members were both useful and wanted. Hackergram along with their partners, seeks to integrate some of the benefits of technology and connectivity into the existing practices of town members, rather than disrupting or changing their behavior.
What they found is that many people in the community wanted to learn English and Hindi.The predominant language in the town is Kannada, a local dialect, and there are few opportunities for people not born into the right social standing to learn English and Hindi.
As a result, Deepta and Arjun began a multicultural course at the local school where they not only teach English and Hindi, but also participated in the local culture and arts of the village to understand their behavioral patterns. They have many ideas about possible new projects, such as running movie screenings which use Bluetooth headsets to deliver the sound as to not disturb the local environment and spirit.
AWAC is excited to be beginning a collaboration with Hackergram. Stay tuned for updates!