One of IFF’s core areas of work is civic literacy and public advocacy—in what seems like a constant barrage of content, how do we engage with and educate our community? We do so through a combination of events, memes, infographics, and explainers. This strategy relies on humanistic communication that recognises that emotion is at the heart of any debate on technology and constitution. We don’t think that complex issues need to be simplified, just better engaged.
Providing a convening value to the Digital Rights Community
In 2022, we were lucky to be able to host in-person events and engage with our community beyond virtual spaces.
On 27 August 2022, we hosted Privacy Supreme, our annual event that commemorates the landmark Right to Privacy judgement, in Bangalore and over 300 of you showed up! We had a panel discussion on the question: “Can technology defend privacy?” with Mahima Kaul, Uthara Ganesh, Kailash Nadh, and Gaurav Godhwani, moderated by Prateek Waghre. Our second panel with Usha Ramanathan, Aakar Patel, and Abhinav Sekhri discussed the future of privacy in India.
IFF, in collaboration with Newslaundry, hosted the first edition of Impolite Conversations, our annual event that brings together senior journalists and lawyers to discuss the media landscape, on 10 September 2022 in New Delhi. We hosted three sessions that featured speakers like Neha Dixit, Chander Uday Singh, Kalpana Sharma, Abhinandan Sekhri, Pratik Sinha, Rebecca John, Sonam Gupta, Vakasha Sachdev, Hartosh Singh Bal, and Vrinda Grover. A successful outcome of our joint event with IT for Change and Bharat Krishak Samaj occurred when the Agriculture Ministry invited the core organisers to consult on the proposed India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (“IDEA”) and the AgriStack.
In addition to our in-person events, we also hosted several virtual events that allowed community members across India to attend. Including quarterly calls with members and donors and briefing calls for members and donors on
- Criminal Procedure Identification Bill 2022
- CERT-In Directions 2022
- Draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022; and
- Draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022
We also collaborated with various experts and stakeholders as a part of our series “IFF in conversation with”. This included a session with Anupam Guha, a session with gig workers, a session in collaboration with the WCLA on random phone checking by the police, a session with Dr Murali Shanmugavelan and Aarushi Kalra on caste and technology, and an Instagram Live with Human-Computer Interaction research fellow at Microsoft Research, Sukhnidh Kaur. We hosted two Twitter Spaces as a part of our work on the Digital Patrakar Defence Clinic on sedition on social media and the ‘Sulli Deals’ incident. In addition, we also conducted an online event on reporting on Facial Recognition Technology as a part of Panoptic Talks.
Wins in the long game for digital rights
IFF’s work on digital communities received an Honorary Mention in Prix Ars Electronica 2022. The award recognizes IFF's efforts of integrating culture with civic literacy and advocacy of digital rights in India, including our work on the cost of internet shutdowns in India, AI-enabled voice assistants and surveillance, and Pegasus, among other things.
Chaotic memes for clean teens (and everyone else interested in digital rights)
From telling the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to reply to our SMS, to a pithy commentary on the frequency of arbitrary internet shutdowns in India with a little help from our good friend Usher and celebrating SRK’s birthday, we've had our fair share of viral memes this year. As much as they are an opportunity for a good time, IFF’s memes work because they use human emotions – everything from humour to fury – to deal with and make sense of the often frustrating state of digital rights in India today. At the very least, we want you to crack a smile, but what we really hope is that such content inspires greater reflection on and engagement with pressing issues in the tech policy space.
After the memes comes the furious Googling:
While ‘Elno’ may think that Twitter needs 4000 character tweets, we still think there’s something to be said for an infographic that tells you everything you need to know in a short and crisp way. This year we used infographics to tackle some of our community's most urgent questions— such as the infographic we made on linking your Aadhaar to your Voter ID, which found its way to some surprising places, and DigiYatra.
What’s new in 2022?
As IFF continues to find its unique voice, in 2022 we developed a new and more coherent thematic design language for all our output.
- We also created uniform templates for all our reports and publications after multiple iterations. This includes our policy submissions, public briefs and parliamentary updates. Sure, we do not have the resourses of global think tanks, but that does not mean IFF’s work cannot shine!
- In collaboration with Doosra, IFF created a long form video series, Privacy 101, that tackles all the ins, outs, ups and downs of privacy. Additionally, we also made videos on the IT Rules Draft Amendments, the CERT-In Directions 2022, the impact of facial recognition technology and internet shutdowns.
- Last year, we promised that we would create more civic literacy materials in languages other than English and we are delivering! We partnered with Tactical Tech on “Project Translate: The Glassroom”, which focuses on making their digital literacy materials available in Indian languages. This project will be launched early next year in Hindi and Malayalam.
What’s next in 2023?
Next year, we will be making a big change to our civic literacy strategy with the addition of a dedicated video vertical that will spearhead the process of IFF becoming a video-first organisation. As social media platforms (and the world!) pivot towards video-based content, in 2023, we will focus our efforts on using video as a medium to share our work. We will also be launching a revamped website that will be better designed, easier to navigate, and more accessible. We also hope to launch the IFF Wiki. Both these projects are made possible by the work of our tireless volunteers who contribute their time and effort to IFF.
Reviewing the Numbers
We received a total of INR 1,04,45,377 in donations from members, one-time donors, and organisational donors this year. Our total costs for the year were INR 97,72,211, most of which we spent on staff salaries (85%) and operational costs (15%). Our membership base grew from 190 to 309 this year, while at the same time we saw a decline in one-time donations from individual donors.
About half of our expenses per month were met by contributions from individual Indian donors, while the other 50% was covered by donations from organisations. We appreciate the contributions from Doosra, Sensibull, SaaSBOOMi, the Onward Foundation, No Grey Area, and Frankly Wearing. We also received a grant from UNESCO as a part of the Global Media Defence Fund for our work on the Digital Patrakar Defence Clinic. To increase individual giving this year, we hosted two fundraisers. In May, we focused on raising INR 30 lakhs and signing up 100 new members. We were able to raise INR 16 lakhs and sign up 66 new members. In October, LiveLaw hosted a fundraiser for us to help us meet our expenses for the month, through which we were able to raise INR 3.8 lakhs.
Overcoming challenges and what lies ahead
We largely operate on a retail fundraising model that prioritises individual giving. This year, we faced several challenges that hindered our ability to grow our fundraising efforts, particularly with achieving technical stability for our payment processes and donor management systems. In the coming year, we will take steps to resolve these issues. Also, due to concerns from our community, we also introduced Cashfree as an alternate payment platform to Razorpay.
As always, none of our work would be possible without the support of our members and donors. Achieving financial stability remains one of our biggest organisational priorities and we would appreciate all the support we can get! The central challenge for us is financial stability and senior leadership. Our organisational targets for staffing and talent have been met with increased costs. Our fundraising results show lag. We have a monthly burn rate of 40-50% (individual donations in 2022 on average INR 4,00,998 and costs INR 8,88,383 per month) that is covered by institutional grants, organisational donations, reserves and our staff taking up independent contracting work (that reduces their time for work on IFF projects). We will need long-term HNI and individual Indian donors in 2023 (target 1200-1500 providing INR 9,00,000 per month) to stabilise our work.
In 2023, we hope to get more community members involved in fundraising. If you would like to pitch in, please write to us at [email protected].
As IFF continues to grow and mature as an organisation, our operational efforts have centred around boosting organisational transparency, improving board governance process, creating a safer and more equitable organisational culture, and bettering our accounting processes.
Prioritising good governance
In 2022, IFF’s Board of Trustees met six times through the year with a view to improve and institutionalise board governance processes. As a result, the board adopted IFF’s by-laws on 17 August 2022. Our by-laws outline the transparency commitments that IFF is making for the coming year, including publishing business transacted by the Board, line-items in the finance manual, the budget, and internal process guide. We will also be adding two new trustees to the Board,with full voting and agenda-setting powers to ensure diversity, institutionalisation and broader public participation. This will be through a public, open call for applications as per the system institutionalised in our by-laws. IFF also saw changes at board level, when Raman Jit Singh Chima stepped down from his role as a trustee.
Radical Transparency, Delivered
Creating an equitable organisational culture
As a part of our efforts toward creating a safe and equitable organisational culture that respects diversity, IFF conducted its annual PoSH policy and gender sensitivity training for all staffers facilitated by One Future Collective. The training took an intersectional feminist approach to understanding how gender operates in workplaces that emphasised equity, sensitivity, and greater empathy among staffers. We also re-constituted IFF’s internal complaints committee, which will now be headed by Policy Counsel, Anushka Jain. After IFF’s PoSH policy was instituted in 2021, this year, we published our first PoSH compliance report.