Empowering Internet Users in Rural India with a Purpose-Built App

Exec Summary

Divum was brought in to redefine the online experience for women in far-flung, rural areas in India with little to no familiarity with technology, and intermittent connectivity.

Owing to our longstanding experience in building products and conceptualizing digital strategy for some of India’s best known businesses including MakeMyTrip, Amazon, NDTV, Melorra, SBI and more, we were brought in to create a new and improved version of an app designed to be a ‘friend’ to New Internet Users.

Divum’s four pronged strategic approach led to process efficiencies and savings through automation. This project required Divum to conduct primary field research to interface with women in remote villages and towns for requirement gathering.

These end user insights proved invaluable in being able to fix reliability issues to suit the needs of New Internet users. Our teams used agile methodologies and Google compliant best practices to build a scalable, intuitive user experience, for a purpose-built app offering access in 14 Indian languages for more inclusive coverage.

Project Background

One of India’s most respected philanthropic trusts partnered with a global technology giant to create a social-innovation programme in 2015.

This initiative aimed to identify, train, and empower women in rural India to learn and take advantage of the internet – so they can access information, find business opportunities, earn financial incentives and enhance their livelihood


Today, there exists a strong network of close to 60,000 partners or friends, who have imparted digital literacy to more than 20 million women across 200,000 villages.

Divum was brought in as a consultant and technology partner to build Ver 2.0 of a purpose-driven app to scale and automate mobile based data collection, via surveys to better empower rural Indian women entrepreneurs.

Divum’s scope of work included enabling localization and building a technology framework to offer Non-English users a supportive, robust and reliable in-app experience.

Problem Statement

Ver 1.0 of this app was developed to train rural entrepreneurs and improve their skill set, using a ‘train the trainers’ model of engagement in the field. However, the app was not built to scale and relied on manual data entry by users during every step of the process.From recruitment to surveying and records management, the manual process led to human errors and inefficiencies.

Divum was brought in to reimagine the app experience, ground up, by understanding the needs of users, and build an app made for vernacular Indian users. We were also tasked with ensuring content availability across multiple Indian languages on mobile platforms.

Lastly, training these end-users in the field was crucial in order to overcome fears or unfamiliarity with technology, derive better outcomes and prevent users dropping off. For program managers, Divum built an unified dashboard to visualize reporting along specific metrics, so the health of this social initiative could be monitored, remotely, at a glance.

The Divum Approach

To this end, Divum began by:

  • Conducting primary research to understand the unique technology challenges faced by rural women trainers in the field
  • Used ML/AI to parse data and derive key insights to create the new feature set for the app
  • Created an intuitive and easy to navigate app experience to support these new internet users, in areas with spotty internet connectivity
  • Collected better quality, more reliable data by automating the process end-to-end
  • Enabled localization and offered support across Indian languages for in-app guidance using multimedia
  • Began mining, analyzing and visualizing data using role-based logins and real-time dashboards for enhanced programme management
  • Created processes to benchmark and review participant performance metrics, and automate disbursal of financial incentives to end-users on the ground

The Divum’s Advantage / Methodology

Divum employed a mix of methodologies, for user research including Machine Learning/AI to parse survey data insights and better understand the needs of New Internet Users in rural India. We funneled these insights to create intuitive UI/UX keeping native Indian users in mind.

In particular, Divum’s four pronged solution framework was crucial in scaling the app:

  • Agile approach: A combination of design thinking and agile methodologies enabled discovery and delivery in parallel, helping us make iterative improvements to the product within tight timelines
  • Primary research for product strategy: Team Divum recruited qualitative researchers, drew up discussion guides, and undertook extensive field research across 20 states and spoke to users before getting into app UI/UX design and development.
  • Cloud and ML for scalability: The entire tech stack is robustly built on Google Cloud Platform for maximum scale and elasticity. Employing ML helped us to identify the right profile of rural women who stood to benefit the most from joining the livelihood program. We were also able to develop models to iteratively improve the quality of data captured from the field, improve the performance of partners and more.
  • Localized UI for mass adoption: This app works in 14 regional languages of India, across 20 states in India. We include in-app guidance using images, text and speech for offline and online support.