Well, if you have the chance to visit rural Bangladesh, you have a very high chance of meeting an ‘Info Lady’.
The ‘Info Ladies’, travel from village from village equipped with internet-enabled laptops.
The program took off in 2008, and over the years they have spread immense joy across Bangladesh.
The minimum equipment, carried by an info lady is a laptop or classmate computer, internet modem, headphone, webcam, digital camera, photo printer and a mobile phone. The primary aim of an ‘info lady’ is to give the entire livelihood information services at a cheaper rate, and fast.
In 2004, D.Net set up the Rural Information Helpline. There are specialist helpdesk operators in the capital Dhaka with Internet access and a database of responses to common livelihoods-related queries. They also have links to a variety of relevant institutions around Bangladesh.
The Rural Information Helpline assist the ‘Info Ladies’, to guide the villagers in their daily routine.
Help line service, commercial phone service, photography service, livelihood information and knowledge service, international and local voice call service, video and animation service, and internet-based information service are among the services provided by an info lady.
UK’s Department for International Development also contributes to the D.Net funding program.
The ‘Info Ladies’ go door-to-door in their villages, listening to problems and advising on how best they can be solved. In about half the cases this involves sending a letter or email via a community-based information worker. For the rest, a mobile phone call is made directly to the Helpline and an answer is provided instantly or in a few days.
D.Net recruits the women and trains them for three months to use a computer, the Internet, a printer and a camera. It arranges bank loans for the women to buy bicycles and equipment.
The Info Ladies also provide a slew of social services _ some for a fee and others for free. They sit with teenage girls where they talk about primary health care and taboo subjects like menstrual hygiene, contraception and HIV.
They help villagers seeking government services write complaints to authorities under the country’s newly-enacted Right to Information Act.
They talk to farmers about the correct use of fertilizer and insecticides. For 10 takas (12 cents) they help students fill college application forms online. They’re even trained to test blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
The Info Ladies perform a dual role of both entrepreneurs and public service providers.
A major breakthrough on the funding arena was achieved in July 2012, when Bangladesh’s central bank agreed to offer interest-free loans to Info Ladies. Distribution of the first phase of loans, totaling 100 million takas ($1.23 million), will begin in December.
Related news article: Lady on Bike
Re-disseminated by Prashant N. Banker by daytime, Blogger by night.