Internet on a bike - India's mobile network
In India only 5 million out of 152 million had internet access. While this may seems trivial in a country where the poor live in slums among the rubbish and sewers, the internet is in fact an important part of building modern India. In Bangladeshi remote villages are now on the web with dozens of so-called 'Info Ladies' on bikes bringing computers and wifi with them. Tens of thousands of Indians and Bangladeshi are now able to Skype distant family members, get access to online Government resources and educate themselves via the internet.
In 2008 The Info Ladies project, was set up by a local development group, D.Net and other community organisations.Over the next few years the project aims to take ont thousands of workers with startup funds from the South Asian Country's central bank and expatriates working around the world. The cycling internet project will provide jobs for thousands of unemployed women and helps empower rural villagers with information only accessible on the web. Over three months women are recruited and trained how to use a computer, the internet, a printer and a camera while also arranging bank loans for the employees to purchase bicycles and equipment.
The service, however, is not free and those who use the web on wheels can pay around 200 takas ($2.40) for an hour on the internet. Skype is proving popular as more and more Indians and Asians seek work overseas. It's much cheaper than a mobile phone and you can see your relative. The service is also bringing social media to the masses. This allows school children to share notes, for the discussion of social issues with faraway neighbours and the Info Ladies also provides some free social services.
Subjects such as health care, menstruation, contraception and HIV are often discussed with the teenage girls in a village and the team also help villagers looking to write complaints to government services - under the recent Right of Information Act. Other topics range from the correct use of fertiliser to helping take blood pressure and completing college application forms.
Ananya Raihan, D.Net's executive director, hopes to have 15,000 women on her books by 2016 and she follows a model that introduced mobile phones to rural women back in 2004. The mobile phoen project 'Mobile Ladies' has given more than 92 million people mobile phone access. Ananya successfully agreed interest-free loans for the Info Ladies and she is also encouraging expatriates to send money home for the project too. The Info ladies seem to be happy with their wage and after making loan payments they are still taking more home per month than say a school teacher.
The project has brought not only the internet to the rural areas but also employment for otherwise jobless women. There is much hope for its continuation.
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