Amina Begum had never seen a computer until a few years ago, but now she’s on Skype with her husband. A woman on a bicycle brings the Internet to her.
Dozens of ‘Info Ladies’ bike into remote Bangladeshi villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people — especially women — get everything from government services to chats with distant loved ones.
The Info Ladies project, created in 2008 by local development group D.Net and other community organisations, is modelled after a programme that helped make cell phones widespread in Bangladesh.
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.
“This way we are providing jobs to jobless women and at the same time empowering villagers with critical information,” says Ananya Raihan, D.Net’s executive director.
The women — usually undergraduates from middle-class rural families — aren’t doling out charity. Begum pays 200 takas ($2.40) for an hour of Skype with her husband, who works in Saudi Arabia.
“We prefer using Skype to mobile phones because this way we can see him on the screen,” Begum says, beaming happily.