D.Net, a non-profit research organisation, is bringing some of the benefits of modern technology to impoverished rural villages in Bangladesh through a band of “InfoLadies”.
The InfoLadies are young women equipped with a bicycle, phone, some medical equipment and a netbook loaded with information on topics from agriculture to health, sanitation and disaster management. The content uses simple text, pictures and engaging animations to reach all users, many of whom are illiterate. Their medical kits include items such as blood pressure monitors and pregnancy test kits.
Luich Ankher, one of the InfoLadies says “Ask me about the pest that’s infecting your crop, common skin diseases, how to seek help if your husband beats you or even how to stop having children, and I may have a solution”.
60-year-old Nahar Hossain, who had spent a lot of time and money seeking government help to identify the pest that destroyed his rice fields year after year, after one brief meeting with an InfoLady said,. “She matched the picture of my crop with the one on her TV [netbook] and recommended a certain pesticide. I haven’t had problems since”.
At first the modern InfoLadies were regarded as a scandal among people who had little knowledge of the world beyond their fields and local mosque. Now they are becoming a valued resource and even being regarded as trusted confidants by women who are victims of domestic violence or are seeking advice about birth control.