Bikes bring Internet to Bangladesh villages
Women on bicycles are bringing the Internet to others living in remote areas of Bangladesh who cannot be online and don't have computers.
The project, which was created in 2008 by group D.Net and other organisations, is called Info Ladies and dozens of its members bike into those remote villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people - especially women - get everything from the net.
Because only 5 million of 152 million people have Internet access in Bangladesh, the project offers the possibility of being up-to-date on what is happening around the world and also of talking with their relatives living in other cities.
However, the objective of this idea is not only to bring the Internet to distant regions, it also aims to create new job positions with start-up funds from the South Asian country's central bank, including expatriates working around the world.
D.Net recruits the women and trains them during three months to use computers, the Internet, a printer and a camera. Besides, it arranges bank loans for them to buy bicycles and equipment.
"This way we are providing jobs to jobless women and at the same time empowering villagers with critical information," told Ananya Raihan, D.Net's executive director, to AP.
Some of the services offered are for free, but for others they have to pay a fee. Women from rural families now can talk with their husbands or sons working, for instance, in Saudi Arabia via Skype by paying 200 takas ($2.40) per hour. Likewise, teenagers can have Facebook accounts and chat with their contacts about their classes or social issues, such as child marriage.
Info Ladies also talk with them about issues like primary health care or HIV. In addition, they help villagers how to find government services and write complaints to authorities under the country's newly-enacted Right to Information Act.
For 10 takas (12 cents) they help students fill college application forms online and they even test blood pressure and blood sugar levels. "The Info Ladies are both entrepreneurs and public service providers," Raihan said.
Currently, nearly 60 Info Ladies are working in 19 of Bangladesh's 64 districts and Raihan hopes to train 15,000 by 2016. In July, Bangladesh's central bank offered interest-free loans to the project and the first distribution of a total of 100 million takas ($1.23 million) will begin in December. Bangladeshi expatriates can also send money to support Info Ladies.