ICT to the rescue in Bangladesh



I recently read a compelling story about how women are creating waves in rural Bangladesh using netbooks, GSM mobile phones, blood pressure monitors and other gadgets to help Bangladeshis and, at the same time, provide them with an opportunity to break out of poverty.

The story shows how a good idea along with some resources and local effort can solve real problems using information and communication technology (ICT). Even though this idea seems simple, there are few projects in the Indian subcontinent which utilize ICT successfully to educate and empower people in rural areas. Currently these netbooks run a version of Windows. It would be great to see projects like this get even more mileage by using FOSS and open knowledge repositories like Wikipedia.

Highlights from the article:

“Akhter belongs to a motley band of “InfoLadies,” who are piloting a revolutionary idea – giving millions of Bangladeshis, trapped in a cycle of poverty and natural disaster, access to information on their doorstep to improve their chances in life.

“…An InfoLady’s netbook is loaded with content especially compiled and translated in local Bangla language,” says Mohammed Forhad Uddin of D.Net, a not-for-profit research organization that is pioneering access to livelihood information.”

“…It provides answers and solutions to some of the most common problems faced by people in villages.”

“…In Bangladesh this means nearly three-quarters of the nearly 160 million that live in rural areas. From agriculture to health, sanitation and disaster management, the content follows simple text, pictures and engaging multimedia animations to include all users, many of whom are illiterate.”