InfoLady: Empowering rural women at their door steps

Lack of access to information and government transparency are major blocks in the road of development and poverty alleviation in almost all emerging economies of the world. Women, especially in rural areas where accessibility to information is more acute, are impeded with poverty, illiteracy and disempowerment, which binds their ability to support themselves and their families.

Nadia Shams, Senior Assistant Director at Dnet, Bangladesh, presents her project; the “InfoLady” model. This model is specifically tailored to provide assistance to thousands of rural female entrepreneurs through a variety of door step services. The InfoLadies are currently operating in 19 districts in Bangladesh; with a a service package designed by Dnet, consisting of 80 different services under eight different categories, which include health, family planning, agriculture, employment, finance, marketing advice, legal and ICT.

InfoLadies also spread awareness for 6 different groups, namely farmers, labor, elderly, women, children, and adolescent girls. In addition to providing the InfoLadies with the necessary equipment, being associated with a local organization or NGO helps the InfoLadies to strengthen their customer base in the community through creating reputation credibility.

The InfoLady model is currently being scaled up nationally in Bangladesh and has great potential of being replicated in other countries as well; through adjusting it according to country-specific dimensions including the market, culture, infrastructure… etc.  Dnet plans to have 12,000 InfoLadies operating throughout Bangladesh by year 2017.

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Inequality of Access to Information: Can Information Sharing be universalized?

Access to information has long been established as one of the major problems faced by southern researchers. Enhancing information accessibility and use helps to better understand, analyze and research ongoing development challenges so that practical solutions can originate from those directly affected by them. This cause is supported by the Connect South Campaign that has pledged to promote sharing knowledge and fostering connections between researchers and decision-makers in the global south, supported by GDNet, GDN’s Knowledge services.

Building on the World Bank’s “Mobilizing Knowledge Networks for Development” conference, Alex Bielak, Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker (UNU-INWEH) and Louise Shaxon, Research Fellow (ODI), tackle the issue of access to information & the equality of access to information from the perspective of internet access. However Bielak argues the importance of communications infrastructure and how everyone should be connected through information sharing backbone networks that facilitates high-definition data transfer. He raises two interesting questions regarding the current global potential of information access, especially in the south; as to who can afford it, and the sufficiency and quality of this access to knowledge. He emphasizes on accessibility granting and whether it is in fact universal.

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