Keep it sim­ple

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

Es­sen­tially they are a mo­bile in­ter­net cafe with­out the sleaze.

They con­nect ru­ral women to work­ing-away hus­bands via Skype, al­low school­child­ren ac­cess to so­cial me­dia and let or­di­nary peo­ple use egov­ern­ment ser­vices in ways they never could be­fore. They can write com­plaints, fill in forms and gen­er­ally en­gage in the IT rev­o­lu­tion, all cour­tesy of the ‘info-ladies’.

Typ­i­cally the woman with the bike and the lappy comes from a ru­ral mid­dle-class fam­ily, is a grad­u­ate and hith­erto job­less. They get a three-month train­ing course, which in­cludes some very ba­sic health care. They can test blood-su­gar lev­els and take blood pres­sure for in­stance; and get a busi­ness start-up loan in­ter­est-free to buy the ba­sics – lap­top, printer, bike – from the Bangladesh Cen­tral Bank, and then it is up to them to make the busi­ness pay. The ser­vice they of­fer is not free, their cus­tomers pay to talk to far-off rel­a­tives or chat on Face­book, and the loan has to be re­paid.

This is not char­ity, a free­bie or a hand­out. In­de­pen­dence is en­cour­aged and fos­tered; women are em­pow­ered and en­ter a work­place niche that be­fore the ‘info-ladies’ never ex­isted.

Now wouldn’t that be a good idea in Pak­istan, I thought. It would, given that our in­ter­net ser­vices now have vir­tu­ally blan­ket cov­er­age across the coun­try, even in the most re­mote ar­eas. It would, and need not be aimed at grad­u­ate young women ( or even older women, why not) but could be a job op­por­tu­nity for ma­tric­u­lates and taught as a new sub­ject in the women’s vo­ca­tional col­leges that dot the coun­try. None of this is rocket sci­ence and all of it is pos­si­ble. There are even thou­sands of women who have re­cently been gifted a lap­top from which pool our very own ‘ info- ladies’ might be re­cruited. But this is Pak­istan.

This is the Pak­istan where a mother and fa­ther burned their daugh­ter to death with acid last week be­cause she was be­lieved to have spo­ken to a boy. That has gov­ern­ment min­is­ters of­fer­ing head- money to any­body who would kill the maker of an ob­scure blas­phe­mous film-clip. Where teenage girls get shot for ad­vo­cat­ing fe­male ed­u­ca­tion.

The ‘info-lady’ con­cept is won­der­ful in its sim­plic­ity. By 2016 Bangladesh hopes to have 16,000 of them and there is no rea­son to think

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.