Access is empowering; part one

In a conversation with Aditya Singh of The Ranthambhore Bagh, he pointed out something that just blew my mind.

Dicky said that after talking to the villagers in the area [the region we’ve selected for Phase one of our project] about their information needs, he found that most of it is easily available on Google. But because they have no way to access this information, they pay bribes to obtain the same information that they could have gotten for free…

if they had access.

They’re not paying bribes to some guy on a computer browsing the internet on a computer. There is no such facility. They have to find out how to do basic things but their illiteracy makes them fair game for touts and ‘translaters’ of the system. Much of those basics [including purchasing a rail ticket] is now available as an online service.

Forget literacy, if in the short term they could all a voice based "Ask me" service like there used to be in the late nineties in the US, that would still put them ahead of the current dismal situation. GrameenPhone’s Healthline isn’t totally online, it uses the strengths and weaknesses of Asia – affordable to have a real live human answer the question – but what it does mean is that millions in Bangladesh can reach a qualified doctor by dialling a number with their mobile.

There are steps to be taken on the way towards whatever solution that will work best, probably with a combination of education and skills training, but in the meantime, human bridges can be used across the divide.

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