4 Reasons Why It’s Crucial to Make Technology Accessible to Rural Leaders Jan. 21, 2015, 5:36 p.m.

4 Reasons Why It’s Crucial to Make Technology Accessible to Rural Leaders

Summary :

Our trainings with women leaders from rural areas have shown us the limitless opportunities that they access once technology is accessible.
Knowledge is strength and it can empower even the weakest individual with tremendous power. Over the years, the internet has made it easy for almost every individual to learn on his or her own. Open courseware, detailed guides, free resources, and expert help makes it possible to empower yourself with knowledge and expertise. However, all of this depends on access to affordable technology. 
Communities located in far-flung areas usually do not have access to internet, electricity, and connectivity and this hampers the transfer of education and knowledge. However, there are a growing number of organisations that are now building ways for rural and isolated communities access the internet. From our experience of working with women dalit leaders across villages in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, as well as sex worker communities based in North Karnataka, we have seen significant changes in the community, where most if not all change has been directed and implemented by the community themselves. Some of the changes that you will begin to notice are:
1) Access to knowledge and improving decision-making – 
We know that access to knowledge can immediately improve decision making abilities. But more often than not we wonder about language constraints and think about ways to intervene to ensure they are accessing the right kind of knowledge.  
We have found that there are several vernacular resources and the women try and access pertinent laws that are relevant to their work. They are able to use this knowledge to create their own strategies and advocate for their communities. The women also use translation/ transliteration apps to help them understand cumbersome forms/ texts in English.
2) Improving confidence – 
Whether it has been in the case of dalit women or leaders of women sex worker groups, once this knowledge has been acquired, they immediately feel a sense of accomplishment and pride and find ways to use their new-found skill and knowledge to help their communities. In turn, the communities they live in start looking at these women in a different light and start to engage with them. 
3) Defending human rights – 
With access to tools and the internet in mobile devices, we have found that women we have trained start documenting their work. This includes rights violations, support programmes and being able to defend their stand on issues. One woman told us how she was being harassed by the police, which has always been the case. But this time instead of cowing down she took out her mobile device and started recording him to which he quickly responded by asking her how he could be of assistance! 
4) Joining the dialogue
In time anyone who can access the internet starts to take part in the conversation. The women are active on Facebook, have their own Whatsapp groups, and have started creating their own videos that they use for training or sharing amongst their women's groups. 
Tobacco chewing is common among women in North Karnataka and they know how terrible it is for their health. One woman made a video about tips on giving up tobacco chewing (which she was able to do successfully!)
This is a short video from one of our old trainings in 2012.