Education and empowerment through Information and Communication Technology to the rural women.

Author:Pushpabai, V. Monica Hepzibah
 
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ABSTRACT

There is hardly any doubt that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) pervade our homes, offices, institutions and our society. But lots of rural people are not yet touched by these ICTs. Though some villages have ICT, it is enjoyed only by the "elites". DHAN (Development of Human Action Foundation) foundation, conscious of the technological change, and poor being left out in the process, has initiated "ICT for poor" which concentrates mainly on women. This paper is a study on that programme.

The careful study on this programme shows that (1) women who get exposure to ICT get confidence in approaching higher officials for their requirements through internet and in person, (2) lack of higher education is not a hindrance to learn ICT, (3) basic literacy and ICT goes hand in hand, (4) women are open to accept ICT if need based services are provided through it, (5) they are aware of health and eye care, (6) they share their skills through Video conferencing, (7) they are ready to share and get tips from and through internet on health, agriculture, cooking, tailoring and so on to empower each other.

If this model is followed by all NGOs and the government to familiarize ICT to the rural women, definitely in the future, empowerment as an active process enabling women to realize their full identity and power in all spheres of life will be fulfilled, which is the concept of International Women's conference at Nairobi in 1985.

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There is hardly any doubt that Information and Communication Technology (ICT), pervades our homes, offices, institutions and our society. Popular, trade, and academic Journals cover developments of ICT weekly and new publications appear to explain or predict the latest trends (Rice 1984). But lots of rural areas in India are not yet touched by this ICT.

Though lots of rural people are not yet touched by this ICT, some parts of rural areas are privileged with ICT by the initiatives taken by some NGOs. There is a community of social entrepreneurs and IT companies those are working towards bridging the digital divide. (Kasabe 2003)

The percentage of women with high technology skill is very low at global level and more so in developing countries. In India, the percentage of women's literacy (in 1997-98) is 50%; percentage of enrollment of girls to total enrollment in Primary, Middle, Secondary, and Higher Education (Degree and above) is 43.6, 40.1, 37.1 and 34.8 respectively says Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India in its official website.

RURAL ICT PROGRAMMES--AN OVER VIEW

In India special effort was made to provide Community Information Centres (CICs) at block level. Fifty Centres were operational and 487 were planned to be operational by 15thAugust, 2002. These were located in the most backward region and were geographically difficult (Kailay 2001).

In Orissa, Mitra Technologies has been working on developing a handicrafts e-trade center that would connect producers directly to wholesale and retail buyers, resulting in increased efficiencies in marketing and production. This extra-net based computerized network would connect producers to buyers in a B2B environment. Mitra has transformed lives of artisans in Orissa.

Akshaya, the project begun by the Kerala Government has established 565 ICT centres with 5 computers each across Mallapuram district with the aim of familiarizing at least one person in every family with computers, besides providing access to e-content in the local language. According to G. R. Kiran, mission coordinator, Kerala State IT Mission, the plan is to set up 9,000 such centres all over Kerala.

The eSwasthya project launched by Bihar Institute of Economic Studies (BIES), on the other hand, would allow the poor in Madhubani district to gain access to better health at lower cost by providing them with smart health cards. These cards would contain their entire health history, which can be accessed at local community health centers.

BIES has signed a contract with IBM Canada Ltd. and Saskatchewan Telecommunications International Inc., in conjunction with BSNL and is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). A pilot project is being carried out in 22 villages in Madhubani district, said Nitish Mishra, advisor BIES.

Athar Z Haque, Director of the Delhi-based N H Medicomp R & D Pvt Ltd who is managing the e-health-care project in other northern states says that another pilot project is expected to be carried out in 30 villages in Babai tehsil of Hoshangabad district and Khirkiya tehsil of Harda district, both in Madhya Pradesh, who is working in the area of healthcare and is teaching women of her age the use of computers. (Kasabe 2003)

NABARD (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development) has been...

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