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Raihan borrowed the idea from Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, who in 2004 introduced mobile phones to rural women who had no access to telephones of any kind, by training and sending out scores of “Mobile Ladies” into the countryside.
That hugely successful experiment drew in commercial mobile phone operators. Now more than 92 million people in Bangladesh have cellphone access.
In July, Bangladesh’s central bank agreed to offer interest-free loans to Info Ladies. Distribution of the first phase of loans, totaling 100 million takas ($1.23 million), will begin in December. Raihan said D.Net is also encouraging the large population of Bangladeshi expatriates to send money home to help Info Ladies get started.
“It’s very innovative,” says Jamilur Reza Chaudhury, a pioneer of information technology education in Bangladesh. “The project is really having an impact on the people at grass-root level.”
Info Lady Sathi Akhtar, who works in Begum’s and Dipa’s villages, said she makes more at the job than she would as a school teacher. She said that after making payments on her 120,000 taka ($1,480) loan and covering other costs, she takes home an average of 10,000 takas ($123) a month.
“We are not only earning money, we are also contributing in empowering our women with information. That makes us happy.”
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