Solving the problem of Connecting Rural Women

For all the great things to happen .. you need a trigger .. well I can say I am TRIGGERED and excited to solve a very big problem of connecting rural women to the internet.

Solving such a social problem of this scale will open doors to the enrichment of so many lives and lead to endless opportunities for the unconnected.

Initially, I was not sure (kinda perplexed) how in two days are we gonna end up with a solution to such a complex problem in a workshop.

But you know Mozilla Dinotank workshop is not like any other workshop that we have attended before, this was a unique experience. I am gonna tell you about that experience in this blog.

There’s a quote of Albert Einstein, which I can connect to

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Dinotank is a program of Mozilla where people spend the time to decide on a complex problem which Mozilla can solve to make the world a better place.

Mozilla’s team consisting of @mikehenrty @rinajensen @rosanardila @subhapa @StacyMoz and Jochai had come down to India to conduct a Mozilla Dinotank workshop for solving @Wishingal proposed problem of connecting rural women.

Especially in India, people can relate and feel the kind of unfair treatment in terms of  gaining proper education, freedom to express etc to a community of women who are still suppressed and caught behind the social/community barriers.

Everyone (approx 20 people who were from different background and places from India) who attended the workshop could relate with the above and personally when @Wishingal started off with her story behind this problem which was about a little girl whom she knew and was not given a chance to pursue her wishes, really made me feel heavy.

I compiled a gitbook  which contains all the activity which we did in two days to come up with solutions to solve the problem. (so not going to go into technicalities of the workshop in this blog)

In a nutshell, the techniques we used are from the Mozilla’s open-innovation toolkit  which basically helped us to get ideas based on the interviews which Mozilla’s team conducted and then put all those ideas in a paper later cluster them. Post which we went ahead drawing, storyboarding, refining and defining ways by which we could make the idea real and ended up with a paper prototype of the app.

Before the workshop , I had interviewed 4 women who are from a rural area but are working in cleaning and daily wages sector in Bengaluru.

My participants were my maid, cook, society housekeeping staff and a shopkeeper women.
So I felt really uncomfortable in the initial to just go ahead and ask “have you ever used the internet?” this thought itself made me think I am insulting them.
Ha Ha !! Guess what I found an amazing hack around it ? (mentioned about it below)
These people are not exposed to the internet services majorly because of the following factors (also mentioned its impact percentage):
  • Affordability (20%)
  • Understanding the need of these services (30%)
  • How to procure the service and use them (40%)
  • Fear of usage (10%)
In India currently there’s demonization of 500 and 1000 rs note (Getting smaller denominations for cash transactions is very difficult)
My hack was that I asked my participants. Do you accept cashless transactions (ie transferring via bank etc) ? (This helped me to get started with a conversation about internet services)
Based on the conversation I started with cashless transaction I covered the following topics by questions :
  • What do you think about people using fancy mobiles and laptops etc ?
  • What can you associate the internet with ?
  • Have you used any internet services or been associated with it in any forms?
  • Anyone, who you know use’s internet in their day to day life ?
  • Would use it if you get it for free of cost (To be honest, I asked this question to only 1 person)
Based on my interviews I have come up with the following factors buckets,
  • Education / Community Background / Society Status is associated with mobiles and laptops
  • Participants have at some point in time have been in touch with people who use internet ex : husband, children and community members
  • Often the internet is associated with mobile data service only
  • People have not understood the need of internet and have been practicing the conventional methods only for services like news, bill payment etc.
  • Participants see it as a complex and educated person only tool
My solutions to get these people are as follows :
  • Get them a Bank account (Help them to understand its services) which will engage them and get socially involved
  • Web literacy programs to help them get started with basic usages
  • Helping with understanding of internet services like railway booking, electricity bills etc
  • Get them a practice group like a small community of women who can use the internet to get cooking recipes and chat in some messaging service which will increase their keen interest to perceive internet services and learn them.

I brought up all these points in the workshop and it was great pleasure discussing it my fellow workshop attendees.

I was preparing to participate in the equal rating challenge as an entrepreneur where I saw this 4 billion unconnected people as my target audience and then was preparing my product as a tool which is gonna solve a problem space for them.

This workshop truly changed my mind in how I see the problem of people getting connected and dino tank will be a very big bonus for my equal rating proposal.

The problem of getting unconnected become connected is just not business there are so many strings attached which can change one’s life forever.

I keep going around and say you know what ,

Technology hasn’t been very successful, there are so many problems out there.

But the AHA moment for me in this workshop was at the end where we were doing the user testing of the products made me understand,

Technology exists out there, but it needs to understand humans and be designed/delivered better for all

Let me give you a taste of what the above feels like, we (Stacy, Joshina, Sai and myself) made an app called FEMNET at the end of the workshop following the above-mentioned gitbook procedure.

The FemNet app basically helps women/girls with tutorials & materials of web privacy so that they can feel safe and have full control of their online app while prototyping we had put a lot of thought in how we can apply technology to provide voice and visual commands.

Description of the app:
FemNet is a mobile application which is designed to be an offline app  providing great learning materials about online safety practices for women and also has an interactive feature which allows participants to get an online demo role-play experiences of standard apps sWhatsApp, Firefox and Facebook etc in various regional languages
– Get certificates on completion of the learning materials
– Report Complaints is a feature of the app which lets a direct connection to reliable government organization to raise online women safety issues
– The app is meant for disabled people as it supports voice and visual commands
Distributions :
– Social Media Campaigns
– Promotion activities in rural areas
– Provide benefits to rural area mobile stores to promote the app
– Leadership board for participants to promote the app across target audiences

But when we went ahead and did rural women role play user testing, the main thing was that the rural women will not understand the term  like “e-learning or report abuse”. This made me really realize my perspective and the need for change in how I see things (A big thank you to@rosanardila @subhapa who helped me with this)

I am gonna take ahead all this experience for my equal rating proposal and design better human-centric products/services going ahead.

I have also written a blog about Diversity and inclusion and also have created a repo to consolidate and collaboratively work on making these proposals true, please feel free join us and make these solutions a reality 🙂

Even pitched my base equal rating proposal on 19th Oct evening in an equal rating event and got really cool feedbacks from IIM professor Rahul and many other people there.

Truly an amazing program and enjoyed every second being there 😀


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