This story by a DEF team member was first published by The Better India on February 16, 2016
The women of Tilonia are in love. And this love is for their newly acquired iPads.
Strolling around the campus of Barefoot College in Tilonia village of Ajmer district in Rajasthan, you’ll come across several women walking with iPads in their hand. And if there is any kind of celebration or event on campus, you’ll see these women unlocking their iPads and recording videos or taking photographs.
I was super impressed when I saw about a dozen women recording an interactive session in their amphitheatre on their shining white iPads. There were about 450 participants plus at least a hundred members of the Barefoot College community but these women were not shy to move around and make sure that the event was captured from all angles.
Twenty iPads are used at Barefoot College for women enrolled for the national and international solar training programme and another 10 Mac systems are used at the institution for training schoolchildren in digital literacy. The management and training responsibility of this initiative was handed over to New-Delhi based organisation Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF). Incidentally, DEF is a long-term partner of Barefoot College for various digital programmes in the campus including community radio.
Children are always faster at learning anything new — after all it’s their age to learn — but it’s the village women who have shown great enthusiasm and skill in taking it to an iPad so quickly and comfortably.
The video and photographs that are shot by these women are then forwarded to the media department who edits the same, if required, and then share it through Barefoot College’s website and social media pages.
Haseena, an associate of DEF who hails from Tilonia, too, learnt to use iPad and several other Mac machines and devices. Since she picked very fast, she has been given the responsibility of teaching other women to use an iPad.
“It’s an entire computer but without a keyboard or a mouse,” exclaims Prabha Devi, a 31-year-old woman who’s residing at Barefoot College’s New Campus for a six-month solar training programme. In the classroom, these women sit in pairs and explore the many options and features available on the handy Apple device, as explained by their trainer.
FaceTime is one of the features that has the women completely in awe. When in their classroom, they love practicing how to FaceTime (an over-the-Internet video-calling feature available on all Apple devices) with each other, even if they’re just sitting across the table from each other. All they have to do is connect to the free Wi-Fi connection available on campus, and hit FaceTime!
The women of Tilonia are not new to technology. They have an advanced traditional water harvesting system, an extremely efficient women team of solar engineers, a community radio broadcasting station, machines for the production of sanitary napkins and a fairly active social media presence, including capabilities to use website and digital communication tools, to derive people from across the world to sell locally made handicraft and handloom products. However, a video-calling feature has still managed to impress them.
“I had no idea you could talk to somebody face-to-face with Internet so easily,” says Shehnaz Bano who hails from a small village in Karnataka but lives in the campus.
There is one thing that many rural areas may not be able to enjoy, and that is seamless availability of wireless Internet across the entire seven-acre campus of Barefoot College. Not only that, even the Old Campus of Barefoot College, which is situated one kilometer away from the New Campus and next to the Tilonia Railway Station, is fully Wi-Fi enabled. Barefoot College’s wireless Internet is a part of DEF’s Wireless for Communities (W4C) programme which has been initiated in partnership with the Internet Society (ISOC). So far, DEF has set up wireless Internet connections across more than 20 locations in the hinterland of India – mostly at places where no Internet would be available otherwise.
Thanks to wireless on the campus, the entire BFC campus is now always abuzz with the use of digital tools: from checking emails and reading up about solar energy on Google Search to audio and video documentation of activities in and around the campus, iPad is the tool in hand for these women.