The Financial Express

Internet in rural Bangladesh: A story of transformation

| Updated: August 23, 2019 20:43:48

Internet in rural Bangladesh: A story of transformation

Rahmatullah Bashar is beaming. He looks around his tea shop, his eyes dancing from person to person, taking in the throbbing crowd. His eyes grow misty, and he says that even 6 months back, he was worried his family will not be able to sustain itself anymore. After all, his shop was not earning enough even after running it for 15 years. But the situation has completely changed in the last few months. Rahmatullah has handed over the reins of his tea shop – now a thriving outlet in Baniachong village, Sylhet – to his elder son, Abul Bashar, who came up with the brightest idea to transform their family business with a bit of innovation.

Abul Bashar enticed his father to install a Wi-fi router in the shop. After all, Internet had touched the lives of everyone, so why not have its magic touch inside their shop? With this small but intelligent innovation, not only did the business undergo a complete transformation within days, the surrounding village population also went through a cultural evolution of sorts. So now, Abul Bashar not only sold tea, but also sold Internet access via Wi-Fi to his visitors.

The tea stall that hardly sold a hundred cups on a good day, now serves more than four hundred cups plus refreshments daily, with people flocking to find a seat. Not just for the tea, but for the culture that surrounds it. The small business establishment has now become a community hub, with people getting acquainted with the internet and its marvels. It now nurtures a community that acts as a support group for every individual connected with it. Khairul, a resident of the same rural area and a dedicated visitor of the shop, was able to land a job in a nearby factory through the newly earned knowledge of the internet. Khairul, who was enjoying his ‘Malai Cha’ at the shop, declared happily that he also downloaded critical study material for his children, and in the last term their grades had improved as well. Locals who visit the shop regularly, are slowly being empowered through access to information and overcoming barriers of digital culture in rural and urban life. Khairul said that the quality of conversation within the café and the information exchange between regulars had improved remarkably. And now, the moment someone tried to spread a rumor, everyone first wanted to check the facts on the Internet and then react!

Bashar’s humble tea stall has now become a community Café, and its visitors are now much more digitally evolved. In fact, one regular shared a few simple and tasteful tea recipes available on Youtube with Bashar around a month back, and now the tea café sells 5 varieties of tea flavors. Old Rahmatullah beams with happiness to see his younger son, who didn’t lift a finger earlier, now sitting in the shop and guiding new customers on how to use the Wifi Internet access.

20-year-old Abul, the wise son of Rahmatullah, proudly says, “After my father started to discover the wonders of the Internet through me, he wanted to share this with everyone in the village. But affordability was a big factor. Then one day he came to know about Carnival Internet’s Wifi Haat and the rest is history! Now, we are planning to open another outlet within Hobiganj district soon.” Then he chuckles and whispers – so that his father can’t hear – that some of his relatives have started thinking about opening similar shops in the vicinity. But he always will be the first!

Carnival Internet conceptualized this unique concept of a "digital connectivity" solution, with a vision to bridge the Bangladeshi rural communities with global. WiFi Haat is a solution that takes quality internet to the doorsteps of rural community hubs like local bazars and tea-stalls, where common people can come, enjoy unlimited internet with very affordable bite-sized costs. Mr. Zaman Khan, CEO of Carnival Internet, said “It is our primary objective to uplift the Internet experience of rural Bangladesh. In the next 3 years, we have a firm vision of setting up 50,000 such Carnival Wi-Fi Haats across the country, and touching 10000 villages to provide high speed internet access to approximately 1M+ unique users. We believe strongly that Carnival Rural Internet will dilute the rural vs. urban Digital divide, and play a large role in ensuring that rural population doesn’t have to step out of their villages or communities to achieve success in their respective fields. Their native location should not hamper, but rather empower, their ambitions.”

This revolution of Rural Digital empowerment was primarily initiated to align with the dream of Digital Bangladesh, under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina during her two consecutive terms as the Prime Minister. Carnival Internet’s ‘Wi-Fi Haat’ movement is destined to create many hundreds of transformational and inspiring stories, such as that of Rahmatullah, Abul, and Khairul. 


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