Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures

The Infoladies of Bangladesh

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    Only 5 million of Bangladesh’s 152 million citizens have regular Internet access. Three-quarters live in rural villages. The Infoladies, a group of about 50 women in their early 20s, travel through the countryside equipped with a laptop computer, a tablet, a smartphone, a digital camera, and a glucometer ministering to the technologically impoverished.

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures
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    Mahfuza Akhter, 24, an Infolady, sets up a Skype session so Abdul Kashem can show off a newborn calf to his son in Saudi Arabia. The most requested activity is setting up Skype calls to male relatives, many of whom have left to take jobs in the Middle East.

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures
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    Mahfuza weighs a pregnant 18-year-old. As they bike from village to village, they help villagers with a range of digital tasks, such as taking blood-sugar readings and looking up information on crops.

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures
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    Farhana Begum screens an educational video about agriculture. She also plays short documentaries and cartoons. The Infoladies’ project was created by antipoverty nonprofit Dnet, which lends each woman $650 to purchase equipment so she can set up her own franchise.

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures
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    Sathi Akhter, 23, repairs a client’s mobile phone, a skill she picked up during eight days of training. Trips between villages sometimes take three hours.

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures
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    Mahfuza snaps a picture of a villager so she can send it to her husband, who lives and works in far-off Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. The women average 7,000 taka ($90) in earnings per month from their services, which is more than what most Bangladeshi farmers earn. “I am running my family,” says Mahfuza. “I am independent, and that makes a difference.”

    Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos Pictures