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As part of the “Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives” project being implemented by APC in partnership with Rhizomatica, Sarbani Banerjee Belur of Gram Marg, an India-based member organisation in the project’s peer learning community, recently visited the Janastu Community Mesh Radio Network initiated by Servelots in the village of Halekote, Karnataka with the support of a community networks travel exchange grant. We are sharing this blog post written by Sarbani so that you can read about this enriching experience in her own words:

The next two days are going to be exciting, this was my thought when I boarded the vehicle on 3rd June. My first visit to a community network. Janastu community mesh radio is a community network at Halekote in Tumkur district of Karnataka. Two and a half hours drive from Bengaluru and you can see how the landscape changes rapidly from a concrete jungle to greenery all around. Halekote is a small village with a population size of 3000 people tucked in the foothills of the famous Devarayanadurga hills. The hills are rocky and there are two temples in the hilltop at an altitude of approx 1204 meters. Halekote is a quaint village with a population size of 2500 people. Agriculture, farming areca nuts, paddy, and vegetables are the mainstays of the people in this village. 

I directly reach the Crafter Space located in the village. It is about 12 pm in the afternoon and I see Madhu, Siddhava, Rajeshwari, and Shashi sitting and weaving baskets and bags of different size and shape. Baskets of different sizes are being woven by these women from grass that grows in the still waters in this village. This grass is known as the "rush grass". It is a nice atmosphere here at the Crafter Space where women come together. This space is a safe one for women, where they come together to weave baskets and share their day to day experiences. Children also visit this place to be with their mother after school. These women eat together and have good camaraderie.

All the women in the Crafter Space own a smartphone and this enables them being connected to the outside world. Madhu knows how to use the smartphone and she has been teaching the others in the Crafter Space how to use the smartphone. Madhu teaches the women how to use the internet and do YouTube search. Most of the women use voice search for finding information on the internet. Some of them who have studied till 10th grade type out their search. The internet is used for various things – serials and soaps, recipes, beauty tips, health, WhatsApp and new designs for making bags and baskets. The internet is also being used by these women to participate in remote training and sharing knowledge about the baskets they make.

Continue reading on Sarbani Banerjee Belur's own blog site here.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Learn more about the Connecting the Unconnected project here.

Learn more about Janastu here.