Women account for less than 20 % of visitors to cyber cafes

At a time when many cyber cafes in the city are shutting down, a group of techies is working at building a cyber café exclusively for women here.

The idea is being pursued by Saurabh Agarwal, a Harvard student, with his friends Santhosh K. Subramanian from IIT- Kharagpur and Prem Ramaswami, also from Harvard University. The team says the aim of the project is to create safe, comfortable, and information-rich spaces for women in the city.

“People laughed at the idea initially, but when we spoke to women, many of them agreed that they feel rather unsafe accessing the internet in cyber cafes. The idea is to help them browse freely and for longer hours, to learn and tap the internet for adding value to their lives,” says Saurabh.

A two-month study in different parts of the city by the team revealed that women account for less than 20 per cent of the visitors to the city’s cyber cafes. “Over half of the cyber cafes are quite dingy, or have systems with no filters. Hence, porn sites visited by one customer often leave open pages when someone is browsing next, making people, especially women, uncomfortable,” said Mr. Subramanian, who is an entrepreneur in the city.

The café, says the team, will not only provide a safe environment for women to browse, but would also have attendants who would advise them on privacy settings and suggest them interesting content.

The team has managed to get funding from Harvard University for the project, and is one of the three projects to be awarded the Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship in South Asia at Harvard University, a grant that aims to assist projects looking at entrepreneurial solutions to social and economic problems in South Asia. The team has tied up with beauty salons, colleges and working women’s hostels to know how to get more insights on the project. The cyber café is likely to come up on the outskirts of the city, where the population is dense and there are few decent cyber cafes.

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