Aspirations, Access Agency: Women transforming lives with technology, a book by the Reliance Foundation and Observer Research Foundation, tells the stories of Indian women leaders from across the nation who have emerged as agents of technological change and socio-economic inclusion and are using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to help their communities build pathways to better futures. Written by Sunaina Kumar, this excerpt shares the story of Pramila Krishna.The people of Koraput district in Odisha have always relied on the forest to make a living. Koraput, located in the Eastern Ghats, is known for its lush forests and well-preserved tribal culture. The history of the land can be traced to the third century when it belonged to the Atavika peoplethe ancient name for the forest-dwelling people of the region. The Atavika people were considered brave and unconquerable. And much like her ancient ancestors, 40-year-old Pramila Krishna of Dangrapali village in Koraput has also always been determined.Her earliest memories are of the forest. The forest was always dark and mysterious. As a young girl, when I would go with my mother to collect firewood, I used to be scared of it, she recalls. Now I help the women of my community to make a living off it. Pramila works as a digital champion with womens collectives and uses technology to help tribal women expand their businesses of selling forest products.Koraput is a part of Odishas KBK region (Koraput, Bolangir, and Kalahandi), considered extremely underdeveloped and vulnerable to recurring droughts and famine, which in turn leads to distress migration. The region is unsuitable for year-long farming as the land is undulating and cannot be irrigated. When the summer rains arrive, rice, maize, and millet are sown. For the rest of the year, the community relies on non-timber forest products (NTFPs)any product or service other than timber that is produced in forestsfor their livelihood. The most common forest products of the region are tamarind and sal seed. Earlier, the women would sell their products in markets near their villages in Kundra, Kotpad, and Jeypore, but would incur high logistical expenses. With Pramilas help, they are can now sell their goods in their own village, as she has facilitated market linkages for the women with the use of her smartphone.Pramila has also been working on community awareness by informing women about the minimum support price (MSPs)a available for their NTFPs and agricultural produce. When the last tamarind crop was harvested, Pramila checked the MSP for it online and discovered it was INR 36 per kg, which was more than the INR 23 that traders were offering. The women collectively bargained for a better price. We dont have to rely on anyone to get the information we need. We directly talk to buyers. We can also easily transfer or receive payments with digital payment apps, she says.Pramila has been trained under the Transforming Tribal Women as Digitally Empowered Enterprise Leaders programme, which was rolled out in 2021 to encourage digital literacy and enterprise promotion among tribal women. It covers 6,600 women across Odishas tribal districts and has been developed by the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), a non-profit organisation. The programme was supported through the WomenConnect Challenge India, an initiative by Reliance Foundation and USAID. An innovation of the programme is the Banashree application, which acts as an e-platform to facilitate market linkage and disseminate information on social security schemes. The programme is closely linked to the implementation of the Van Dhan Vikas Yojana, a scheme launched by the central government in 2018, which covers 307 districts with forest-dwelling tribal populations across the country. To encourage entrepreneurship among tribal women, the scheme provides them with skills training and promotes the marketing of forest products through MSP.Pramila, the eldest of three sisters, was born in the village of Jamunahandi, located an hour away from Dangrapali. Her father worked in an iron and steel plant in Chhattisgarh. She was only eight years old when her father passed away from an illness and the family had to return to Jamunahandi. Her mother took up tailoring work to supplement the familys income from their land. Pramila remembers her mother as working without a break, striving to raise three daughters by herself. Mother had studied till Class 3. Women in those days did not get the opportunity to study any further. But she wanted us to continue our education, Pramila remembers. She and her sisters studied till Class 10 in a charitable school.Pramila got married at 16 and moved to Dangrapali. Her husband, Uday Chandra Krishna, who has also studied till Class 10, is a farmer and a part-time autorickshaw driver. He has unstintingly supported her in pursuing what she wanted, she says. They have two children, a 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. Her daughter shares her interest in working with the community and is planning to train as an auxiliary nurse midwife.In the early years of her marriage, with the burden of domestic work, Pramila found it difficult to set aside any time for herself. In those days, Dangrapali was very different. Located at the edge of the forest, the village would become dark by evening as there was no electricity. There was no water connection either. Pramila would start her day at the crack of dawn by queueing up to collect water at the tubewell along with the other girls and women from Dangrapali. She would spend the afternoon cleaning the house and preparing the food. Rice had to be separated from the husk manually using a dhinki (husk lever), a long and laborious process that all the women would have to do. Later she would head to the forest to collect firewood to cook the rice. The village now has a rice mill and almost every household has tap water and gas connections. But she wanted to do more with her life.Pramilas journey as a community leader and an entrepreneur began when she started tutoring the children of her village soon after she was married. She was one of the few women in the village who was educated. This has partially improveddata from the National Family Health Survey 2019-21 show that 40.6 percent of women in Koraput are literate, though only 17.6 percent of women have received 10 or more years of schooling.Around 2004, there was a drive to form self-help groups (SHGs) in the village and there was a need for someone to take charge of the bookkeeping for the SHG. Pramila stepped forward to form the SHG. After the first year, when the bank gave them a loan, she sold a batch of tamarind and made a small profit. From 2008, she took on the contract to cook the mid-day meal for the school in the village. Her work got her noticed and she rose through the ranks to become the head of the gram panchayat level SHG federation.To read the inspiring stories of these women revolutionising ICT use across the length and breadth of India, click here.