Expanding its program to train women in rural India about the benefits of Internet – Google India and Tata Trusts announced the launch of ‘Internet Saathi’ program in four more states namely – West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. The joint initiative aims to overcome the digital gender disparity in rural India and empower rural women and communities to facilitate digitally literacy by making them aware of the benefits of internet and the services they can use for their various needs. Launched in July 2015, Internet Saathi program is now live in nine states in India, including villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh where the program has already benefitted 100,000 women.
The ‘Internet Saathi’ program focuses on training women and larger communities in rural India to explore the various uses and benefits of the Internet. The Saathis then impart training to the rural community in their own and neighbouring villages. Google provides the devices and the training material to the Saathis. The final roll out of the program and the training of the master trainers which comprises of Self Help Groups and Women’s federations is overseen and facilitated by Tata Trusts through its field partners on ground. In order to drive broader access and continuity in usage after the training, Internet enabled devices like tablets and smartphones are also placed within the school premises, community centres, self-help group meeting places, agriculture centres, PHCs, etc. for optimum exposure and learning amongst the community.
Talking about the initiative Sapna Chadha, Head of Marketing, Google India said, “Internet usage by women in rural areas continues to remain a challenge. Only 1 in 10 Internet users in Rural India is a woman. With this program we are creating an enabling environment that empowers them while also bridging the technology gender divide. We’ve seen tremendous success in the Internet Saathi model – having local women trainer ensures continuity in the process of learning and imparting hands on training to women and children in villages – making it a highly scalable and sustainable program. We’re now expanding the program to four new states which takes us closer to our mission of reaching 300,000 villages in India in next few years.”
Ganesh Neelam, Head – Innovation at Tata Trusts said, “Of India’s 350 mn internet users, nearly 100 mn dwell in the rural parts of the country. Of these, only 10 mn are women. We are delighted that under the Internet Saathi initiative we have reached a milestone of training 100,000 women in less than a year. The program is not only aiding women access information and services but is also empowering them socially and economically enabling them to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. We are committed to take this initiative in a focused manner through building entrepreneurship within the Internet Saathis to drive a significant impact in improving the lives of community especially women in rural India along with Google.”
The influence of the program in villages has been profound with a positive impact on the lives of the women and the community at large. With easy access to information from different sectors like agriculture, health, education, social security schemes etc, women have started exploring various ways to generate new revenue such as embroidery, arts and crafts. As well as other revenue generating opportunities through e-commerce portals; demonstrating the impact of the program in a short span.
The Internet Saathi initiative is a part of Google’s Helping Women Get Online campaign which aims to create awareness about the benefits of Internet among women in India. As part of this initiative, Google in partnership with Tata Trusts conducts various outreach and educational programs. The program includes an awareness module, coupled with hands-on training modules on how to use the internet, using mobile devices in their local languages. Since the launch of this initiative, Google has directly trained over 1.5 mn women on the basics of the Internet.