Google’s Internet Saathi program to empower women in rural India to get online has trained around 10 million women in 100,000 villages.
In its two year journey, the program has continued to gain momentum and is today live in 12 states in India which includes Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Bihar and Haryana being the most recent.
25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are working everyday across these villages to help women and children learn about the Internet. In total, over 10 million women have gained from the program so far and have become familiar with the benefits of using the internet in their daily lives.
Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015 along with Tata Trusts, Google announced the ambitious plans to scale the program, to cover 300,000 villages across India in December 2015.
On the second year anniversary of the program, Google also announced the expansion of the program in two new states – Haryana and Bihar. In Haryana, the program has already started to roll out and will be covering around 1,000 villages and in Bihar the program has kicked off from Ramnagar, Bagaha, Lauria, Manjha and Chakai villages and will be covering around 7,000+ villages expanding it further later in the year.
Speaking about reaching the milestone, Sapna Chadha, Director Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google said, “Even as India has taken the lead to become the fastest growing Internet user market in the world, India’s Internet is still dominated by male users. The digital gender divide is even wider in rural India where digital literacy amongst women continues to be a challenge, this combined with socio-economic challenges are the major barriers that prevent women from using the Internet.”
“We’re delighted with the progress we have made with the Internet Saathi model, and it is remarkable to see the passion of these women learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities. Internet Saathis are now increasingly seen as change agents in their villages and continue to find more support from the communities and village heads for their work,” added Chadha.
The Internet Saathi initiative is part of Google’s Helping Women Get Online campaign which is designed to create awareness about the benefits of Internet among women in rural India. While Google provides internet enabled devices and training material, Tata Trusts with its vast network of NGO’s and federation across the country is helping in implementation and rolling out of the initiative.