Continuing with its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India, Google India announced a milestone of 100,000 reached villages with its Internet Saathi program. The program was launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015 along with Tata Trusts. Google announced its plans to cover 300,000 villages across India in December 2015. It is August 2017 and Google has reached a milestone of 100,000 villages.
In its two-year journey, the program is live in ten states in India. 25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are working everyday across these villages to help women and children learn about the Internet. Google says that 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.
Google also announced the expansion of the internet Saathi program in two new states - Haryana and Bihar. In Haryana, the program has already started to roll out and will be covering 1000 villages and in Bihar the program has kicked off from Ramnagar, Bagaha, Lauria, Manjha and Chakai villages and will be covering 7000+ villages expanding it further later in the year.
Speaking about reaching the milestone, Sapna Chadha, Director Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google said, “From being afraid to touch a smartphone, worried that they will spoil it, to now demanding services that can help them get more from the Internet - women in rural India have come a long way. 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.” She added.
Digit had the opportunity to visit Sewakapura, a small village in the easternmost part of Rajasthan to check out the internet Saathi program. You can read our experience of the program here.