Continuing with its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India, Google India is reaching a milestone of 100,000 villages with its Internet Saathi program.
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.
In its two year journey, the program has continued to gain momentum and is today 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. 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.
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 ~1000 villages and in Bihar the program has kicked off from Ramnagar, Bagaha, Lauria, Manjha and Chakai villages and we 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.
Google also released the findings of a research conducted to understand the net impact of program amongst women in rural India. IPSOS, a market research company conducted the research to gauge the socio-economic impact of improving digital literacy amongst women in rural India and the results are very heartening.