Internet usage by women in rural areas continues to remain a challenge. Only one in 10 Internet users in rural India is a woman. With this programme, we are creating an enabling environment that empowers them while also bridging the technology gender divide.
Of India's 350 million internet users, nearly 100 million dwell in the rural parts of the country. Of these, only 10 million are women.
Delightedly ,that under the 'Internet Saathi' initiative, theyhave reached a milestone of training 100,000 women in less than a year,"
The initiative aims to 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.
Over ten million women in India have Google to thank for making them more aware of the benefits the Internet offers them. Two years after Google announced the Internet Saathi program, an initiative to bring digital literacy to women in rural parts of India, the company says it has already reached 100,000 villages.
"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.”
That's a major milestone for Google, which is working in conjunction with Tata Trusts on the Internet Saathi program. Through the Internet Saathi program, Google is trying to address a major gender-gap problem India faces on the Internet. Even as about 400 million people use Internet in the country, only a small portion of this constitutes of women.
A report by UK consultancy We Are Social, for instance, noted last year that only 24 percent of Facebook users in India were women. When you move to rural areas, things look more dismal. A report from The Boston Consulting Group from last year suggested that 98 percent of Internet users in rural India are men. In comparison, 79 percent of users in cities were estimated to be men.
Over 25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis, volunteers who are meeting women in villages and then coaching them, are helping Google serve women in ten Indian states, including Bihar and Haryana, two states where the company recently expanded its project. Internet Saathis have already served more than 8,000 villages in Haryana and Bihar states, the company said. Google plans to expand the project to another 200,000 villages.
The women who are participating in the Internet Saathi project are reporting impressive progress, according to IPSOS, a marketing research company. Nearly 90 percent of them said the trainings have helped them have a better understanding of Internet and more than 30 percent of them realised that using the Internet could help them improve their financial condition.
“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," says Sapna Chadha, Director Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google said in a statement.
As a part of the Internet Saathi program, women ambassadors get trained in the know-how of using the Internet by Google. These Saathis then train and educated women across their villages about the Internet and using it for their benefits in day-to-day life. The training includes everything from operating a smartphone to helping them search for information online and even use WhatsApp.
"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.”