Tata Trusts and Google India announced the launch of a special program called “Internet Saathi” to empower women and their communities in rural India by enabling them to use the Internet and benefit from it in their daily lives. The joint initiative is aimed at bridging the technology gender divide, which currently puts women in rural India at further risk of getting marginalized in the society as the world around them benefits from getting online. The ‘Internet Saathi’ initiative brings us closer to the Digital India vision of the country. The launch event was also graced by Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts. The initiative will provide basic training on the usage and benefits of Internet for women through specially designed Internet cycle carts which will be used to visit areas in villages where women can easily access and also learn more from the Internet.
Built on the back of a cycle, the Cart is modeled on India's traditional distribution system that is used to carry everything from ice-cream to industrial supplies. The operator or the "Internet Saathi" keen to train the women, would be akin to the village postman who was the single point contact for the village with the outside world both in terms of information as well as communication. Tata Trusts, with its vast field based ecosystem, will manage the on-ground rollout with its partners whereas Google will invest in providing the Internet-enabled Carts and the training content.
Speaking about the initiative with Tata Trusts, Rajan Anandan, VP and Managing Director of Google South East Asia and India said, “While women are making rapid progress on adoption of Internet in urban areas, women in rural India are getting left behind. Today only 12% of Internet users in rural India are women. We need to come together to address this challenge and empower women in rural India through training and programs that can truly transform their lives. We are delighted to partner with the most respected and well known Tata Trusts who have years of experience in managing programs of this scale. By combining our strengths, I am confident that we can achieve great results and overcome the challenges of providing easy access and digital education to women in rural India.”
“Tata Trusts strongly believes that innovative use of technology should be at the core of all its interventions that are undertaken for the benefit of the communities. Internet connectivity has become a fundamental need in any society and improves literacy and access to information that is instrumental for socio-economic development. We are glad that this joint initiative with Google will reach out to the rural communities, especially women in our country and we are confident that it will contribute towards their empowerment and also self-sustenance” said R Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee, Tata Trusts.
The initiative will kick off from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jharkhand and will be rolled out across the country eventually reaching out to over 4500 villages and 5 lakh women and rural communities across rural India over the next eighteen months. The internet Cart would be available in the village for a minimum of two days every week for over a period of four to six months. It will create awareness and also try to ensure that adequate training is provided to use the devices till women are confident of using the devices independently. Once the cart has completed the training in a cluster of three villages, it will be moved to the adjoining cluster for completion of a similar cycle. The training of women, and the community at large would be ensured by involving SHG federations / local NGO members as trainers.
The initiative will also be supported by Intel who has been a long term partner of Google India’s Helping Women Get Online initiative. “We believe that the vision of Digital India will empower every Indian citizen with equal opportunities irrespective of cast, creed and gender. At Intel we believe that skill development and innovation are imperative for realizing the Digital India vision and we are very proud to collaborate with Google and Tata Trusts on the ‘Helping Women Get Online’ initiative especially as we celebrate the Digital India Week.” said, Debjani Ghosh, Vice President SMG, Managing Director- South Asia, Intel.
Google’s helping women get online is an initiative to create awareness about the benefits of Internet amongst 50 million women in India. Under this initiative, Google conducts various outreach and educational programs. The program includes an awareness module, coupled with hands-on training modules aimed at teaching women how to use the internet, including via mobile devices. Since the launch of this initiative, Google has directly trained over 1.5 million women on the basics of the Internet.