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Internet Saathi: Google-Tata to reduce Gender Digital Disparity In India

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The search engine giant, Google is now aiming to increase its presence in rural India with Internet Saathi. After launching a series of urban initiatives like creating a $20,000 start-up fund and providing free Wi-fi in railway stations, Google is actively engaging rural women in India for provideing internet services to the villages.

In association with Tata Trust who are providing tablet devices and mobile, a bicycle, training materials to rural women who are trained by these companies so as to become Internet Saathi (master trainers). In turn, these Internet Saathis reach out to people in the village to help people with web-based information other than providing training to other women in the rural area to make them digitally literate.

“The programme is not only aiding women access information and services but is also empowering them socially and economically.” Ganesh Neelam, head of innovation, Tata Trust

Sources: Business Standard

For a period of six months, Google India is paying them with Rs. 1,000 per month (as an initial payment). Explaining the role of these ‘agents of change’ in rural India, Sapna Chadha, head of marketing at Google India, explains they can charge something from the villagers to whom they are providing information to.

Smartphone, riding a bicycle and reach villages to train women popularity how to use mobile devices so as to overcome the digital gender disparity in Indian villages.

This initiative has already been rolled out in nine states with around 500 women that are being roped in this programme weekly. Another important point to note is that under this scheme, Google is offering the requisite material in the native language and is also engaging with other organizations to develop content in native language.

This initiative will not only help rural India to adopt to the world of information and technology but the company will also benefit if internet usage grows.

“There is a lot of potential in the rural areas. If internet usage increases, it will indirectly help us widen our advertisement revenue”- Google Official

The Internet Saathi initiative forms a part of Google’s Helping Women Get Online Campaign that aims to spread awareness about the benefits of internet usage among women in Indian villages.

Google India along with Tata Trusts with a couple of e-commerce giants like Amazon, Snapdeal, and PayTM to extend the reach of e-commerce to rural areas which are a part of their joint project which aims at taking the internet to remote areas.

Earlier launched as to spread digital literacy, this project would now be focusing on revenue generation as well. The focus is on generating revenue is to make this programme self-sustaining.

“We are talking to a lot of players in e-commerce space like Amazon and Snapdeal. Talks are also on with Paytm, which would be a digital payment bank, so that our internet saathis can become BCs (business correspondents) for them,” Ganesh

Making rural women aware of the benefits of the Internet was long been ignored till 2015. This initiative could be partially (or maybe fully) influenced by Digital India campaign initiated by Narendra Modi.

The aim of this initiative is to reach three lakh villages in India within next few years as per Google India’s plans.

The Current Status

At the launch of this programme in Bengal, Sapna Chadha talked about the current status of Internet Saathi. According to Google India, this joint digital literacy programme will be rolling out to nearly 400 villages and also, reach one lakh women in Purulia district in West Bengal within next few months.

This programme where women are trained to explore and learn various uses of the Internet will be spreading to Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam along with West Bengal.

On the basis of selection and training given for using the internet on tablet devices and smartphones, these women will further train other women of their villages and neighboring ones.

“This has a ripple effect among the community and is a sustained, long-term effort through which these women get comfortable in using a smartphone. They use it to access services such as healthcare, agriculture, and educational resources etc.,” – Said Head of Innovation at the Tata Trusts

Here is what one of the ‘Internet Saathi’ had to say about this initiative. 

Indumati Mahato from Purulia district, West Bengal: “At first, many questioned why they should use Internet and what benefit it will bring us. When a pregnant woman in our village found it difficult to access a healthcare centre to deliver the child, I used the Internet to find out a suitable place in a neighbouring district in Jharkhand. People have now started to realize how the Internet can help us.”

Future Plans

This programme is growing at a large scale. Considering the positives, Google India along with other partners can keep providing the remuneration of INR 1,000 per month to the spreaders of digital literacy in rural India.

“We are telling these different players that there is a platform already created where we can mutually benefit. Use of digital wallet is picking up in rural areas where there is proper connectivity,” Ganesh said.

Tata Trusts and Google India are also talking with telecom players particularly for providing and improving data access to areas with poor connectivity.

Strangely, India has the second largest internet base in the world and still has the greatest online digital disparities. Though the initiative of Internet Saathis is bridging the gap between men and women, the pace is still slow than what is expected. This is because there are a lot of challenges and difficulties cropping up along the way in digital literacy like language barriers, shyness/hesitance, mobile connectivity, etc.

Now it will be interesting to see how Google India along with Tata Trusts will be overcoming difficulties like mobile connectivity in remote villages and language plus cultural barriers…

Do you think this initiative will be able to decrease gender digital disparity and increase internet literacy in rural India?

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  • There are 2 comments


    • 1 year ago

      jack   /   Reply

      This is amazing. Let the rural India be digitalized by Google-TATA.

      Jack from Ecbilla, Ecommerce portal

      • 1 year ago

        Sakshi Behl   /   Reply

        We feel the same. Glad you liked it.

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