Google today said it will expand its Internet Saathi programme in India — run in partnership with Tata Trusts — to create “digitally-enabled livelihood opportunities” for women. Launched in July 2015, Internet Saathi programme aims to facilitate digital literacy among women in rural India. It has so far, trained 30,000 Internet Saathis, who have in turn influenced 12 million women in the country. “Internet usage by women in rural areas is a challenge. Earlier, only 1 in 10 Internet users in rural India was a woman. Two years later, this has grown to 3 in 10,” Google Marketing Head (South East Asia and India) Sapna Chadha told PTI. Citing a study, she said women, who were part of the Internet Saathi programme, felt their social and economic standing had improved after the training. “Many have set up their own businesses and this inspired us to look at creating a sustainable framework to deliver employment opportunities to the Internet Saathis,” she said. Tata Trusts has set up Foundation For Rural Entrepreneurship Development (FREND), which will help companies and institutions to utilise the services of Internet Saathis in dissemination of information and services in rural areas. This will create newer avenues of income generation for Internet Saathis in rural India, Chadha said.
Tata Trusts Head (Strategy) Raman Kalyanakrishnan said the intent of bringing income-generating opportunities to these women was to ensure that they become self-dependant and further encourage women in their communities to emulate them. He said over 12,000 Internet Saathis across India have signed up to take up projects to take part in this next phase of Internet Saathi programme. “We have already conducted successful pilots with organisations such as Tata Water Mission, Haqdarshak, Kantar and Nielsen with encouraging outcomes,” he added.
Rohini Sandeep Shirke, an Internet Saathi, has pursued apiculture post her Internet training and is now selling honey to areas in Maharashtra. The 28-year old has further trained 1,000 women around her village in Adulpeth in Satara district, Maharashtra. “I learnt how I can improve the health of my bees and get more honey. I am not only selling honey in my village but also to places like Pune. I am setting up my own website so that more people can know about my product,” Shirke said.
K Madhavi, another Internet Saathi from Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh, is now helping people get information and enrol for various government schemes. The Internet Saathi programme has been rolled out to over 1.1 lakh villages so far and the aim is to reach 3 lakh villages in India in the next few years.