Google and Tata Trusts’ ‘Internet Saathi’ program now live in 2.6 lakh villages

NPnews24 Online Pune: Continuing with its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India, Google India and Tata Trusts  announced reaching a milestone of two lakh and sixty thousand villages with its Internet Saathi program.

The program has contributed towards bridging the digital gender divide in rural India [female to male ratio from 1 in 10 in 2015 to 4 in 10 in 2018*].
Asiya Gawandi, from Maujgarhjia in Maharashtra has trained 1500 women in her village who are using the internet in their everyday life now. Many of these women have gone ahead and started their small businesses. Collectively, these women have started a local market, ‘Apna Bazaar’, where they these enterprising women come forward to sell food items, handicraft, beauty products like sugandhi ubtan, and the list goes on. They continue to enhance their skills and learn new techniques using the Internet.

Aparna Bankar from Bramhani Village, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra has always been keen about working towards women health issues. She decided not to shy about menstrual problems and started awareness among women. With the help of her family and CSC, she bought manufacturing unit for manufacturing Sanitary Napkins. Her research over the internet helped her in starting production of sanitary napkin. She uses YouTube videos to educate women around menstrual hygiene and has given free samples in the past to new users to help promote adoption. She used her work as an Internet Saathi trainer to understand social and mental barriers among women around using sanitary napkins and is actively trying to address them. She has trained 700 women on internet literacy.
In Punjab, the program will cover around 5,000 villages, starting from Paras Rampur, Kotli Than Singh, Burj, Vehra, from Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts. In Odisha, the program has kicked off from Sindhia in Baleshwar, Parakana in Puri, Bhuinpur in Kendrapara, and we will cover 16,000+ villages.

Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015, Google and Tata Trusts announced the ambitious plans to scale the program to cover 3 lakh villages across India in December 2015. In its four year journey, the program has reached the length and breadth of the country, covering 20 states in India. 70,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are using the Internet to drive positive change in their communities and have already benefited over 2.6 crore women.

Talking about the socio-economic impact of the initiative in India, Neha Barjatya, Chief Internet Saathi, Google India said, “Internet Saathi program has shown us that with the right opportunities, there is no limit to what women can achieve. It is remarkable to see the passion of women in rural India, who are learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities.

While some have gone ahead and started their own micro-business [stitching, honeybee farming, and beauty parlour], many others are empowering their families and communities with new skills to enhance their livelihood, and then there are those who are driving awareness for issues like girl child education, menstrual hygiene and more.”

Raman Kalyanakrishnan, Head – Strategy, Tata Trusts said, “For inclusive growth and societal progress, it is imperative that women in rural India are provided with adequate opportunities and knowledge. This has been made possible through the Internet Saathi program. We are really proud of this achievement. The Trusts have increasingly been using technology in all its programmes across 29 states in India.
Punjab and Odisha being a geography of focus for several Tata Trusts’ existing initiatives gives us an added advantage in planning and implementing the Internet Saathi programme in these regions.”

In a recent study with Kantar, we interviewed over 2500 people across rural India to understand the impact that providing access has on their livelihood.

The study shows: 
Over time, women start to become more confident, becoming a key source of information for her village, and also help empower the next generation:
·  About 70 per cent of Saathis believe they are seen as a source of information in their village — people are coming to them consistently for answers to help children with schoolwork, to learn  new cooking recipes, search for jobs, or to run a business.
·  8 in 10 Saathis and their beneficiaries believe people in their village respect them more.
·  9 in 10 women beneficiaries believe in a woman’s right to express herself, and earn a living for her family.
·  That’s not all, 7 in 10 women who attended the trainings with the Saathis have seen an improvement in their children’s education.

The study showed increased confidence leads to a level of independence that creates financial opportunities for women to pursue their dreams:
·  3 in 10 Saathis and 2 in 10 beneficiaries have set up some form of business. This, in turn, has provided economic growth, with the business often earning between Rs. 3000 and Rs. 5000 every month.
·  5 in 10 Saathis have seen positive impact on employability.

Real stories of change are reshaping the digital narrative for rural India in over 20 states across the country — Mahatashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Punjab and Odisha.