From literacy to livelihood, the Internet Saathi journey continues!
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. And in rural areas, the situation is worse. To overcome this gender divide in 2015, we along with Tata Trusts, announced the Internet Saathi program with an ambitious plan to help women across 300,000 villages in India to learn about the benefits of Internet and how they can use it to improve their lives.

Using the train the trainer model, we equipped women within the villages with smartphones and tablets, and as of today are over 30 thousand Saathis who have covered more than 110,000 villages across 12 states in India and reached out to over 12 million women.

And while we continue to roll out the program across more villages, today we’re expanding the Internet Saathi program to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for women in rural India. We are supporting the Foundation For Rural Entrepreneurship Development i.e. FREND. set up by Tata Trusts.  Under this initiative we will jointly work with Tata Trusts to deliver sustainable employment opportunities to Internet Saathis,  by opening up the Internet Saathi network for other organisations to further the cause of socio-economic development of rural India.

Millions of women across rural India continue to fight social and cultural norms to pursue their ambitions and learn further. In this environment,  they see the Internet as a force to learn and create a better future for their families. With knowledge of the Internet, thousands of Internet Saathis have gone on to do amazing things, for themselves and their communities.  

One such story is of Rohini. She did not know how to use a smartphone till last year. Now  she used the Internet  to get more information on Bee farming, making honey and packaging it. She is also using the Internet to promote the honey she makes. I met her two weeks back and she told me how the demand was high and her stock was sold out!

These stories have inspired us to expand the Internet Saathi program from digital literacy to digital livelihood to further the cause of socio-economic development of rural India! We believe, FREND, will become a vehicle for other like minded companies and institutions to utilise the Internet Saathi network and enable dissemination of information and services in villages, thereby creating newer avenues of income for the women in rural India.

Over 12,000 Internet Saathis across India have voluntarily signed up for this new dimension of Internet Saathi. And in the past few months, some of these Saathis have successfully completed pilot programs executing projects for Kantar, Nielsen, HP Printers, Tata Water Mission and Haqdarshak.

We are grateful to Tata Trusts, our onground NGO partners and several Google volunteers who have contributed to the success of the Internet Saathi program. We hope this new direction of the Internet Saathi program will contribute in empowering more women across rural India as we work with the Saathis to spread digital literacy and improve their livelihoods with Internet.

Posted by Sapna Chadha, Marketing Head, SEA & India, Google