At Google, we have a longstanding commitment to bring the benefits of the internet to everyone. From 2015 to 2020, over 1.5 billion people across the world came online, and India has been the fastest growing contributor. But connectivity is only foundational, we need to come together to ensure that everyone has the support needed to participate and equal opportunity to gain from these developments.
This belief led us to embark on our most ambitious program till date called the Internet Saathi to help narrow the digital gender divide in India. Today, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, we are delighted to share that, in its six year journey, this joint effort with Tata Trusts has had a cascading impact benefitting over 30 million women across rural India, and contributed to narrowing the digital gender gap in India. The program was designed to impart digital literacy training to women across 300,000 villages in India, and it took the courage and non-stop efforts of over 80,000 women trainers called Internet Saathis to make this possible.
But even as we come together to salute and celebrate the success of these Internet Saathis, we know the progress on gender equity has been uneven, fragile, frustratingly slow, and equality and equal economic empowerment of women is a long way off. Post COVID-19, job cuts, income loss, and lack of access to education will prevent women and girls' economic advancement, particularly those from underserved communities, for generations to come. These alarming realities require swift and decisive action.
Today, at the virtual edition of Google for India event called Women Will, our CEO, Sundar Pichai, and President of Google.org, Jacquelline Fuller, made a series of announcements in support of the economic empowerment of women, both in India and globally, to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship enablers to help narrow the gender gap.
Supporting 1 million women entrepreneurs in rural India
Based on learnings from the Internet Saathi program, and to continue to support women in rural India to pursue their ambitions and improve their livelihoods through entrepreneurship, we are introducing a new Women Will web platform. This will be complemented by community support, mentorship, and accelerator programs for rural women entrepreneurs.
Available in English and Hindi, the Women Will platform is designed especially for women aspiring to explore entrepreneurship. Through a “how to” curriculum on turning an interest into a business, managing an enterprise, and promoting it for growth, the platform will provide guidance and support to women who want to convert an existing hobby or talent such as tailoring, beauty services, home tuition, food processing, etc. into some income. To begin with, we will work with 2,000 Internet Saathis to help other women gain from this resource and start on their entrepreneurial journey.
Supporting 100,000 women agri-workers with NASSCOM Foundation in India
To support women with access to skills they need for the future, we are committing $500K in funding to NASSCOM Foundation through our philanthropic arm, Google.org. With this support, they will reach 100,000 women agri workers with digital and financial literacy training in the six states of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. NASSCOM Foundation will also set up a helpline where women agri workers will be able to call and get further counselling on their entrepreneurship related queries.
US$25 million Google.org Global Impact Challenge for Women & Girls
As we make these commitments in India, we are very conscious that the disruption of 2020 has widened the gender equity gap globally. Post-COVID-19, a future of all-round prosperity is anchored in the guarantee of gender equity, and this requires concerted but bold efforts.
Google.org, which connects nonprofit innovators with the best of Google’s resources, is today launching a global Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Under this effort we will provide $25 million in overall funding to nonprofits and social organizations in India and around the world that are working to advance women and girls' economic empowerment and create pathways to prosperity. Selected Impact Challenge grantees will also receive mentoring from Googlers, Ad Grants, and additional support to bring their ideas to life. Visit g.co/womenandgirlschallenge to learn more about the Challenge and apply by 10 April.
Feature enablements on Search and Maps for women entrepreneurs
For many entrepreneurs, Search and Maps are their storefront. In order to make it easier for people to support women-led businesses, Google will enable search in English for “women-led” — “women-led restaurants,” “women-led clothing stores” and more — on Google Search and Maps. This is based on an opt-in feature on Google My Business where women-led businesses can identify as such on their Business Profiles. This will not only enhance the online presence of hundreds of women-owned businesses but customers can easily extend their support by purchasing from them, leaving a great review, and sharing their Business Profile.
GPay Business Pages for Homepreneurs
To empower homepreneurs, the vast majority of whom are women, Google Pay has announced the launch of Business Pages which enables them to create easy catalogues of their products and services and direct people to them through a unique URL. Interested buyers can chat with the homepreneur about their order and pay within the chat-based interface on Google Pay.
The success of the Internet Saathi Program has strengthened our belief that the impact of investments behind empowering women and girls is deeply rewarding and has long standing benefits for generations to come. At every level, the costs of exclusion are high, and the advantages of equity are manifold.
And as our CEO Sundar Pichai said, we have the opportunity to build a future that is more equal and more inclusive and we must take it, and we are committed to continuing our journey on this course.
Posted by Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & Vice President, Google India, and Sapna Chadha, Senior Director Marketing, Google India & South East Asia