Twenty-five-year-old Kamlesh Kumari, a resident of Sirmathura village in Dholpur district of Rajasthan, is deeply engrossed with a tab, searching for child healthcare tips while her four-month-old daughter sleeps on her lap. Educated till Class 8, Kamlesh craves for knowledge. With mobile phone internet in the village, she has now found a new ray of hope for gaining that knowledge.
Confident Kamlesh not just surfs the internet but also teaches other women in the village how to leverage the web.Google India’s digital educative initiative, Internet Saathi, under Helping Women Get Online campaign has been transforming lives of many women like Kamlesh in the villages of Dholpur. The internet, which seemed a distant dream to village women, is now just a touch away.
“The usage of the internet among women in India is lower than most countries in the world. Only one-third of India’s online users are women. This gender disparity of internet user base was the big concern that we wanted to address,” said Sapna Chadha, marketing head of Google India.
“We launched an initiative called Helping Women Get Online that was aimed at encouraging women to use the Internet in their daily life,” Chadha told.
Internet Saathi, which was started in 2015, has now reached around 4,000 villages with 1,900 trained ‘saathis’. Google is adding up to 500 additional ‘saathis’ per week. More than 100,000 women have been trained so far. Under this initiative, Google conducts various outreach and educational programs.
Not just Kamlesh, the initiative has brought changes in the lives of many other women, like Gayatri Devi who has been a ‘saathi’ since November 2015.
“We provide the devices and the training material to the ‘saathis’ and train them. The final roll out of the program which comprises members of self- help groups and women’s federations is overseen and facilitated by Tata Trusts through its field partners on ground,” said Chadha.
With local women trainers, the Internet Saathi has been successful as it ensures continuity in the process of learning and imparting hands-on training to women and children in villages, making it a highly scalable and sustainable program.