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Google digitally empowers rural women in 100,000 villages



Google India has announced reaching a milestone of 100,000 villages with its Internet Saathi program, a digital its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India.


Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015 along with Tata Trusts, Google announced the ambitious plans to scale the program, to cover 300,000 villages across India in December 2015. While on its second year anniversary, Google also announced the expansion of the program in two new states – Haryana and Bihar. In Haryana, the program has already started to roll out and will be covering 1,000 villages and in Bihar the program has kicked off from Ramnagar, Bagaha, Lauria, Manjha and Chakai villages and we will be covering 7,000+ villages expanding it further later in the year.


According to the company, the program has reached live in 10 states in India in its two-year journey. The program has continued to gain momentum and is today live in ten states in India. The program has 25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis who are working everyday across these villages to help women and children learn about the Internet. In total, over 10 million women have gained from the program so far and have become familiar with the benefits of using the internet in their daily lives.


Speaking about reaching the milestone, Sapna Chadha, Director – Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google, said, “From being afraid to touch a smartphone, worried that they will spoil it, to now demanding services that can help them get more from the Internet – women in rural India have come a long way. 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. The digital gender divide is even wider in rural India where digital literacy amongst women continues to be a challenge, this combined with socioeconomic challenges are the major barriers that prevent women from using the Internet.”


“We’re delighted with the progress we have made with the Internet Saathi model, and it is remarkable to see the passion of these women learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities. Internet Saathis are now increasingly seen as change agents in their villages and continue to find more support from the communities and village heads for their work,” she added further.


Google has also released the findings of a research conducted to understand the net impact of program amongst women in rural India. The survey was conducted by IPSOS, to gauge the socioeconomic impact of improving digital literacy amongst women in India’s rural regions of five states, namely Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat and Jharkhand. The findings of Net Impact of the program on Internet awareness and usage amongst women in rural India reveals.


· Almost 90% of women who have attended the trainings with the Saathis have a better understanding of Internet

· On an average, 25% of women who have learned to use the Internet continue to use the Internet

o At 35%, Gujarat has the highest percentage of women continuing to use the Internet after attending the program

o At 17%, Rajasthan ranks the lowest in continuing usage of Internet

· Primary use case for Internet is to learn new skills and find information

· Cost of the smartphones is the biggest barrier for usage after training – Over half of the women trained cannot afford to buy the phone

· Continued usage leads to better learning and more confidence in using more services on the internet


Impact on social standing of women in rural India:


· 7% of women trained under the program feel that their social standing has improved. They believe their social standing has improved at individual, household and community levels – they feel more informed, more confident about themselves


Economic Impact of the Program:


· Overall, 33% trained women think that their economic condition has improved by learning new skills on the Internet

· Women feel that Internet has helped them to supplement their income in their existing occupation; income increased by an additional 1% in the villages where training was conducted; and those who continue to use internet in their daily lives believe they have upped their income additionally by another four per cent