Internet Saathi programme, a digital literacy initiative of Google India and Tata Trusts, aimed at empowering women in rural India, reaches 2.6 lakh villages across the country.
Announcing the milestone on Tuesday, the company said the programme has contributed towards bridging the digital gender divide in rural India (female to the male ratio from 1 in 10 in 2015 to 4 in 10 in 2018) and will expand to cover two new states of Punjab & Odisha.
In Punjab, the programme will cover around 5,000 villages, starting from Paras Rampur, Kotli Than Singh, Burj, Vehra, from Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts. In Odisha, the programme has kicked off from Sindhia in Baleshwar, Parakana in Puri, Bhuinpur in Kendrapara, and will cover 16,000-plus villages.
Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015, Google and Tata Trusts had announced ambitious plans to scale up the programme to cover 3 lakh villages across India in December 2015.
In its four-year journey, the programme has spanned the length and breadth of the country, covering 20 states. About 70,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are using the internet to drive positive change in their communities, which in turn have benefited over 26 million women.
According to Raman Kalyanakrishnan, Head – Strategy, Tata Trusts, “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 programme…Punjab and Odisha being the 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.”
The company also shared the findings of a study done to understand the impact of the Internet Saathi programme.
It was found that over time, women start to become more confident, becoming a key source of information for their village, and also help empower the next generation. About 70% of Saathis believe they are seen as a source of information in their village — people approach them consistently for answers, to help children with schoolwork, to learn new cooking recipes, search for jobs, or to run a business.
Additionally, eight in 10 Saathis and their beneficiaries believe people in their village respect them more. Nine in 10 women beneficiaries believe in a woman’s right to express herself, and earn a living for her family. That’s not all, seven in 10 women who attended the training sessions with the Saathis have seen an improvement in their children’s education.
The study also showed that the programme led to a level of independence that creates financial opportunities for women to pursue their dreams. Data showed that three in 10 Saathis and two in 10 beneficiaries have set up some form of business. This, in turn, has provided economic growth, with the business often earning between Rs3,000 and Rs5,000 every month while five in 10 Saathis have seen a positive impact on employability.