Google India has taken another step towards spreading internet literacy. The online giant, which started the 'Helping Women Get Online' campaign, a few years ago, has now decided to move it up a notch and speak to rural women.
"In India, 30 per cent of total internet users are women. While in urban areas the growth rate of women coming online is more than that of men (60 per cent versus 44 per cent), in rural areas women are lagging behind (27 per cent versus 56 per cent). Therefore, we are trying to educate these rural women about the benefits and advantages of being able to use the internet," explains Sandeep Menon, country marketing director, Google India.
While the initiative will kick off from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, it will be rolled across the country, eventually, and reach out to 4500 villages and five lakh women in the next 18 months. It will also impart adequate training to make sure that the women are confident of using the devices independently. Once the cart has completed training in a cluster of three villages, it will move to a similar cluster to repeat the process.
Google, meanwhile, has been imparting training in schools and institutes, along with providing basic internet training to women in 12 states, including 55 small towns and 35 cities. Since the start of the initiative in 2013, Google has already trained over 1.5 million women in India.
"There is a gap which we are trying to bridge. India has a very interesting future in terms of the scope of internet. We are adding six to seven million internet users every month, the country has an interesting startup ecosystem, e-commerce is booming and we are all moving from a narrowband to a broadband nation. We pilot-tested this initiative in Maheshwar first and will now launch it across several villages," adds Rajan Anandan, managing director and vice president, sales and operations, Google India.
Google, along with Intel, will also organise a call centre where women can call toll-free in case they have follow-up questions. While the plan is to scale it up, the group is betting on the curiosity levels to make it a sustainable initiative.
Since Tata Trusts already has several touch points for community mobilisation initiatives, it will use the same for Internet Saathi as well. The plan is also to leverage the multiplier effect and, therefore, Google will also train the trainer who can, in turn, teach women in her village how to use the internet.
"Tata Trusts strongly believes that innovative use of technology should be at the core of all its interventions that are undertaken for the benefit of the communities. Internet connectivity has become a fundamental need in any society, and improves literacy and access to information that is instrumental for socio-economic development. We are glad that this joint initiative with Google will reach out to the rural communities, especially women in our country, and we are confident that it will contribute towards their empowerment and also self-sustenance," says R Venkataramanan, executive trustee, Tata Trusts.