On Wednesday 4th December, our group of New Zealand and Australian students visited Google’s Gurgaon office to learn about the work they’re doing and what they have planned. For myself, the initiative that was the most interesting was Internet Saathi. Internet Saathi was introduced to “bridge the online gender divide in rural India”. Before this programme (2015), only one in ten rural Indian internet users was a woman.
Internet Saathi uses the idea of training women who then train others, who then train others. The idea is simple, but effective, because it encourages widespread teaching, therefore widespread access. After these internet classes, women become more comfortable with the internet and better understand how to navigate it, and how to use it to their advantage, especially for income. These women are referred to as ‘Internet Saathis’. Many of these women have not even used a smartphone before, so these are huge steps.
Many women and girls are not taken as seriously in their households or communities because they do not contribute to their families’ incomes. Internet Saathi helps them in this regard, not only because they are given more respect, but because they become more self-reliant.
On the Internet Saathi website, it states, “as of April 2019, there are more than 81, 500 Internet Saathis who have helped over 28 million women learn about the Internet across 289,000 villages”. This shows the incredible effect and the scale of the Internet Saathi programme.
While we were at the Google office, we were shown a video explaining how beneficial the initiative is for the lives of the women. One woman used her Internet Saathi skills to sell her lemon oil online and learnt about how to grow her business and manage her huge amount of crops and land. This meant that she earnt a substantial income because of her Internet classes.
When they have not had much control or access to decisions about their own lives, Internet Saathi works to not just empower rural Indian women, but give them a substantial, modern education about an important platform. This initiative gives women the tools to create their own futures. It certainly has changed lives for the better.
The programme aims to reach 300,000 villages. To help them with this goal, contact firstname.lastname@example.org