Google’s Internet Saathi program started out in July 2015 on a pilot basis in Rajasthan with an aim to reach 300000 villages in the long run. The brand has now revealed that the enterprise has hit the 100000 milestone in its journey.
Internet Saathi works in partnership with Tata Trusts and takes help from various local NGOs and activists to spread its message. It’s currently active across 10 states in India. The initiative basically trains a group of women, referred to as Internet Saathis, in the basic usage and benefits of the online world.
These Saathis then move on to instructing others on what they’ve learnt within their own rural community. Google claims it’s brought over 25000 Internet Saathis into the fold. They in turn have apparently trained nearly 10 million women in getting familiar with the internet.
Internet Saathi came about as a way to correct the imbalance in the digital gender divide in India, where an overwhelming number of users are men. Digital literacy is still an issue among women, but Google says that it’s made great strides in changing this state of affairs.
Saathis are supposedly seen as agents of change in their villages and are slowly finding more support from communities and village heads for their work. Google’s also using a survey conducted by market research firm IPSOS to plan ahead for the future.
As per IPSOS’ findings, 90% of women who have been taught by Saathis have gained a better understanding of the internet. 25% of those who have learned about the internet continue to use it, with many taking advantage of it to learn new skills and find information. However, over half the women can’t afford to buy a handset.
Google is now looking to expand Internet Saathi to Haryana and Bihar. It’ll be targeting 1000 villages in the former and 7000 villages in the latter.