“Internet Saathi” programme by Tata Trusts and Google India, was launched in Mumbai. The programme seeks to empower women and their communities in rural India by enabling them to use the Internet and benefit from it.
The joint initiative is aimed at bridging the technologygender divide, which currently puts women in rural India at further risk of getting left behind as the world around them benefits from the Internet.
The initiative will provide basic training on the usage and benefits of the Internet for women through specially-designed Internet bicycle carts. These carts will visit villages to provide easy Internet access to women. They are built on the back of a bicycle, a cart modelled on India’s traditional distribution system, which is used to carry everything from ice-cream to industrial supplies.
The operator or the ‘Internet Saathi’ who trains the women, would be akin to the village postman of yore, who was the single point contact for the village with the outside world for both information and communication.
Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata was present at the announcement of the project, which will kick off from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, and eventually reach over 4,500 villages and 5 lakh women and communities across rural India over the next 18 months.
Tata said: "Philanthropy in India has changed over the years. In the olden days it was conventional charity. India is a nation that has changed from what it was 60 years ago. Today, people demand self-respect, access to knowledge and have an urge to enhance their livelihoods and the Tata Trusts are committed to help them do so by making a difference to their lives," and applauded PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ initiative.
Speaking about the initiative, VP and MD of Google Southeast Asia and India, Rajan Anandan, said, "While women make rapid progress on adoption of Internet in urban areas, women in rural India are left behind. Today only 12 percent of Internet users in rural India are women. We need to technologically empower women in rural India to truly transform their lives. We are delighted to partner with the most respected and well-known Tata Trusts who have years of experience in managing programs of this scale. By combining our strengths, I am confident that we can achieve great results and overcome the challenges of providing easy access and digital education to women in rural India."