Google India's 'Internet Saathi' programme which aims to empower rural women how to use the Internet has now added two more states -- Punjab and Odisha -- thus reaching 2.6 lakh villages in 20 states, the company announced today.
Launched as a pilot project in 2015 along with Tata Trusts, 'Internet Saathi' programme focuses on educating women how to use the Internet, who then impart training to other women in their community and neighbouring villages.
In the four-year journey, 70,000 trained 'Internet Saathis' are using the Internet to drive positive change in their communities and have already benefited over 2.6 crore fellow women.
"It is remarkable to see the passion of women in rural India, who are learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities," said Neha Barjatya, Chief Internet Saathi, Google India.
While some have gone ahead and started their own micro-business (stitching, honeybee farming and beauty parlours), many others are empowering their families and communities with new skills to enhance their livelihood.
"Then there are those who are driving awareness for issues like girl child education, menstrual hygiene and more," Ms Barjatya added.
In Punjab, the programme will cover around 5,000 villages. In Odisha, it will cover over 16,000 villages.
"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," said Raman Kalyanakrishnan, Head - Strategy, Tata Trusts.
In a recent study with Kantar, Google interviewed over 2,500 people across rural India to understand the impact that providing access has on their livelihood.
"About 70 per cent of Internet Saathis believe they are seen as a source of information in their village -- people are coming to them consistently for answers to help children with schoolwork, to learn new cooking recipes, search for jobs, or to run a business," the findings from Kantar ICUBE Study 2018 showed.
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 while seven in 10 women who attended the trainings with the Saathis have seen an improvement in their children's education," said the study.
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 Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000 every month, said Google.
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