Internet in today’s date is almost like a sapling for growth. The urban sector of India cannot survive without the internet and could possibly be the second biggest user data base in the world according to analysts. Having said this, the reach of the internet in the rural sector is quite murky to say the least. While the idea of educating the girl child on a primary level itself has won its struggle after several years let alone internet education, only one woman out of ten is aware about internet usage. Other apprehensions such as mental corruption, user benefits and expenses have clouded most perspectives.
To mend their mindsets, in 2015, Google paired up with Tata trusts to launch an initiative called ‘internet Saathi’ that helps aid rural women in India with internet literacy. It was launched in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It uses internet cycle carts to reach villages and educate women on basic benefits of using the internet. For a minimum of two days a week for four to six months, local women will be able to learn for free from the bicyclist, or “internet saathi.” In order to ensure efficient communication, the bicyclist will be a trainer sourced from a local NGO or community group. Once the woman has gained enough knowledge, the carts are sent to the next cluster.
Users have been extremely vocal about how the initiative has broadened their horizons. In an interview with Indian express a user of Internet Saathi, Indumati Mahato, said that a pregnant lady in her village had no idea which hospital to go to. “I searched the net and gave her the address of three nearest hospitals where she could go for the delivery. She went to the nearest one, where she gave birth to a twin,” Mahato said, adding that the incident spread awareness.
“In another incident, a girl who had appeared for her board exam was told that she had flunked, and was crying profusely. I searched for her result and found that she had passed. When she saw that with her own eyes, she was relieved,” Mahato said. According to google’s user report,100,000 women have learned to use the internet. The initiative plans to reach 45,000 villages and 5,000,000 women in rural communities over the next 18 months.
When Internet Saathi was launched in 2015 Google tweeted an image of a Rajasthani woman using the internet to gain information about the cattle she bred with the aid of a google volunteer. They encouraged many others to share their discoveries to the world with the #What’syourstory.
Recently Internet Saathi also launched itself in four other areas, West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. Internet education will enable women of the country to make informed decisions and lead an empowered, independent life - and this is most definitely a step in the right direction.