Over ten million women in India have Google to thank for making them more aware of the benefits the Internet offers them. Two years after Google announced the program, an initiative to bring digital literacy to women in rural parts of India, the company says it has already reached 100,000 villages.
That’s a major milestone for , which is working in conjunction with program. Through the Internet Saathi program, Google is trying to address a major gender-gap problem India faces on the Internet. Even as about 400 million people use Internet in the country, only a small portion of this constitutes of women.
A report by UK consultancy We Are Social, for instance, noted last year that only of users in India were women. When you move to rural areas, things look more dismal. A report from The Boston Consulting Group from last year suggested that of Internet users in rural are men. In comparison, 79 percent of users in cities were estimated to be men.
Over 25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis, volunteers who are meeting women in villages and then coaching them, are helping serve women in ten Indian states, including Bihar and Haryana, two states where the company recently expanded its project. Internet Saathis have already served more than 8,000 villages in Haryana and Bihar states, the company said. Google plans to expand the project to another 200,000 villages.
The women who are participating in the Internet Saathi project are reporting impressive progress, according to IPSOS, a marketing research company. Nearly 90 percent of them said the trainings have helped them have a better understanding of Internet and more than 30 percent of them realised that using the Internet could help them improve their financial condition.
“We’re delighted with the progress we have made with the Internet Saathi model, and it is remarkable to see the passion of these women learning about the Internet, not just for their own needs but for their families, kids and their communities,” Sapna Chadha, Director Marketing, South East Asia and India, Google said in a statement. “Internet Saathis are now increasingly seen as change agents in their villages and continue to find more support from the communities and village heads for their work.”