About an year ago, we reported about how tech giant Google was making use of bicycle-riding internet tutors to bring the world of Internet closer to rural women in India. And now, more than a year later since its launch, Google’s initiative is still going strong and has garnered tremendous results.
While Internet usage among urban Indian women is no longer a foreign concept, a majority of their rural counterparts still remain unaware of the medium’s primary working and its capability in doing various things. This prompted Google to take some concrete steps. They concluded, if the rural women can’t come to World Wide Web on their own, they can deliver it to them–by bicycles. Hence, project Internet Saathi was born. Saathi in the Hindi language refers to companion.
In order to make sure that they are able to reach a large number of rural women and connect them to the internet, the search giant has joined hands with local philanthropy Tata Trusts.
Google currently has an army of female trainers on work in various rural corners of the Indian subcontinent on two-wheelers. Each trainer’s bicycle comes equipped with a box of internet connected smartphones and tablets on which rural women can take their baby steps to the big world of internet.
The basic idea behind Internet Saathi is to make the rural women understand how internet can help them in bettering their lives and offer them good employment opportunities. A majority of rural households who have the means of affording the internet, still prefer to remain offline as they don’t understand its value. The aim is to break this myth by targeting the women of the household.
Google firstly gives a formal and detailed training to the female instructors on the working of the web, after which they are given bikes with internet-enabled devices running the company’s latest Android mobile operating system. These newly equipped saathis then travel from village to village passing on their knowledge of the web to other females.
According to Google, since the program’s launch, about 9,000 female instructors have successfully helped in connecting about 1 million rural Indian women to the power of the web. They also added, while some just want to learn to use Facebook, WhatsApp or make a simple call, others want to search for recipes, stitching guides etc. But, the bottom line being, that a majority of them were accepting of the internet and wanted to learn more about it.
India is an important market for the Califronia based search giant given its emerging internet economy. According to a recent survey, in a population of 1.2 billion people, some one billion people still don’t have access to regular web services. With Internet Saathi, Google wishes to get more and more people on the web as that would translate to more users for various Google services.