The world wide web is now making a beeline for rural India. Google Inc, in association with Tata Trusts, has launched an initiative, ‘Internet Saathi’, in order to teach women and larger communities in the rural parts of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to learn and explore various uses and benefits of the Internet.
The initiative was first rolled out in West Bengal in July. Purulia was the first district to be covered. According to an official report, over 400 villages in Purulia will be covered and over 1 lakh women shall gain the benefits of this initiative.
As WSJ reports, “The Alphabet Inc. unit has built an army of thousands of female trainers and sent them to the far corners of the Subcontinent on two-wheelers, hoping to give rural woman their first taste of the web. Each bike has a box full of connected smartphones and tablets for women to try and train on.”
Instructors are trained in how the web works, and are then given bicycles with large boxes on the back containing internet-enabled devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system. The newly equipped “saathis” — or “partners” in Hindi — then cycle from village to village providing instruction to their peers.
Google India tweets that since its launch in the past year, 9000 trainers have reached about a million women.
— Google India (@GoogleIndia) September 27, 2016
“The women in Bengal’s villages are very simple. We tell them about new designs of pottery and craft and they listen with amusement, if Google manages to teach them the use of Internet they can themselves learn, adapt and grow. The work of NGOs will be much lesser then,” Payal R. Nath, a social activist working in the villages near Sunderbans, tells SheThePeople.TV.
Women are often barred from formal education, let alone web technology from their families living in rural India. Hence, it will be worth watching the results that Google and Tata get with this venture.