This new initiative from Google hopes to expose 5,000,000 women in rural Indian communities to the Internet over the next 18 months.
In July, Google paired up with Tata Trusts to launch an initiative to provide rural women in India with Internet literacy. Called Internet Saathi (saathi meaning friend in Hindi), the initiative will use “internet cycle carts” (bicycles, basically) to reach rural villages and educate women on the basic benefits of using the Internet.
On the back of each bicycle is a cart that carries resources needed to educate the women. For a minimum of 2 days a week for 4 to 6 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. Bikes will work in clusters of 3 villages at a time. After making sure that the women are able to use Internet devices independently, the cycle carts will move on to the next cluster.
The first Internet cycle carts roll out
On Monday, Google India tweeted that they had released their first cohort of Internet bikes in the small district of Dausa, Rajasthan in Western India. The tweet was followed soon after by a second tweet that showed a photo of a Rajasthani woman using a cellphone to access the Internet. It had the caption “Jayant’s #FirstGoogleSearch was for information on the cattle she rears. What was yours? #InternetSaathi”.
The initiative plans to reach 45,000 villages and 5,000,000 women in rural communities over the next 18 months. Watch the video below to find out more about the Internet bike.
Internet growing faster than English
Rajan Anandan, VP of Google South Asia, explains that only 12% of rural Internet users are women. And, while new male Internet users grow at a pace of 57%, females lag behind at 27%. The most interesting thing about these growth rates, he explained, is that the next 100 million Internet users will not be fluent in English. According to Anandan, the fastest growing websites on the Internet today are in local languages.
This is not the first of Google’s initiatives to help women in India. Its previous effort, Helping Women Get Online, covers the basics of how to use the Internet. It also hosts curated content specifically targeted towards women, including recipes, health tips, and financial advice.
This post was originally published on Tech in Asia.
Featured Image Credit: Screenshot/ Google India YouTube channel