Google India and Government of Tamil Nadu announce commencement of Internet Saathi program for digital literacy of women in rural India

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Continuing with its digital literacy initiative aimed at empowering women in rural India, Google India and Tata Trusts today announced the expansion of its ‘Internet Saathi’ program in the state of Tamil Nadu by Dr M Manikandan, Minister for Information Technology, Tamil Nadu in the presence of Sri T K Ramachandran IAS, Principal Secretary (Information Technology), Anandrao V Patil IAS, Commissioner, Tamil Nadu eGovernance Agency (TNeGA) and  R Sudalaikannan IAS, Chairman & Managing Director Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT).

Google India and the Government of Tamil Nadu today also announced other initiatives to support the digitization efforts in the state. Google India will facilitate the provision of Google Cloud credits and access through its affiliate, for eligible startups engaged with Tamil Nadu Government’s startup initiative. Google India will also, through its Developer Relations team, provide technical mentorship and advisory support to various startups.

Other initiatives as part of the announcement today include: working together to make all government sites mobile friendly, introduce joint programs to help local small and medium businesses get online, and internet safety education for children to stay safe online.

Launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015 along with Tata Trusts, Google had announced the ambitious plans to scale the Internet Saathi program, to cover 300,000 villages across India in December 2015. In Tamil Nadu, the program has already started to roll out and will be covering over 4000 villages across 6 districts.

Dr M.Manikandan, Minister for Information Technology, Tamil Nadu said, “Google India is a valuable partner of the state of Tamil Nadu and we are happy to launch the Internet Saathi program that will benefit rural women, across our state. We believe all the initiatives launched today with them that will benefit women, small businesses, youth, and others across our state. Our mission is to Digitize Tamil Nadu and Google’s efforts in the state will help in the same direction.”

As per the latest report released by Kantar IMRB – ICube – Rural Internet Report for 2017: There are 134 million active Internet users in rural India that continue to be dominated by male users. Using the train the trainer model, women in villages were equipped with smartphones and tablets, that enabled them to explore the world of Internet and help reduce the digital gender divide in rural India. Today, with over 36,000 Internet Saathi across 12 states, 13.5 million women have already benefited from the program in over 1,40,000 villages.

Speaking about the expansion, Chetan Krishnaswamy, Director, Public Policy Google India said, “Google India is pleased to work with the government of Tamil Nadu in its efforts to making Tamil Nadu a truly digitally empowered state. We have been hard at work, in partnership with Tata Trusts to change the female: male ratio of new Internet users in rural India and in the last two years have seen it move from 1 in 10 in 2015 to 3 in 10 in 2017. We’re delighted with the progress we have made with the Internet Saathi model and the impact it has had on the saathis, their families, kids and their communities. Through our expansion in Tamil Nadu, we hope to benefit over 600K women in the first phase of the program and will be adding more villages as we move forward.”

“We would like to thank Hon’ble Minister Dr M.Manikandan for his support and we look forward to working with the state government to create an enabling environment and ecosystem to help women, students, small and medium businesses and entrepreneurs to realize the full potential of the Internet and the opportunities it offers.” he added.

Recently, Google India and Tata Trusts announced the extension of the Internet Saathi program, to support the Foundation For Rural Entrepreneurship Development (FREND) set up by Tata Trusts . Under this initiative, Google is jointly working with the new foundation, to create digitally enabled livelihood opportunities for the Internet Saathis. FREND, will become a vehicle for other like minded companies and institutions to utilise the Internet Saathi network and enable dissemination of information and services in the rural areas thereby creating newer avenues of income for these women in rural India. This will be in addition to imparting digital literacy to millions of rural women under the ongoing Internet Saathi program.