Back in 2014 in rural India, women comprised only 10% of internet users. To help bridge that divide, we launched our Internet Saathi (Saathi means Friend in Hindi) initiative in 2015, in partnership with the Tata Trusts.
The initiative leverages the powerful role of informal teaching relationships by training women — the Saathis — who in turn lend internet training and education to informal social groups of women across 300,000 rural villages. The Internet Saathi program encourages these women to lead the charge in spreading digital literacy and confidence within their communities, providing whatever mentorship might be needed along the way.
Today, Internet Saathi has built a strong network of around 80,000 saathis, who have imparted digital literacy to more than 30 million women across 300,000 villages in India, and the effect has been undeniable. One study revealed that 70% of the women participating accessed the internet for the first time thanks to the Internet Saathi program. 53% of the women involved have experienced a positive uplift thanks to their upskilling. And 2 in 10 women involved in Internet Saathi go on to start their own businesses.
As they become sources of knowledge within their communities, it’s given these women the confidence to express themselves more freely in public settings. Internet empowerment, in this case, is translating to empowerment in other aspects of life.