While the internet has become more affordable and accessible than ever before, it is unfortunately not gender equitable. The proportion of men that use the internet is reportedly higher than women in as many as two-thirds of countries worldwide.

The reasons for this are many and complex, but addressing and correcting this imbalance is critical. As primary custodians of their communities – as the mothers and often the teachers – women can make an immense impact that resonates throughout generations. In addition, a gender-equitable internet is good for everyone, not just women. When a diverse group uses the internet, the internet becomes relevant and useful to more people.

Collectively, the ecosystem must work toward ensuring that women have access to the internet, so that they can maximize the impact they make.

In Africa, digital transformation is starting to create more real opportunities for women coders, for example. Currently, women comprise one in five of the total population of developers on the continent, and while this number is still low, it represents unprecedented progress, especially in Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa.

Another way we’re actively encouraging opportunities among women is by facilitating ecosystems of peer-to-peer learning with our Internet Saathi in India.

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.

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Internet Saathi.

Access to information is transforming rural communities across India, and Internet Saathis like Parvati are the ones who make it all possible.

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.

Recently, Google India and Tata Trusts announced the extension of the Internet Saathi program to support the Foundation for Rural Entrepreneurship Development (FREND). Under this initiative, Google is working with the new foundation to create digitally enabled livelihood opportunities for the Saathis.

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Machine Learning Meets African Agriculture.

In 2016, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) was first detected in Africa. The crop pest has since infected millions of cornfields, threatening food security on the continent, and now FAW has spread to India and China as well. But with the help of TensorFlow from Google, Nazirini Siraji is developing solutions.

Women’s tech, financial empowerment and continued development through upskilling and training will contribute immensely to how the NIUs shape the face of the internet in the years to come. As an ecosystem, we need to remember that a commitment to global gender equity not only provides more opportunities for women; it provides more possibilities that the whole world can benefit from.


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