January 11, 2017

Tata Trusts - CInI’s Internet Saathi initiative empowers more than 65,000 rural women in 465 tribal dominated villages of Jharkhand

Ranchi: The Tata Trusts and Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), in a joint effort with Google India, reached out to more than 65,000 women from  465 villages in Jharkhand through their Internet Saathi initiative, under the focused Mission 2020 – Lakhpati Kisan : Smart Villages programme, in order to equip them to use the internet and leverage its benefits towards their own empowerment and development.

The Internet Saathi programme in Jharkhand is being implemented by Tata Trusts’ associate organization, CInI, under its digital literacy intervention as a part of the focused ‘Mission 2020 – Lakhpati Kisan : Smart Villages’ programme. The Mission 2020 programme focuses on making nearly One Lakh tribal households Lakhpati in sustainable manner and one of the key principles is “Innovative and not stereotyped”. This first-of-its-kind intervention in digital literacy is one of the key aspects towards enhancing the overall quality of life of tribal communities, which is the goal under the Mission 2020 programme.

Internet Saathi has helped address the digital gender disparity in rural India by facilitating digital literacy among rural women and making them aware of the benefits of the Internet. It is estimated that in rural India only one in every 10 women knows how to use the Internet. Cultural barriers, lack of awareness and lack of perceived value hinder the penetration of internet among the population of rural Indian women.

Within a year of its launch, the Internet Saathi programme in Jharkhand has managed to reach more than 1,02,230 individuals, of which 66,384 are tribal women. The programme aims to further scale the outreach to 1,70,000 individuals in more than 500 villages part of the focused Mission 2020 programme in Jharkhand within the next few months.  

While speaking about the impact of the initiative, Raman Kalyanakrishnan, Project Director, Tata Trusts, said, “As a part of the Digital India initiative and Tata Trusts’ overall digital strategy, our aim is to drive empowerment with a focus on digital innovation. We find the Saathis are actively using the Internet to access a range of information from agriculture practices to government services, education, and entertainment and job opportunities. In line with our initiatives towards Digitizing India, we plan to scale this initiative across the country and cover up to 3lakh villages over the course of next few years."

A couple of years ago, students from Kumardih, a small village in Khunti district of Jharkhand, had to travel 35 kilometres to find out their exam results as their village remained largely cut off due to its hilly terrain and lack of technology options with nobody in the village owning a smartphone. Alfa Horo, a tribal woman from the same region, became an internet saathi and within a few months began searching for matriculation and university results to help the students in her region. “I had heard that the internet has all the information, so I wanted to experience it on my own. If it was indeed true then I also wanted to take information to everyone else as well,” explains Alfa, who now proudly enlists ‘web surfing’ under her hobbies. She has been a part of the programme since its initiation in Jharkhand in November 2015 and has now trained more than 1,100 other individuals.

Today, internet is not only a medium of fast communication but also a source of knowledge, with a potential to give voice to the marginalised sections of the society, especially the women in rural India.  So, while the Internet users are growing at a steady rate of 56 percent annually, the growth rate of women Internet users is only 27 percent in rural India. Hence, the Trusts have focused their efforts on providing digital literacy to help these women.

Under the program, the Trusts provide training to women master trainers, identified from their Self Help Groups (SHGs) and women's federations. These master-trainers, also known as "saathis" (friends), go out on bicycles, armed with a smartphone and a tablet, to help women in their own villages and neighbouring villages experience the power and benefits of the internet. The information covers a breadth of topics such as payment of school fees, farming techniques, payment of utility bills et al. Keeping up with the current emphasis on moving towards a cashless economy, the internet saathis from Jharkhand have been trained to successfully transact using digital payments. They now offer these services in their own and neighbouring villages and have also started teaching the same to others.

Sharing her views on the success of this initiative at an event last year, Sapna Chadha, Marketing Head, Google India, said, “With only 1 out of 10 women able to access the internet in rural India, Internet Saathi initiative is aimed at creating an environment that empowers rural women and their communities to become change agents in rural India.”

The program includes an awareness module, coupled with hands-on training modules on how to use the Internet, using mobile devices in their local languages. In order to drive broader access and continuity in usage after the training, Google India  has also provided Internet-enabled devices such as tablets and smartphones to the Internet Saathis.

The initiative is already live in ten states in India, with a reach of about 40,000 villages and 4 million women as of December 2016.

About Tata Trusts:

Tata Trusts is amongst India's oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organizations that work in several areas of community development. Since its inception, Tata Trusts has played a pioneering role in transforming traditional ideas of philanthropy to make impactful sustainable change in the lives of the communities served. Through direct implementation, co-partnership strategies and grant making, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of education; healthcare and nutrition; rural livelihoods; natural resources management; enhancing civil society and governance and media, arts, crafts and culture. Tata Trusts continues to be guided by the principles of its Founder, Jamsetji Tata, and through his vision of proactive philanthropy, the Trusts catalyse societal development while ensuring that initiatives and interventions have a contemporary relevance to the nation. For more information, please visit: http://www.tatatrusts.org/

About CInI:
Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), established in 2007, is an associate organization of the Tata Trusts, anchoring its Central India Initiative. CInI, currently operating in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat, aims to transform the lives of tribal households in the Central Indian Tribal belt, by bringing them irreversibly out of poverty with increased quality of life and life choices. This is being done through building knowledge and scaling up programmes in thematic areas of agricultural productivity stabilization, strengthening community-based organisations, forest-based livelihoods, water resource development, drinking water and sanitation, education and all-round development, along with digital literacy.

Presently CInI is executing a focused programme “Mission 2020 – Lakhpati Kisan : Smart Villages” to make one lakh tribal households ‘lakhpati’ in an irreversible and sustainable manner.

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