Even as India has taken the lead to become the fastest growing Internet users’ market in the world, India’s Internet is still dominated by male users. The digital gender divide is even wider in rural India where digital literacy. This, combined with socio economic challenges are the major barriers that prevent women from using the Internet. To try and bridge this gap, Internet Saathi is a step in the right direction. An initiative of Google and Tata Trusts, Internet Saathi is a project, implemented in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar by DEF, that aims to provide rural women with exposure to mobile Internet.
Soni Kumari is one of those Saathis who has been trained in using mobile phones and the Internet so that she can train other women around her in a cascading effect.
Soni has helped several women understand and become aware about the benefits of the Internet. She teaches rural women to use the Internet for contextual knowledge such as looking up farming techniques, paying utility bills, watching recipe videos and learning stitching, among others. She tells local women and children about the various possibilities available on the Internet for the field of agriculture, education, livelihood, governance, service delivery, citizen services and more.
Through her work with community women, she has earned a lot of respect in the community. People want to meet her, share their problems with her, seek her help, ask her for suggestions. “I feel so lucky when I talk to these people. Internet Saathi helps me help these women,” says Soni.