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Sowing the Seeds of Change- The Internet Saathi Programme in UP

Sowing the Seeds of Change- The Internet Saathi Programme in UP
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Priya Yadav, 20 year old MA (final) Student had seen mobile phones and tablets in advertisements on television and with a few villagers. With the Internet Saathi programme in December 2016, a digital initiative programme is being implemented by Phia Foundation in partnership with Tata Trusts, Google India and civil society Partners (CSOs), today Priya is one of the Internet Saathis trained under this programme and is spreading a digital revolution in seven districts (Chandauli, Ghazipur, Balrampur, Shravasti, Mahoba, Shamli and Ghaziabad)across Uttar Pradesh.

The programme aims to address the gender disparity in internet use in rural India which puts women in rural India at further risk of getting marginalized in the society. It seeks to do so by empowering rural women and communities in digital literacy.

The programme has achieved the following changes in the women who are part of the project (as Internet Saathis, and those who are trained by the Internet Saathis):

  • Increased access and control of women over digital resources
  • Enabled women to explore various uses and benefits of the internet.
  • Generated awareness about several internet based information/ schemes provided by the government.
  • Facilitated use of the internet by women in accessing such schemes and information for themselves as well as their families.
  • Generated awareness on issues around education, health, and sanitation
  • Trained women on digital transactions including various options available for making cashless payments in line with the Government of India’s digital drive initiative.

The programme commenced with a two day orientation workshop and a training programme to train Internet Saathis in batches of twenty-five to thirty women. The training included hands on modules on how to use Internet through mobile devices to Internet Saathis.Each Internet Saathi was provided with a tablet, a smartphone and a learning kit (online videos mainly on enhancing skills like tailoring and designing).

The purpose of this training was to enable Internet Saathis to reach out to approximately 750,000 rural women in 4,400 neighbouring villages and impart training to them. Each of the trained Internet Saathis would cover four neighbouring villages including their own village. Through Internet Saathi Programme a total of 309,821 women have been reached out and trained as Internet Saathis by March 2017.

The training activities conducted by the Saathis are being monitored through an App developed by an organisation called SocialCops. The application allows for real time monitoring and collection of data pertaining to the training activities. A digital and technology based approach to data collection, monitoring and analysis has played a big role in the smooth implementation of the programme.

The programme has helped in breaking the barriers and brings about changes in the discrimination on the basis of gender, caste and religion. The enthusiasm of learning Internet among each women and men has brought them together irrespective of their caste and religion. It has also helped to improve the Social status of the Internet Saathis particularly among their male counterparts in the family and in the society as well.

The programme’s long term objective is to serve as a permanent catalyst for women to be more aware and ‘included’ in the digital economy. This will open newer avenues and lead to a more sustainable change. Phia is also looking at scaling up this programme with the like-minded organisations in other districts and states of the country and expand the scope to other dimensions of digital literacy including digital payments with e-wallet companies, telecom service providers, mobile manufacturing companies and build digital technology based livelihood opportunities.