Internet Saathi - A Digital Literacy Programme

Empowering women in Rural India through Internet Education

Supported By: Google and Tata Trusts
Implemented by: Gramya Vikash Mancha, Nalbari
Co-ordinated by: MASK and Balipara Foundation

20th of January to 10th of July, 2018

Balipara Foundation as a coordination partner supported Mahila Shakti Kendra (MASK) for conducting the first phase of the Internet Saathi Programme by inducting a dedicated resource, Ms Darshana Bora as District Co-coordinator of Sonitpur District for a duration of six-months with the objective of:

  1. Conducting orientation programmes for the field force
  2. Data compilation and analysis
  3. Monthly performance reviews
  4. Technical support to the team

The first phase of the study covered 510 villages through a field staff strength of 128 Internet Saathis, resulting in a beneficiary reach of 88,900 rural women.

MASK, established in 2002 is a Federation of over 200 Self-Help Groups and operates within the principles of empowering the poor and marginalized, especially women to bring about social change in their status, and to empower themselves economically and socially in order to live with dignity with the mainstream society.

Balipara Foundation and MASK have jointly collaborated in piloting initiatives related to livelihood generation through traditional skill development, botany and environmental education, solar lighting, rural homestays and wilderness management programmes in households across seven communities in the last one year – all of these initiatives are now being scaled up in Balipara County in Sonitpur District of Assam.

A detailed report of the Internet Saathi Programme is attached.

What is Internet Saathi??

India has the world's second largest internet population with over 400 million users, but only 30% are women. Even as the world becomes increasingly connected, rural India is witnessing a widening online gender gap — only one in ten internet users is a woman. Google is committed to bridging this divide. To help bridge this gap, in July 2015, Google partnered with Tata Trusts to launch “Internet Saathi”, a digital literacy program, an initiative focused on bringing women in rural India online through which women in rural India learns how to access and use the internet, and they in turn impart training to their community and neighbouring villages.

When women gain access to information and the tools to make the most of it, they start new businesses, make new discoveries, transform their communities and change the way we all learn, work and live. Through the Internet Saathi initiative, women ambassadors train and educate women across 300,000 villages on the benefits of internet in their day-to-day life.

Over 30,000 Internet Saathis, equipped with smartphones and tablets, are now working across 110,000 villages, helping women in their own and in neighboring villages to learn how to use and gain from the full potential of the Internet. Each Saathi is trained for two days by Google and spends the next eight months interacting with rural women.

Google jointly worked with the Foundation for Rural Entrepreneurship Development (Frend) — set up by Tata Trusts as an extension of the Internet Saathi programme. In 2015, a pilot project was launched in villages of Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Gujarat. The programme was then rolled out in 12 states: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Internet Saathi in Assam

To help rural women in Assam get acquainted with the internet, Google India, in collaboration with Tata Trusts has launched the Internet Saathi first across 4 districts of Assam and later got extended to 7 more districts including Sonitpur. The implementation of the programme in Assam was given to a Nalbari based organization known as Gramya Vikash Mancha. This organization approached MASK to implement the programme in the Sonitpur district of Assam.

In Sonitpur, the Internet Saathi Programme came into effect from 20th of January, 2018 and completed its first phase of the programme on 10th of July, 2018, while the second phase is still under execution. A total of 128 rural women from Sonitpur were trained to work as ambassadors of Internet Saathi in the first phase, who in turn targeted to train 89,600 rural women on internet uses. In the second phase, 100 more Saathis were trained to cover 400 more villages from Sonitpur District.



In Assam

In Sonitpur

Total Saathi Trained



Total Village Reach Target



Total Beneficiary Reach Target




Figure showing demographics of the programme in Assam and Sonitpur




The programme first started with selection of the project staff followed by mapping of the villages and selection of the Saathis village wise. Each Saathi was allotted four nearby villages and needed to cover a beneficiary target of 700. Saathis were given a training programme for 2 days on the uses and applications of internet. The work performances of the Saathis were reviewed monthly by conducting monthly review meetings.




Village Reach



Beneficiary Reach



Results after completion of the programme

Data Analysis of Saathis 

The figure above shows the age distribution of the Saathis of both first and second phase. Maximum Saathi belongs to the age group of 26-40 years, followed by 18-25 years and least belongs to the age group of 41-60 years.

The figure above shows the educational distribution of the Saathis of both first and second phase. Maximum Saathis belongs to the category of 12th passed, followed gradually by matriculates and graduates. Least number of Saathis belongs to the category of middle school drop outs.  

The figure above shows the occupational chart of the Saathis of both first and second phase. Maximum Saathis belong to the category of housewives followed gradually by some other village related work, farming, and Self-help group members.

Data analysis of the Beneficiaries 

The figure above shows the age distribution of the beneficiaries of both first and second phase. Maximum beneficiaries belong to the age group of 26-40 years followed gradually by 18-25 years and 41-60 years. Least belongs to the age category of 14-17 years.

The figure above shows the percentage of the beneficiaries based on their involvement in self-help groups. 24.4% of the beneficiaries belong to SHGs while the remaining 75.6% doesn’t.  

The figure above shows the responses of the beneficiaries based on the questionnaire designed for training the village women. It is shown from the figure that maximum numbers of beneficiaries have learnt the uses of smartphones starting from switching the phone on and off  to downloading applications from Play store.  

The figure above shows the score card of the digital literacy programme. Maximum beneficiaries are seen to have scored in the highest category indicating that maximum number of individuals have learnt the uses of internet through this programme.

Social Impacts

Women who were part of the Internet Saathi programme, felt their social and economic standing had improved after the training. Many have set up their own businesses and this has inspired Google to look at creating a sustainable framework to deliver employment opportunities to the Internet Saathis.

When the team first went to the villages to train women, they faced certain mind barriers such as internet was a bad influence and that women should not be on the internet. Even if there was a smartphone in the house, they weren’t allowed to touch it.

Two and a half years later, Internet Saathi has trained 45,000 internet Saathi across 1, 50,000 villages, who have gone out and taught 1.5 million women on how to use the internet. And this programme has not only given them access to information but has also opened up new learning, employment and revenue opportunities.

The village women and girls have now even mastered the art of bridal makeup, cutting and tailoring, embroidery through the internet. The village women have also learnt how to use Paytm and other modes of digital transactions. They are now using internet for their electricity and mobile bill payment not only for their own household but also for their neighbouring households.

One such case is of a lady named as Madhavi Saikia from Sonitpur District. She is a middle-aged woman having a strong interest in education, which she couldn’t complete during her childhood due to financial problems. After getting the training of internet applications by one of the Saathis, she started to gain education through internet. She learnt about all the subjects in the internet and now she has given the entrance test to qualify for the role of a primary school teacher.

Thus, the “Internet Saathi – Digital Literacy Programme” has changed lots of perspectives of the village women, made them independent and confident and helped them to move and think forward at par with the male population of the country.


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