Tata Trusts and Google India launch online program

In an innovative move to educate rural women about the internet, Tata Trusts and Google India on Friday announced a special programme to send 1,000 specially designed ‘Internet Cycle Carts’ to remote villages.

Built on the back of a regular bicycle, the carts are modelled on India’s traditional distribution system used to ferry everything from ice-creams to industrial goods and will help empower the rural communities.

The cycle cart operator or ‘Internet Saathi’ would train women and act like the postman, who was the single point contact for the village with the outside world both for information and communication.

Tata Trusts will manage the on-ground rollout with its partners, while Google India will invest in providing the internet-enabled carts and training content, bringing India closer to the Digital Vision.

The launch was attended by Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata and Google India and southeast Asia vice president Rajan Anandan.

The Cycle Carts initiative will provide women with basic training in the usage and benefits of the internet.

“While women are making rapid progress on adoption of internet in urban areas, women in rural India are getting left behind. Today only 12 percent of internet users in rural India are women,” said Anandan.

“We need to come together to address this challenge and empower women in rural India through training and programmes that can truly transform their lives.”

Tata Trusts executive trustee R. Venkataramanan said: “Internet connectivity has become a fundamental need in any society and improves literacy and access to information that is instrumental for socio-economic development.

“Through this joint initiative with Google, we will reach out to the rural communities, especially women in our country and we are confident that it will contribute towards their empowerment and also self-sustenance.”

The Cycle Carts initiative will pedal off from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jharkhand before rolling out in other parts of India, covering 4,500 villages, half a million women and rural communities over the next 18 months.

The Cycle Cart would be available in the village/cluster for at least two days every week for four-six months, creating awareness and imparting adequate training to the women before moving to the next village/cluster.

The initiative is being supported by Intel, a long term partner of Google India’s Helping Women Get Online programme, creating internet awareness among 50 million women in India.

Tata Trusts, engaged in multiple socio-cultural and academic activities, is spread across 170 districts in 16 Indian states, reaching out to over 800,000 homes.