Internet Didi: The Impact Of Internet In Rural India
Internet is changing India like never before. It may be years or even decades before roads, public utilities, healthcare physically reach the remote villages
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Internet is changing India like never before. It may be years or even decades before roads, public utilities, healthcare physically reach the remote villages. Thanks to Internet and initiatives by technology companies like Google, change is happening through smartphones even in the remotest of remote villages.
An initiative of Google and Tata Trusts, Internet Saathi is a program spread across ten states. Over 2 million women across rural India have learned to use the Internet under this program which aims at bridging the digital gender disparity in rural India and empowering women and their communities by providing basic training on the usage and benefits of the Internet.
The Internet Didi of the Village
I recently got an opportunity to spend a day with an Internet Saathi, Laxmi, in one of the most backward districts of West Bengal, Purulia, in village Patahensal. Fondly known as "Internet Didi" by her fellow villagers, Laxmi is an empowered woman today. The confidence she exudes made me ask her a variety of questions about her education and her past.
She said he loves studying but wasn't able to complete her formal education. After much effort and encouragement by her husband she has been able to complete class 11 and wants to continue her studies. Her real turning point was when she was introduced to Internet through the Internet Saathi program.
A Day in the Life of Laxmi
Today she Googles for everything. That's her magic mantra to get what she wants. There is no 4G in the village. Even basic connectivity is a challenge, yet it doesn't dither her from doing the awesome work she is doing. She knows about the Play Store, connects with her NGO partners through Whatsapp. Her lingo now consists of words such as "apps", "updates", "upload". What's even awesome is that she has taught over 1100 women how to use the Internet.
She is like a superstar in her village. Her smartphone wallpaper has a picture of her meeting Sundar Pichai when he was in India recently. I asked her what did she tell Sundar Pichai when she met him? She replied innocently yet quite bluntly "I told him to do improve the voice recognition tool of Google. It doesn't understand my dialect. I also complained to him about the connectivity in the village."
How she uses the Internet?
It's interesting to see how Laxmi uses the Internet. It tells about a huge trend and maybe even future e-commerce potential in rural India. Laxmi has used Internet to download blouse designs and stitching them, stopping a child marriage in her village, helping the village girls do their school practicals besides looking for new opportunities for her husband. Interestingly Laxmi told me of things even I didn't know like MySadak app. She told me how she had sent a picture of her broken village road through the app. She also wants to connect with Prime Minister Modi through NarendraModi app. Her aspirations include teaching others to use the internet.
It's heartwarming to see how with bare minimum connectivity and the most basic model of smartphone how these village women are changing the landscape of rural India.
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