Google Inc makes women click with the web

Written by Monalisa Sen | Updated: Nov 25 2013, 14:32pm hrs
Internet businessAs the internet becomes more powerful and accessible, the potential to use it to improve their (women) standard of living and status in the society becomes a distinct possibility.
In a majority of western countries, women have a huge web presence, using the internet to improve their lives. Not in India, where there is an enormous internet gender gap. Only one-third of Indias 200 million-plus internet users are from the fairer sex, and thats a ratio that needs to change since the country is tipped to become the worlds second largest internet market in the future.

Some enterprising women from India have shown how they have used the internet to learn, connect with others, and change their immediate surroundings. Just consider:

Rakhi Paliwal is a young, socially conscious deputy sarpanch of the Upli-Oden panchayat, Khamnore Block in Rajasthan. She is the first woman in her community studying law and drives a motorcycle. Rakhi travels 50 kilometres every day to attend her law college in Udaipur and is determined to bring a internet revolution in her village. Today, she is active on social media, where she regularly shares her panchayat activities and hopes to create websites and connect all the panchayats in Khamnore virtually. Initially, Rakhi did not know how to use a computer but today she is able to help women to use the internet, whether it is for booking the tickets or contacting the collector's office to highlight the problems in the village.

Nisha Madhulika uses this simple and powerful tool (internet) to provide cooking tips and recipes. Through her videos on the web, one can view interesting recipes. She has used the online medium to expand her reach and today she has a identity of her own. I use the internet to learn new recipes and share my cooking with the world, she says.

Neela Kaushik is the driving force behind Gurgaon Moms, a website for mothers. The idea was to create a platform that allowed women to make friends and also garner information about the city, says Kaushik. When she moved to Gurgaon, she hardly had any friends. The need to connect with like-minded people motivated her to start the group.

As the internet becomes more powerful and accessible, the potential to use it to improve their (women) standard of living and status in the society becomes a distinct possibility. And the above examples show how women have managed to create new opportunities for themselves. Various research and studies conducted by different organisations have shown that the internet can help Indian women achieve self esteem, express their views freely, open up new opportunities and help them to gain education. On the macro level, these benefits can translate into lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, uplift in GDP of the country and improve their standard of living in the society.

Rajan Anandan, managing director and vice-presidentsales & operations for Google India, says, Lack of easy access to internet, lack of knowledge on how to use the internet and its relevance in their daily lives are the biggest barriers for women to get online. Last week, the internet company launched a unique initiative to help 50 million women get online in one year. Our Helping Women Get Online initiative aims to overcome these barriers and empower women to improve their lives, he says.

Getting 50 million women to use the internet in one year is an eminently achievable goal, but it cannot be done alone. The Google initiative, supported by Intel, Hindustan Unilever and Axis Bank, will focus on creating awareness about the benefits of internet for women, educate women to use the internet to improve their lives and work with partners to enable easy internet access points for women in the country. In the first stage of the initiative, Google will launch a mass media campaign targeted at women and promote its website, which will host content covering the very basics of internet and special content that is relevant for women in India.

As part of the initiative, Google India had undertaken a pilot programme in some of the villages of Bhilwara in Rajasthan which covered girl students in the age group of 13 to 18, housewives and working women. Basic internet training content was created in Hindi to help the women understand how they can use the internet in their day to day lives.

Yonca Brunini, Global lead, Tech For Good and VP, marketing Google says, With this project, we successfully completed a digital literacy effort of training over 100,000 women in Bhilwara and trained them on how to use the basic applications on the internet. The learnings from the pilot and the collateral has helped us to create a template that will now be replicated across other villages, districts and towns in the country to help women in rural areas get online.

The internet is the global gateway to ideas, resources and opportunities that has the potential to transform the lives and livelihoods of all people...and yet not all people have equitable access to the internet and the ability to unleash its promise. With its unique initiative, Google wants to bring about a significant change in the lives of women in India.