Google, which launched Internet Saathi – a program with Tata Trusts to provide education to women in rural India on the basic use and benefits of internet in July last year – has expanded to 4 more states: West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. Since its inception, the program continues to be available in 5 other states: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Google claims that through this program, 100,000 women have learned to use the internet. The company provides internet enabled devices and training material, while the actual training is conducted by self help groups and local NGOs from the Tata Trusts network. According to Google, only 1 in 10 internet users in rural India is a woman. It plans to reach 300,000 villages in India in the next few years.
We think that the Internet Saathi initiative is a much better way to bring Indians, especially rural women online, as compared to say Facebook’s Free Basics*, which used to offer only a handful of websites, and no education on how to use these. Google was initially a part of Free Basics but pulled out of the program in January this year.
Google’s focus on India: In December last year, the company said that it planned to hire more engineers in India, open a new campus in Hyderabad, train 2 million Android developers and bring more people in India online through initiatives such as Project Loon. At the same time, Google opened translation to other Indic languages such as Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu among others. It added that many other Google apps would be available in Indian languages.
Google India’s recent developments:
– Earlier this month, Google said that it’s high speed free WiFi service on railway stations with RailTel had crossed 300,000 users per week. Both the companies extended their high speed free WiFi service to nine cities. The initiative was launched in January starting with Mumbai Central station.
– Last month, Google said that it would display common health conditions and relevant medical facts as information cards in Hindi or English when a user searched for symptoms or health concerns across all Google search platforms like smartphones, PCs and tablets and on its search app in both iOS and Android.
– In the same month, Google and FremantleMedia Asia collaborated to let fans of shows like Idols, Got Talent and The X Factor vote for people they support across Asia from Google Search.
– In January, it introduced a new feature that let users search, compare and book flights via its search engine.
– In October 2015, Google launched a new public transport app called Delhi Public Transport Offline, that let users check direction and timetable information about New Delhi metros and buses
– In the same month, it launched a new accelerator feature called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which helped speed up load times by plugging a piece of Google code into publishers’ websites.
– In September 2015 , it introduced a voice typing and input feature for Google Docs on Chrome browsers in Hindi and 39 other languages.
– In March last year, Google added panoramic views of 31 monuments and Indian archaeological sites on Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute. In August 2014, Google India extended its partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India by adding 360-degree panoramic images of 76 new heritage sites to Google Maps.
Our Google coverage.
*Disclosure: MediaNama has taken a strong position in favor of Net Neutrality and against price discrimination; Founder and editor of Medianama Nikhil Pahwa is a volunteer with the SaveTheInternet coalition.