Will support 1 million women entrepreneurs in rural India: Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet
Tech giant Google is launching a global Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Under this effort, it will provide $25 million in overall funding to nonprofits and social organizations in India and around the world that are working to advance women and girls' economic empowerment and create pathways to prosperity. 

Google also announced supporting 1 million women entrepreneurs in rural India. Based on learnings from the Internet Saathi programme,  Google is introducing a new Women Will web platform. The aim is to continue to support women in rural India to pursue their ambitions and improve their livelihoods through entrepreneurship. This will be complemented by community support, mentorship, and accelerator programs for rural women entrepreneurs.

“The success of the Internet Saathi programme has shown how digital literacy and access can help women to reach their full potential and improve their livelihoods,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet at the virtual edition of Google for India event called Women Will.  “Based on this success, we are announcing to help 1 million women in rural villages become entrepreneurs through business tutorials, tools and mentorship.”

Available in English and Hindi, the Women Will platform is designed especially for women aspiring to explore entrepreneurship. Through a “how to” curriculum on turning an interest into a business, managing an enterprise, and promoting it for growth, the platform will provide guidance and support to women who want to convert an existing hobby or talent such as tailoring, beauty services, home tuition and food processing into some income. To begin with, the platform would work with 2,000 Internet Saathis to help other women gain from this resource and start on their entrepreneurial journey.

“We always believe the best ways to expand opportunity for everyone is to get technology into the hands of women,” said Pichai. “Not only will they use it to make their lives better but  (also) for their families and their communities.”

An alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur and a native of Tamil Nadu, Pichai observed this firsthand when his mother would invite neighbours to use the rotary phone.

“Sometimes it felt like the whole neighbourhood was in our living room, swapping stories and connecting with the loved ones, who lived far away,” said Pichai.

Many years later, in 2017, he met other women in a small rural village outside, Kharagpur making an impact. This time with mobile phones. He was there on a visit as part of the Internet Saathi programme, which trained women living in rural Indian villages to use the Internet. 

These women, then travelled to other villages to train more women. He asked them to tell him one thing that could make the biggest difference in their village and their response was Wi-Fi. They showed him different searches they were doing, using their phones, from finding YouTube videos on stitching to using pesticide to improve crop yields. Another person shared how her life had changed by being able to video call her son, who was a migrant worker. 

Google is introducing a Women Will web platform, based on learnings from its digital literacy plan, Internet Saathi
“These stories were powerful reminders about how technology can help transform lives for the better. And in turn, these women helped to make our products better,” said Pichai. “For example, they showed how the voice search confused Puri, the food with a place, which inspired us to make improvements.”

Internet Saathi is helping narrow the digital gender divide in India. In its six-year journey, this joint effort with Tata Trusts has had a cascading impact benefitting over 30 million women across rural India and contributed to narrowing the digital gender gap in India. The programme was designed to impart digital literacy training to women across 300,000 villages in India. Google said it took the courage and non-stop efforts of over 80,000 women trainers called Internet Saathis to make this possible.

Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Trusts said it gives him great satisfaction when he sees the success of the joint effort between Google and Tata Trusts in providing education and livelihood to women in rural India. “I appreciate Mr Pichai for acknowledging what we have achieved. I wish to thank him for recognising the tremendous outreach and faith that Google has displayed in this initiative with Tata Trusts.”

Pichai said empowering women entrepreneurs could create hundreds of millions of jobs and help more people benefit from India’s growing digital economy. Because when women have equal access to opportunity, everyone benefits from their perspectives, creativity and expertise. “This is true all over the world. Yet, when it comes to accessing opportunity, deep inequalities persist,” said Pichai.

For example, Pichai said women are almost twice as likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic and millions of girls are at the risk of not returning to school. “We have the opportunity to build a future that is more equal and inclusive and we must take it.”

The $25 million Google.org Global Impact Challenge for Women & Girls, would support such efforts. Google said it is very conscious that the disruption of 2020 has widened the gender equity gap globally. Post-Covid-19, a future of all-round prosperity is anchored in the guarantee of gender equity, and this requires concerted but bold efforts.

“We would provide $25 million in grants to non-profits and social enterprises doing important work to help women and girls address systemic barriers, the economic inequality, pursue entrepreneurship and build financial independence,” said Pichai.


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