While Facebook continues to battle net neutrality concerns over Free Basics née Internet.org, Google has publicly attempted to take a separate tack on expanding access to the internet in India. Although the search behemoth has also sent confusing messages on its approach to net neutrality, unlike Facebook, the public face of its initiatives in the country tend to be more like Project Loon, a project to use high-altitude balloons to increase connectivity in internet areas.
Now, the government has expressed its willingness to assist with another project: Internet Saathi. Where efforts like Loon aim to increase direct connectivity and things like Airtel Zero and Free Basics are aimed at making the internet affordable, Internet Saathi looks at another problem: internet literacy.
The initiative, which began as a pilot project in conjunction with Tata Trusts, gives 'cycle carts' to trainers sourced from a local community or a non-governmental organisation. These women are then expected to spend two days a week for four to six months visiting villages and educate women on how to use the internet. As the videos above show, that means teaching them how to do things as basic as Google searches and sending email. With the project having begun in July this year, Google and Tata Trusts are now looking to expand it beyond the 45,000 villages it aimed to start off with.
On Wednesday, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government would also collaborate with Google on this effort. "I have directed my department to let Google partner with out common service centre to spread 'Internet Saathi' program," Prasad said.