MUMBAI: Today, Unilever announced a partnership with Internet.org, a Facebook-led alliance of partners, to understand better how internet access can be increased to reach millions more people across rural India.
Just 13 per cent of the Indian population has internet access and as an initial step, Internet.org and Unilever will carry out a comprehensive study to examine the opportunities to increase internet adoption in rural communities. Apart from infrastructure and cost which are known barriers to connectivity, the partnership will carefully evaluate other educational and cultural factors that also limit internet use.
The mission of Internet.org is to bring the benefits of internet access to all and by leveraging Unilever’s vast expertise on the ground via a comprehensive research and activation programme, the partnership aims to better understand the barriers to connectivity in rural communities. Unilever and Internet.org will leverage this research to inform the development of a series of on-the-ground projects with the aim of improving lives in rural India through better connectivity.
Unilever has extensive experience developing and deploying programmes for rural consumers. For example, Lifebuoy, the world’s leading health soap, has been promoting handwashing awareness in rural India for several years and has successfully enabled women in remote communities to enhance their incomes through the Shakti project.
Lowering the barriers to internet access requires a collaborative effort. Through this partnership, Unilever and Internet.org are pursuing the mission of bringing the benefits of internet access to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected.
Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever:
“Access to the internet is improving in countries like India but there is still a very high proportion of people that would love the opportunity to connect and engage but who cannot enjoy what many of us take for granted. Having no internet access naturally removes all associated opportunities that it brings which, in turn, can be a barrier to learning and ultimately hinder economic development. Through our long history of serving the Indian market we bring an in-depth understanding of rural Indian communities. We hope, together with Internet.org, we can use this know-how to understand better how a vital modern resource can benefit many more millions.”
Chris Weasler, Director of Global Connectivity, Facebook:
“The internet not only connects us to our friends, families and communities, but it’s also the foundation of the global knowledge economy and a way to deliver basic financial services, health and educational tools. In partnership with Unilever, we hope to break down the barriers to access and, in turn, provide millions of people with the information that can help them, and their communities, thrive.”