Access to technology is unequal in India. Poor affordability, lack of infrastructure, limited awareness, cultural and social barriers, and insufficient government initiatives all hamper access to computers, mobile phones, and the Internet and contribute to a digital divide that disproportionately affects poor rural Indians, particularly women. Moreover, the COVID 19 pandemic exacerbated the digital divide and left the country’s rural women entrepreneurs and women led community development organizations CDOs behind.

The Digital Sarthak program, implemented by the Digital Empowerment Foundation bridges the gender digital divide in rural India. It empowers rural women entrepreneurs by increasing their digital literacy beyond basic communication and messaging and helps women led CDOs take advantage of the growing digital economy. In the first phase of the program, the program staff trained hundreds of Digital Sarthaks, or “digital foot soldiers,” in digital literacy, smartphone usage for business, media and information literacy, digital marketing, and ecommerce. In turn, these Digital Sarthaks trained women entrepreneurs and CDOs in their home districts in rural India.


● Rural women entrepreneurs’ and CDO members’ digital literacy increased. While this change is not fully attributable to the Digital Sarthak intervention due to the digitizing pressure of the COVID 19 pandemic, nationwide participant surveys show that all participants increased their use of digital tools.

● Women entrepreneurs in the program expanded their businesses, enhancing them with sophisticated, efficient, and secure digital practices. Four fifths of participants’ businesses increased their monthly revenue.

● More end users became aware of digital government services, bridging last mile gaps in rural and underserved communities. Almost all participants applied for at least one more government initiative for themselves or on behalf of their business, family, or friends, and 96 percent of their applications were approved.

This study aims to identify robust outcomes that resulted from the South Asia Regional Digital Initiative buy in’s Digital Empowerment Foundation activity.

You can also access this accompanying slide deck with key outcomes from the report.