The Reliance Foundation in association with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has selected 10 organizations across India as a part of their Women Connect Challenge India. Under the initiative, the Reliance Foundation has invested Rs 8.5 crore (over $1.1 million USD), out of a total Rs 11 crores (over $1.5 million USD), into projects for creating innovative solutions to address the issue of gender digital divide in the country. Such initiatives are estimated to benefit around 3 lakh (300,000) women and girls across 17 states, by increasing their economic empowerment through technology.

The grantees for the initiative are Anudip Foundation, Barefoot College International, Centre for Youth and Social Development, Friends of Women’s World Banking, Naandi Foundation, Professional Assistance for Development Action, Society for Development Alternatives, Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centre, TNS India Foundation and ZMQ Development. The solutions are aimed at addressing the social and cultural barriers to bridge the gender digital divide faced by women farmers, entrepreneurs, members of self-help groups.

“It has been our mission to enable and empower women in every walk of life. When we launched Jio, we envisioned a digital revolution that will be an equal opportunity revolution,” said Nita M Ambani, Founder-Chairperson, Reliance Foundation. She highlighted Jio’s role in providing affordable connectivity across the country. She further added, “Reliance Foundation has also been working in partnership with USAID towards bridging the gender digital divide in India. Technology is a powerful means to address and eliminate inequality.” Mrs Ambani also congratulated the winners of the WomenConnect Challenge India.

The WomenConnect Challenge India was launched in August 2020. From a pool of over 180 applications, 10 organisations were selected with grants between INR 75 lakhs to 1 crore each ($100,000 – $135,000), for over a period of 12 to 15 months. In January 2021, USAID and Reliance Foundation jointly hosted a Solvers Symposium bringing together semi-finalists and external experts for capacity building while brainstorming on the gender digital divide in India.