Unilever today announced a partnership with Internet.org, a Facebook-led alliance of online partners, which will bring internet access to millions in rural India.
Unilever will use its in-country experience to carry out research and set up an activation programme, which will eventually be turned into a series of on-the-ground projects to improve "lives in rural India through better connectivity".
The multinational company already boasts extensive experience in developing and deploying programmes for rural consumers, last seen through its Lifebuoy soap brand activity promoting handwashing awareness in rural India, which has also enabled women in remote communities to enhance their incomes through the Shakti project.
Internet.org and Unilever will first carry out a comprehensive study to examine what opportunities are available to increase internet adoption in rural Indian communities.
The groups have already identified infrastructure and cost as barriers to internet connectivity in its target areas, but the companies will take pains to evaluate other educational and cultural factors that also limit internet use.
Chris Weasler, director of global connectivity at Facebook, called the internet "the foundation of the global knowledge economy and a way to deliver basic financial services, health education and tools", adding that the partnership will help millions of people find information that can help them and their communities to thrive.
Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever, said: "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."
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