March 2019
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Digital divide can render large cross sections of societies as dangerously crippled and primitive

India has the third highest number of Internet users in the world after China and the USA at 150 million, but penetration accounts for just 3.1% of the country’s population of 1.2 billion


ICTpost News Netwok 

A World Bank study has estimated that a 10% increase in broadband connectivity leads to 1.38% increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Broadband penetration in India at present is less than 15%. While the country boasts the world’s second fastest-growing mobile market, it is lagging behind when it comes to Internet connectivity. Connecting the community and its members to the world through the Internet is becoming increasingly essential for community vitality for the development and social progress in recent years.

India is a country with more than 650,000 villages, where more than half of its population live in rural areas and off-the-map villages. Most are remote and too isolated to benefit from the country’s impressive economic progress. Yet there’s a growing desire among people in rural India to be part of its modernization process. But, the last-mile delivery has always been a challenge for India. Increasingly the government with the support of NGOs is looking at better ways to reach remote, rural India.

The inaugural years of nation-building, though, were an exercise of mixed economic concept with a dash of tentative capitalism; India was sustained by a socialist regime that spent all its resources on creating a mammoth public sector. It took more than four decades and the courage of a few men in power for India to break out of the comfort zone of socialism and stop looking at the world through the prism of Cold War.

The late awakening and an accelerated growth rate, an aspirational middle class and an ambitious entrepreneurial class, the familiar India Stagnant has been replaced by India Rising, as if the world was waiting for the dawn of this democratic counterpoint to the Chinese superpower. But, the achievement of high growth must ultimately be judged in terms of the impact of that economic growth on the lives and freedoms of the people.

The amount of money the poor in this country survive on daily is actually much lower than the Planning Commission’s much-criticised poverty line. According to the National Sample Survey Office, poorest of the poor survive on barely Rs. 17 per day in villages and Rs. 23 a day in cities. Two years back, the Planning Commission drew flak for setting the poverty line at Rs. 26 per capita per day in rural areas and Rs. 32 per capita per day in urban areas. According to the shocking data from 2011-12 (July-June), five per cent of the country’s population on the bottom rung had an average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of Rs. 521.44 in rural areas and Rs. 700.50 in urban areas.

India has the third highest number of Internet users in the world after China and the USA at 150 million, but penetration accounts for less than 10 % of the country’s population of 1.2 billion. (Reference: eStats Report) We are living in the information age. Information and access to information is still not available to all. The new hunger and malnutrition is revisiting us in digital form. A glance into the past history of technologies tells us that new technologies as and when they created growth and newer opportunities, tended to also heighten economic injustice. Evidence of this has been witnessed across India over the centuries – be it with the advent of agricultural mechanization, industrial revolution, information revolution or the present all-encompassing digital revolution of which we are all a part. The digital divide if not addressed well, can render large cross sections of societies as dangerously crippled and primitive.

As per the NSSO Level and Pattern of Consumer Expenditure Report, only 3.5 households in 1,000 rural households in rural India had Internet connectivity at home in 2009-2010. And there are close to 90,000 rural info kiosks (Common Service Centres, Community Information Resource Centres and others) in India. However, these kiosks lack stable and uninterrupted Internet connectivity and services to deliver at people’s doorsteps.

 Skill Development and Women Empowerment

To make India digitally literate, it is important girls and women to be digitally literate. Also, skill development is critical to reducing unemployment, inequality, poverty and promote economic growth. It’s a wise investment from which we can all benefit. When women and girls are able to apply technology to address needs or problems in their own lives and communities, it keeps them interested and enhances their learning. When they present these solutions to their communities, both they and their communities realize that they have something to contribute and can be powerful agents of change.Teachers are instrumental in motivating children and getting them back to school. The low standards of education are in part caused by the fact that there are not enough teachers appointed which means the ratio of teachers to students is very low in the rural areas.