Today, our technology has reached leaps and bounds that we couldn’t have even imagined earlier. The digital age has proven its metal all around the globe. Everything went digital with the COVID that hit the world right from education, business, and even event dates and meetings. In the period of darkness brought by the Corona Virus. We have adapted ourselves to the digital world quite efficiently and with great flexibility. But is this true for every person on the face of the earth? That’s the question of the hour, and we are trying to answer it.
The “digital divide” refers to the gap between those with regular and effective access to digital and information technology and those without.
The Digital Divide is more of a social issue, referring to the gap that exists between individuals who have access to modern information and communication technology and those who lack access and can be affected by various problems altogether. It occurs in multiple facets, right from demographically to socially, and is influenced by all the different aspects that try to bring progress down.
There are numerous types of digital divide that influence today’s world in terms of access, technology, research, and equity.Some of the most vivid gaps in digital inequality include:
1. Gender Divide – This divide is most visible in developing and underdeveloped countries.Though mobile connectivity has its roots everywhere, it is unequal in various places. Internet access fosters the formation of relationships and social circles among people who share common interests.Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. create online peer groups based on similar interests. Internet usage has created social stratification, which is evident among those that are connected to the internet and those that are not. Non-connected groups are side-lined since they don’t share in the internet benefits of connected groups. Alienation is not good socially or digitally as it remarks the lines between the haves and have-nots.
2. Obtain Digital Divide –The main barriers at this point are the lack of telecommunication infrastructure with sufficient reliable bandwidth for Internet connections and cost, the ability to purchase or rent without financial hardship, and the necessary equipment. This results in a lack of access to technology. People who can even access certain parts of the technology aren’t aware of how to use it to its maximum efficiency due to facing it for the first time without any pre-requisite ideas.
The multiple facets of the digital divide and how they affect different people differently.
The Urban-Rural Divide: the digital divide between India’s rural and urban areas during the lockdown is not just visible in education but is evident everywhere from telemedicine to e-commerce, all of which became accessible only through the internet during the lockdown. Services such as online classrooms, financial transactions, and e-governance require access to the internet as well as the ability to operate internet-enabled devices like phones, tablets, and computers.
Across India, only one in ten households has a computer—whether a desktop, laptop, or tablet. Just about 25% of all homes have Internet facilities, accessed via a fixed or mobile network using any device, including smartphones. Compared to the population of our country, a gigantic population is still unaware of the digital advances happening in the country.
Gender Digital Inequalities: India has among the world’s highest gender gaps in access to digital technology. According to GSMA’s 2020 mobile gender gap report, only 21% of women in India compared to 42% of men are mobile internet users. The report says that while 79% of men own a mobile phone in India, the number for women is 63%. While there are economic barriers to girls’ owning a mobile phone or laptop, cultural and social norms also play a major part. The male-female gap in mobile phone use often exacerbates other inequalities for women, including access to information, economic opportunities, and networking.
Regional Digital Divide and Intra-State CompetitionDigital inequality – states differ greatly in the matrices in terms of people who have access to computers or know how to use the internet.Southern states are more digitally literate than their northern counterparts. Kerala is the state where the difference between rural and urban areas is the least. Uttarakhand has the greatest number of computers in urban areas, while Kerala has the greatest number of computers in rural areas. Himachal Pradesh leads the country in access to the internet in both rural and urban areas. While the national capital has the highest Internet access, with 55% of homes having such facilities, Odisha is at the bottom, with only one in ten homes having internet access.
The Effects and Implications of India’s Digital Divide
Educational: Children are the future of tomorrow, and without providing equal opportunities to each child, irrespective of background or location, we cannot expect them to be assets to our nation in the coming years. Without Internet access, students cannot develop the required technology-related skills.
Social: Internet penetration is associated with the greater social progress of a nation. Thus, the digital divide in a way hinders the social progress of a country. The rural population is suffering from a lack of information due to the digital divide in India. This will only strengthen the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and backwardness.
Political: In the age of social media, political empowerment and mobilisation are difficult without digital connectivity. Political agendas nowadays include digital promotions and are inclusive of digital processes to be ahead of other parties.
Economic: The digital divide will increase economic inequality between those who can afford the technology and those who can’t. Economic disparity will in turn affect the governing ability and the constitutional rights of equality, thus directly affecting the government.
Steps taken by the government to rule out the digital divide.
The government of India has taken some major steps to bridge the digital divide evident in the country and to increase digitalization in general to avoid the excessive use of hardware materials like wood, paper, etc. Moreover, the new government has its eyes set on achieving the full digital India goal and is trying to leave no stone unturned in doing the same.
In 2011, the Bharat Net Project was launched to connect 0.25 million panchayats through an optical fibre (100 MBPS) and connect India’s villages.
In 2014, the government launched the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan.
In 2015, the government launched several schemes under its Digital India campaign to connect the entire country.
The PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, launched in 2017, aims to usher in digital literacy in rural India by covering 60 million households.
Recognizing the significance of digital literacy, the Supreme Court of India declared the right to access the Internet to be a fundamental right, joining the right to privacy and the right to an education as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.R
The National Education Policy, 2020 aims at making “India a global knowledge superpower” by introducing several changes from the school to college level in the Indian education system, with special emphasis on digital education.
The digital divide is a root problem that hinders a country’s development and restricts it from progressing any further. The government has to take steps to take steps to bridge and eradicate this divide at the grass level, regardless of whether it is in the urban or rural sector. Full-fledged and detailed plans will be necessary with monitoring at every level to make sure the process happens smoothly. Educating people about digital advances and making them accessible to them should be among India’s priority lists as a nation on its way of development