“Digital Literacy is the ability of individuals and communities to understand and use digital technologies for meaningful actions within life situations”. It would bring the benefits of ICT to daily lives of rural population especially in the areas of Healthcare, Livelihood generation and Education.
However, Issues with internet connectivity in rural areas and lack of access to Information and Communications Technology coupled with frequent internet/electricity outages and high cost of internet. [only 15% in rural India have access to internet] furthered the rural-urban digital divide in India.
Digital illiteracy as a factor hindering socio-economic development:
- Children are not able to access quality education or attend virtual classroom. This divide was further enlarged during the lockdown impose due to the pandemic creating an imbalance between urban and rural education.
- Acts as an impediment to access to tele-medicine. This becomes a challenge especially given the poor brick and mortar health infrastructure in rural areas.
- Prevents rural youth from capitalizing on myriad of employment and income generation opportunities available through effective use of internet. E.g., e-commerce.
- Digital illiteracy prevents effective e-governance and service delivery of government schemes to beneficiaries.
- Digital illiteracy especially among women and girl-child has increased the gender imbalance in the rural areas.
- Emphasis on digitization and computerization, while ignoring digital literacy has led the elderly population especially vulnerable to inaccessibility of government benefits and schemes.
It should be noted that digital divide is more than just an access issue and cannot be alleviated merely by providing the necessary equipment. There are at least three factors at play: information accessibility, information utilization and information receptiveness. More than just accessibility, individuals need to know how to make use of the information and communication tools once they exist within a community.