[Answered]What is ‘digital divide’? What are its implications? Also suggest measures to bridge the digital divide in India.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Discuss the digital divide across the country. Various implications of digital divide. Measures to bridge the digital divide.

Conclusion. Way forward.

 Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. The term describes a gap in terms of access to and usage of information and communication technology. The digital divide can exist between those living in rural areas and those living in urban areas, between the educated and uneducated, between economic classes, and on a global scale between more and less industrially developed nations.

Digital divide across the country: India, which has been appreciated globally for providing IT services, faces a huge digital divide, having a relatively low percentage of population with access to the Internet. In 2014, it had only about 18 people per 100 using the Internet (World Bank Data).

  1. North-South, East-West divide: Southern states are more digitally literate that Northern counterpart. This is consistent with their traditional literacy also. For example Digital divide is least in Kerala while worst in West Bengal.
  2. “Bharat-India” divide: While urban areas are more digitally literate, rural counterpart are lacking in the respective states. States which are more urbanised are generally more digitally literate and vice versa. About 70% of over one billion Indians live in rural areas, and only about 400 million have Internet access.
  3. Linguistic Divide: More than 80% of the content on the Internet is in English, so states where people are more competent in English are more digitally competent.

Implications of digital divide:

  1. Increasing penetration of digital technology by bridging the existing digital divides is associated with greater social progress of a country. Digital divide thus in a way hinders the social progress of a country.
  2. Economic disparity is created between those who can afford the technology and those who don’t.
  3. A direct correlation between a company’s access to technological advancements and its overall success in bolstering the economy. Thus, digital divide hinders economic growth of a country.
  4. The digital divide also impacts children’s ability to learn and grow in low-income school districts. Without Internet access, students are unable to cultivate necessary tech skills in order to understand today’s dynamic economy
  5. Almost all India’s socio-economic problems have links to the digital divide. Rural India suffered from information poverty. Information is controlled by a few at the top of the pyramid who restrict its percolation down to those at the bottom.
  6. Political empowerment and mobilisation in the age of social media is difficult when there is a digital divide.
  7. Transparency and accountability is lessdue to digital gap. For instance it impact delivery of services and good governance as well.

Measures to bridge the digital divide:

  1. To bridge the digital divide, there is a need to accelerate execution of digital India initiative.
  2. Meaningful collaborations with the private sector,technological innovations and following a consistent focused approach towards the larger objective are necessary.
  3. Utilisation of multiple modes of transactionssuch as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), Unified Payment Interface (UPI), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), and Point-of-Sale (POS) machines, need to be strengthened.
  4. India also needs easing of regulationsto allow interoperability of wallets to ensure easy transfer of funds for merchants as well as for consumers.
  5. There is a need to enhance and develop robust rural digital infrastructure and ecosystem.
  6. Focus must also be on enhancing the digital literacy through various platforms especially media.

Noting that digital literacy is an important force for good governance and transparency, India has tried to bridge the digital divide gap by enacting some programmes like Digital India, efforts to make India a cashless economy, Pradhan Mantri Grameen Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) aimed at spreading digital literacy among the rural population. Govt in states are trying to address these issues through various schemes in conjugation with Central govt’s Digital India programme and PMDISHA. Multi-pronged approach (spreading across various ministries and departments) is needed to address these issues.

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