Proliferation of Information and Communication technologies (ICT) changed the way we learn, work and interact. It opened up new possibilities and opportunities. But the fruits of ICT is not available to all. There is a gap in digital access among and within countries. This gap is termed as 'Digital Divide'. In this research article, the prevalence of digital divide, determinants of the phenomenon and the steps taken by Indian government are discussed.
The rapid development of Information and Communication Technologies has accelerated the change in society and economy. ICT stepped into every sector and modernized them. It enabled us to create and utilize information that plays a significant role in both socio-economic structures of our lives.
On the other hand not everyone is receiving the benefits of technology. There is a digital inequality among nations. It was first observed in 1970s. Later in 1990's this technology usage gap is termed as 'Digital Divide'. Developed countries are using technology much better than developing countries. There is a digital divide within nations too. In India, there is a high income inequality. It was reflected in digital usage as well. Though internet penetration is increasing day by day, there is still a digital divide in the country.
Technology created new types of "have" and "have-nots", that means those who have the benefit of technology and those who do not have. Digital divide is not just a problem of developing nations but also for developed countries. Though not as much as developing countries, developing world faces digital divide caused by income economic differences. United States has this type of digital inequality. And in some other developed countries, there are geographic inequality in technology usage. Japan faces this kind of digital divide.
Developing countries are facing many types of digital divide such as age divide, gender divide, rural-urban digital gap, geographical differences, economic differences etc. Indian government launched many schemes and programs to bridge digital divide. But still it is a major problem in India and even in the world.
In India, around 70% of its total population lives in villages. There is so much potential to improve rural areas with the use of technology. But this potential is not fully tapped yet. Rural inhabitants are lagging behind in using technology compared to their urban counterparts. This is because of low literacy levels, lack of training in using computers and language barrier. Thereby many Indians are excluded from the benefits of technology.
Review of Literature
Digital Divide-Access and Use of New Information Communications Technology among Indian Rural Females
Objective of the study :- This paper focuses on the digital divide among adolescent of rural Indian females and its causes &consequences.
Location of study :- Karnataka.
Methodology :- This research is based on the survey research method conducted by collecting data from a representative sample of rural population using questionnaire.
Findings of the study :-
This research highlighted that penetration of Internet is very less in rural area and access to it is even less. Even the mobile usage is very low in rural areas, and especially among rural women. Compared to the prevalence of computers, mobiles usage is much better. The reason can be attributed to the lack of computer literacy in rural females. they are often excluded from taking advantage of the government programs related to computer literacy.
Even the educated rural women are not using technology much, contrary to the belief that education ensures the technology awareness. The major cause for this is the lack of relevant content in the internet for rural women. Content in the internet is dominated by urban issues and there isn't much content that is suitable to rural women needs. And another reason is that they are not much familiar with the technology usage. There is no motivation to utilize information and communication technologies, because of the lack of awareness on its benefits.
This survey research observed that the rural women who are using internet are using it for very limited time, on an average less than an hour. The reason can be attributed to the low access to computers and internet. It was also observed that majority of those who are using internet are using it for communication purposes. In this survey, only 7.2% of internet using rural women are using digital devices for information and education purposes. Remaining usage is for entertainment and communication purposes.
Number of rural women who never used internet and new technological devices is very high compared to their urban counterparts. In this survey, 22.09% rural women never used internet and any new technological device. It is evident from this research that there is a strong digital divide among rural and urban women.
One of the main obstacles in technology penetration is lack of telecommunication infrastructure with sufficient reliable bandwidth for Internet connections. Lack of funding leads to high cost for necessary equipment in rural areas.
We can observe absolute digital divide in the lack of access and use of new information communication technologies by well-educated rural women. Ownership of the devices is also a limitation for rural women in utilizing ICT. Another limitation is that most of the devices are based on English. As rural India do not speak English much, rural women are not receiving the fruits of technology.
Internet and new information communication technologies is confined mainly to the urban area in India and the rural areas remain excluded from the ambit of new technology. Most of the rural areas are geographically dispersed, sparsely populated and economically week. Hence they are not a profitable destination for commercial companies. That is leading to high prices for new technologies in rural India. It is challenging to Indian government to bridge this rural-urban differences.
Just providing access to digital technologies is not sufficient. Rather training them to utilize this technologies for better information access, better education, health care serves the purpose. Efforts need to concentrate on reducing access costs, creation of enabling environment, developing key technologies, development relevant local languages content, joint efforts by public and private agencies, developing support infrastructure such as roads and power, dedicated venture capital fund, encouraging mass e-literacy, and leading of NICT initiatives by women and other underprivileged groups.
Once the benefits of technology is fully tapped, it will become a critical tool in rural development. Technology can enhance social services, income generating activities and governance. While doing this, care must be taken by government to include poorest of the poor and women in the ambit of technology.
There is no single solution to bridge the digital divide. The effort has to be multi-dimensional and multi-pronged, because India is a diverse country with many regional and cultural differences. Till now internet users tend to be younger, well-educated and are economically sound. There is a disadvantage to females in technology usage, because of the prevalence of gender divide in digital usage. New economic policies must be framed in a way that everyone will have the equal opportunity to utilize technology.
This answer is continued in Part 2.