ICT Diffusion and Digital Divide in India: Implications for Economic Policies
Objective of the study :- This paper explained the determinants of digital divide in India and suggested policy initiatives for addressing the challenges of digital divide.
Location of study :- India.
Methodology :- Authors conducted their research studies on the basis of primary sources of data that has been collected from various books, Journals, research articles.
Findings of the study :-
This paper explained the causes of digital divide and also highlighted the challenges in bridging the digital divide. India is a multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-religion country with complex socio-economic conditions. The use of computers and internet technology correlates with poverty, educational qualification, and the level of electrification.
The major cause of urban-rural digital divide is the differences in telecommunications infrastructure gap. Internet revolution created many opportunities for small and large internet service providers. This resulted in decline in price and betterment of services. But it was not sufficient for the demand.
Even now, internet usage is more concentrated in urban areas. The growth rate of urban internet users is much higher as compared to that of rural internet users. There is also a regional digital divide among states of India. It is mostly related to the development of the region. ICT diffusion is more in states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Punjab.
Another major determinant of digital divide is education levels. A large chunk of Indian population is not educated enough to operate computers. Education at grassroots level is much needed for utilizing the full potential of technology. Indian government concentrates on universalizing primary education. But advanced use of technology requires higher education levels.
Access alone will not ensure digital inclusion. Most of the poor in rural areas are self-employed households and landless laborers. In rural areas people are facing the problem of vicious circle of poverty. They cannot afford technology even if they have access of mobiles and internet.
More educated people with computer knowledge and English language proficiency are able to access new technologies. Given the high levels of literacy in rural India and very low levels of English
speaking and computer savvy population, there is a dire need to develop software in local languages in order to ensure higher and faster adoption of internet in rural areas.
In current scenario an understanding and command over English language is an important determinant of access to higher education, employment possibilities and social opportunities.
Indian government is planning to set up National Translation Mission with a focus on promoting translation activities. Linguistic barriers are of major importance in India. There is dominance of English language in software and internet. It is resulting in exclusion of social exclusion among non-English speaking population of India. Hence there is a need to promote the use of national language and local languages at least in government websites so as to make computers and internet more users friendly.
Another barrier in Indian rural society is the fact that people do not associate the benefits of the
internet and other communication technologies with their personal needs,believing that “computers
are not for them ”. There is a need to overcome social and motivational barriers. It will be possible only if people are provided services which are useful in their professional lives.
There is a close relationship between the level of electrification and digital divide. In India, cost of electricity is very high. Mobiles cannot do everything as a PC can .But mobiles are cheaper, more portable and their extended battery life is suited to the regions where access to electricity is lacking or non-existent.
The divide between technology's haves and have-nots threatens to exacerbate the gaps between rich and poor, within and among countries. Therefore, obstacles such as illiteracy, lack of skills, and infrastructure in the rural areas must be tackled if India is to diminish the gap of digital divide. A special expenditure should be marked for bridging the digital divide in rural India. Government should come up with innovative schemes for giving technology access to rural areas. PC with internet facility should be provided in panchayat office of each village. PRIs should be actively involved in bridging rural-urban digital divide.
Digital Divide in India : Prospects and Challenges
Objective of the study :- This research paper discussed government initiatives towards the access to digital information and the contribution of numerous nationwide programs in bridging the digital divide. The article also focuses on some of the key obstacles and challenges to digitization and the need for strong policies and determination in narrowing the digital gap in India.
Location of study :- India.
Methodology :- The author conducted his research studies on the basis of secondary sources of data that has been collected from various books, Journals, research articles.
Findings of the study :-
From this research paper, it can be observed that there are several barriers to bridge the digital divide. The main challenge is the lack of infrastructure facilities. Due to the insufficient funding on infrastructure for information and communication technologies, economically weak Indians are unable to afford access to digital world. Other major challenges are low literacy levels, economic barrier, language barrier, content relevancy challenge.
Government of India launched several programs to narrow the digital gap. Some of them are Computer Aided Administration of Registration Department (CARD) project, E-Seva, MeeSeva, Gyan doot, FRIENDS project, Lokamitra/Smart project.
Role of libraries and information centers :-
Today the professional librarians are being better recognised as information disseminators or communicators rather than custodians of information. Although digitization is progressing at a slow pace in India but, several projects like the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), Vidya Vahini Project, and Digital Mobile Library have been the time bound interventions taken by the government to bridge the digital divide.
- National Science Digital Library (NSDL) : National Science Digital Library (NSDL) aims at providing comprehensive S&T information to students of science, engineering and technology in the country. The content creation and development for NSDL has gone through rigorous procedures to make available quality content for the students.
- Vidya Vahini Project : It is a school computerization program aimed at connecting Government and aided schools through internet and intranet.
- Digital Mobile Library : This program provides free access to many books in English and Indian languages.
- Library Networks : Library networks are playing an important role in bridging the information needs of the people. The programme is directed towards modernisation of libraries and information centres and the establishment of a mechanism for information transfer and access to academicians and researchers in India.
Role of academic and research institutions :-
Academic institutes have been making continuing efforts for helping the people of rural areas to have access to the Internet. IIT Kanpur initiated a project and developed a battery–powered facility, the “Infothela” which includes spreading information about education, weather agriculture, and employment.
To ensure active participation educated and unemployed, village youth have been empowered to operate the project. Another project has been started by IIT Karagpur to “bridge the communication gap between the sightless and the sighted.” The project has enabled the blind to surf the Internet, read text in Indian languages and even take up normal office work. A software IIT Webel has been developed to translate Braille into plain English.
Private businesses, like the Tata Council of Community Initiatives, are playing an important role in promoting adult education in the country. The council has extended several innovative computer–based literacy programs to improve India’s adult education. “Hindustan Liver” have embarked upon a project called i–shakti, an IT–based rural information service to provide information to meet rural needs.
The Oglivy and Mather Company project “Param” is initiating rural connectivity in the country. This electronic connectivity network has been conceived to reach the remotest corner where no land line or media–based communication is available. The motto of the project is to “connect the last mile first.” The “Param” Computer interacts with the operator in the local language in both spoken and written form.
India needs to improve the infrastructure of public libraries and link them with community information centers, should promote technologies which are best suited to the requirements of the rural India. There is a need for strong determination among people, good policy–makers and political support to bridge the digital divide.
This answer is continued in Part 3.