The proliferation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has 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’. This research report reviews four recently published research articles on Digital divide in India.
The rapid development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) brought drastic changes in society and the economy. ICT has stepped into every sector and modernized them. It enabled us to create and utilize the information, which played 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 digital inequality among nations. It was first observed in the 1970s. Later in the 1990s, this technology usage gap is termed as ‘Digital Divide’. People of developed countries are using technology much better than in developing countries. There is a digital divide within nations too. In India, there is huge income inequality. It was reflected in digital usage as well. Though internet penetration is increasing day by day, still there is the digital divide in India.
Technology created new types of “have” and “have-nots”, that means those who have the benefit of technology and those who do not have. The digital divide is not just a problem of developing nations but also for developed countries. Though not as much as developing countries, the developed world is also facing the digital divide due to income inequality. The United States is also struggling with this type of digital divide. And in some other developed countries, there is 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 the 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
The 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 the rural population using a questionnaire.
Main Findings of the study:-
This research report highlighted that penetration of Internet is very less in the rural areas and access to it is even less. Even 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 technology awareness. The major cause for this is the lack of relevant content on the internet for rural women. Content on 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 technology usage. There is no motivation to utilize information and communication technologies, because of the lack of awareness of its benefits.
This survey research observed that the rural women who are using the internet are using it for a very limited time, on an average less than an hour. The reason can be attributed to low access to computers and the internet. It was also observed that the majority of those who are using the 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.
The number of rural women who never used the internet and new technological devices is very high compared to their urban counterparts. In this survey, 22.09% of rural women never used the 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. And lack of funding from the government leads to a high cost for necessary equipment in rural areas.
We can observe the 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 in English. As rural India do not speak English much, rural women are not receiving the benefits of technology.
Internet and new information communication technologies are confined mainly to the urban area in India and the rural areas remain excluded from the ambit of new technology. Economic growth in most of the rural remains low, and the rural areas have less population density. 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 the Indian government to bridge this rural-urban differences.
Just providing access to digital technologies is not sufficient. Rather training them to utilize these technologies for better information access, better education, health care serves the purpose. Efforts should be on reducing the cost, investments in developing infrastructure, widespread e-literacy programs.
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 the government to include poorest of the poor and women in the ambit of technology.
Conclusion of this research report:-
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 financially well-off. 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 an equal opportunity to utilize technology.
ICT Diffusion and Digital Divide in India: Implications for Economic Policies
The objective of the study:- This paper explained the determinants of the digital divide in India and suggested policy initiatives for addressing the challenges of the 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.
Main Findings of the study:-
This paper explained the causes of the digital divide and also highlighted the challenges in bridging the digital divide. India is a diverse country with so many cultures, languages and religions. The use of computers and internet technology have a relationship with poverty, educational qualification, and also on access to electricity.
The major cause of the urban-rural digital divide is the differences in telecommunications infrastructure facilities. Internet revolution created many opportunities for small and large internet service providers. This resulted in a 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. This research report found that the level of ICT diffusion is more in states – Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Punjab.
Education levels also affect technology usage. Even now, still many people in India are not educated enough to use computers or smartphones. This report found out the Indian government is concentrating on increasing literacy rates through primary education, but to utilize technology, higher education levels are necessary. So, this is a big obstacle to bridge the digital divide in India.
Access alone will not ensure digital inclusion. Majority of the poor people in rural areas are self-employed persons and daily wage labourers. The rate of poverty is much higher in rural areas. And hence they cannot afford technology even if they are provided access to mobiles and the internet.
Educated people, who are proficient in English also e-literates are accessing new technologies. As the majority of the rural people are much comfortable in the local language, providing vernacular languages will help in faster adoption of the internet.
The 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 divide 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.
Main 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.
The government launched several programs to narrow the digital divide in India. 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.
A Brief View to Digital Divide in Indian Scenario
Objective of the study :- This research article observed how digital divide is influencing India and the role of government and libraries in disseminating information and in bridging the 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 case studies, Journals, research articles.
Main Findings of the study :-
There are many dimensions for digital divide in India. One of them is connectivity. Levels of internet penetration depends on connectivity. Another dimension is capacity. That is Sufficient trained IT professionals to install and maintain software a, hardware and networks.
Digital divide also depends on content. Most of the content in the internet is in English. Availability of content in local languages is directly related to digital divide. It also depends on literacy rates and distinct groups including rural communities, women, children and elderly persons with disabilities.
Investment in infrastructure is one of the main things to bridge digital divide. Along with all these things, framing of policies to achieve 100% technology literacy is much needed.
Earlier digital inclusion programs were taken up as a charity initiative. But that is rapidly changing increasingly cities of all types including urban, suburban and rural are linking universal digital access to economic development imperatives. Without access to internet, it is increasingly difficult to become aware of new job opportunities, newspapers for example are losing classified advertising business to online publisher. Indian government and private sectors implemented many schemes that are utilizing technologies to assist citizens in a much better way. These programs include Financial assistance, Food assistance, Training opportunities, Recreational facilities.
Prominent digital inclusion programs in India are :
- Kissan call center – All the queries related to agriculture and allied sectors are being addressed through these call centres by making a single call the farmers reaches an agriculture graduate or expert who would be able to respond to his queries and problems instantly.
- Life Line India – Telephone based information service to enable farmers to record a question and after retrieve a recorded reply.
- Toarahat project – It is a project conceived by the Delhi based development alternatives grap. The project provides a bunch of service like employment mandi market, e-mail, weather, matrimonial etc. The high pictured interface makes it easier for a long man to use.
- Digital Divide and Information Literacy – Various developing countries could not utilize the full potentialities of their people because of literacy. Libraries must gear up to play an important role in imparting information literacy to empower information user communities.
The Digital divide is based on insufficient policy regimes, inefficiency in the provision of telecommunication network and service lack of locality created content and uneven ability to derive economic and social benefits from information intensive activities. To reduce the “digital divide” requires a systems approach broadly attacking all these issues.
In these circumstances the library professionals should quickly position themselves to provide the needed inputs to the policy makers. At the least they should be positioned in such way that they can convince the policy makers.
There is a dire need to develop models of collaboration among researchers, social scientists, librarian’s technologists etc to derive personalized solution to the local problems. Technology literacy programs should also include library professionals, so that they can assist policy makers in understanding the local needs.
The research articles that were reviewed:-
- Ms Ipsita Panda, Mr Durllav Charan Chhatar, Dr Bulu Mharana: A Brief View to Digital Divide in Indian Scenario, 2013 – http://www.ijsrp.org/research-paper-1213/ijsrp-p2471.pdf
- Dr Narasimhamurthy N, Digital Divide-Access and Use of New Information Communications Technology among Indian Rural Females, 2014 – http://iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol19-issue8/Version-6/F019863543.pdf
- Mustafa Majid Sheikh: Digital Divide in India: Prospects and Challenges, 2016. Accessed from https://www.academia.edu/
- Dr Kawaljeet Kaur, Jaswinder Singh: ICT Diffusion and Digital Divide in India: Implications for Economic Policies, 2016 – http://www.pbr.co.in/2016/2016_month/July/1.pdf
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