UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section C – Social Change in India
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
- Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
- Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
- Violence against women.
- Caste conflicts.
- Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
- Illiteracy and disparities in education.
Titled the ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’, the Oxfam report has analysed the data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) household survey and secondary data from the national sample survey office between January 2018 and December 2021, regarding internet access, mobile ownership, computer, and broadband availability.
The digital divide is the gap in social and economic equality that occurs when some segments of a given population do not have equal access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and reliable high-speed Internet service. It depicts the inequalities in Internet and communication technology use between demographics and areas at various social, economic, and other levels.
DIGITAL DIVIDE IN THE OXFAM REPORT
While 61 per cent of men owned mobile phones in 2021, their access remained limited to just 31 per cent women, said the report titled “India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide”.
According to the report, the reach of digital technologies remains largely limited to male, urban, upper-caste, and upper-class individuals. While 8 per cent of the general caste have access to a computer or a laptop, less than 1 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 2 per cent of the Scheduled Castes (SC) afford it.
The NGO’s rapid assessment survey in five states during the lockdown in September 2020 showed that 82 per cent of parents faced challenges in supporting their children’s access digital education, with signal and internet speed becoming the biggest issues in private schools. In government schools, 80 per cent of parents reported that education was not delivered during the lockdown.
CLOSE EXAMINATION OF DIGITAL DIVIDE
The Urban-Rural Divide
According to a survey by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the total internet density in India was 49 per cent in 2018. Rural areas accounted for 25 per cent of the population, while urban areas accounted for 98 per cent. During the lockdown, the digital divide between India’s rural and urban areas was not only obvious in education, but also in telemedicine, e-commerce, banking, and e-governance, all of which became only accessible through the internet.
Gender Digital Inequalities
According to the GSMA’s 2020 mobile gender gap report, only 21 per cent of women in India utilise mobile internet, compared to 42 per cent of men. It is due to this disparity in mobile usage between men and women, that further lead to inequities for women, like economic prospects, access to information, and even chances for networking.
Intra-State Digital Divide and Regional Digital Divide
Southern states have a higher level of digital literacy than their northern counterparts. Kerala has the smallest gap between rural and urban areas. Uttarakhand is the state with the most computers in urban areas, whereas Kerala has the most computers in rural regions.
Linguistic Digital Divide
Because more than 80 per cent of the content on the Internet is written in English; places where individuals are more proficient in English, are also more digitally adept.
The National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan were launched by the government in 2014.
The PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan was launched in 2017 to bring digital literacy to 60 million rural Indian families.
The National Optical Fibre Network (NOF-N) is a project that aims to provide broadband access to over two lakh grama panchayats across India.
DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) platform is a national platform for school education.
E-pathshala: Provides study resources to pupils in rural and urban areas.
The inability to access technology has the potential to increase existing social exclusions and deprive individuals of essential resources. With the increasing dependence on digital technologies and the internet, the digital divide has ramifications on education, health, mobility, safety, financial inclusion, and every other imaginable aspect of life. Technology can only be harnessed efficiently if the underlying problems of meaningful access and rights-based policies are addressed.