Report on ‘Digital Divide’ 

#GS2 #Issues #Technology  

A recent report on the latest National Statistical Organisation (NSO) survey shows just how stark is the digital divide across States, cities and villages, and income groups. The survey on household social consumption related to education was part of the NSO’s 75th round, conducted from July 2017 to June 2018. 

Findings of the report  

  • Across India, only one in 10 households have a computer — whether a desktop, laptop or tablet. However, almost a quarter of all homes have Internet facilities, accessed via a fixed or mobile network using any device, including smartphones. 
  • Most of these Internet-enabled homes are located in cities, where 42% have Internet access. In rural India, however, only 15% are connected to the Internet. 
  • The national capital has the highest Internet access, with 55% of homes having such facilities. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are the only other States where more than half of all households have Internet. 
  • At the other end of the spectrum is Odisha, where only one in 10 homes have Internet. There are 10 other States with less than 20% Internet penetration, including States with software hubs such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

Digital divide by economic status  

  • The biggest divide is by economic status, which the NSO marks by dividing the population into five equal groups, or quintiles, based on their usual monthly per capita expenditure. Even in Odisha, almost 63% of homes in the top urban quintile have Internet facilities. In the poorest quintile of rural Odisha, however, that figure drops to an abysmal 2.4%. 
  • Kerala shows the least inequality – more than 39% of the poorest rural homes have Internet, in comparison to 67% of the richest urban homes. Himachal Pradesh also fares well, with 40% of the lowest rural quintile having Internet. 
  • Assam shows the most stark inequality, with almost 80% of the richest urban homes having the Internet access denied to 94% of those in the poorest rural homes in the State. 

Literacy rates  

  • The NSO report shows that 20% of Indians above the age of 5 years had basic digital literacy, doubling to just 40% in the critical age group of 15 to 29 years, which includes all high school and college students as well as young parents responsible for teaching younger children. 
  • More than one in five Indians above 7 years still cannot read and write in any language. Over the last decade, literacy rates have increased from 71.7% to 77.7%, with the highest gains coming among rural women. 
  • A State-wise split of literacy rates also throws up some unexpected results. Andhra Pradesh has the country’s lowest literacy rate, at just 66.4%, significantly lower than less developed States such as Chhattisgarh (77.3%), Jharkhand (74.3%), Uttar Pradesh (73%), and Bihar (70.9%). Kerala remains at the top of the pile with 96.2% literacy, followed by three northern States: Delhi (88.7%), Uttarakhand (87.6%) and Himachal Pradesh (86.6%). 
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