One billion of 1.25 billion Indians are still offline; 72% women in India don’t even have access to mobile phones.
In a chapter from the India Exclusion Report 2016, "Exclusion from Digital Infrastructure and Access" (page 66), DEF explores what does it mean to be digitally excluded.
The report denes ‘digital exclusion’ as denial or inequality with regard to personal access to ICTs; the skills to use the devices of one’s own without having any assistance; and the ability to leverage the benets of ICTs. It identies poverty as a major barrier to internet access, meaning that the income poor are the rst large group who are digitally excluded. One study (Ericsson Consumer Lab, 2015) estimates that even with the low and competitive prices of devices and data plans compared with the rest of the world, internet access in India remains beyond the reach of close to 1.063 billion people as the lower income group does not have discretionary money7 to spend on cyber cafes or to get internet connectivity on their own to access digital information. It is a sobering estimate, because it suggests that a large majority of Indian people are digitally excluded. e second barrier to people’s access to and use of the internet is geographic location, with people residing in more prosperous and urbanized regions having higher internet penetration rates than poorer regions. e third set of people excluded from the digital medium are people lacking or low in educational and digital literacy. People in many disadvantaged groups are oen precluded from making use of ICTs because of low levels of computing and technology skills and more importantly, literacy skills. e report also highlights the gender digital divide as one of the most signicant inequalities amplied by the digital revolution8 as also the exclusion of PWDs and older people in accessing services or the challenges they face in accessing them.
People on the wrong side of the digital divide lack access to information that ICTs allow others to reach with the push of a button. is limits opportunities for self-growth, empowerment, selfcondence, self-determination and deepening people’s citizenship. ICTs can provide useful aids in education, including for distance education, access to expensive and otherwise inaccessible educational materials, and computer-based tutorials and simulation soware for the sciences. e report mentions exclusion from potential information for education, health, employment and recreation for older people, persons with disability and others. In addition, the people who can operate computers and have access to the internet stand a better chance than those who are digitally excluded, though literate and otherwise competent, to get even a secretarial job let alone an administrative one. Women with no internet are not able to access the vast plethora of health-related services, especially related to the sensitive issues that women are not comfortable in discussing with others. e exclusion from banking transactions becomes even more damaging in the recent context of the union government’s sudden galloping drive to a cashless economy. e chapter also speaks of the imperfectly realized benets of placing MG NREGA details online and digital wage payments. But on the other hand, placing more and more information about government programmes on the internet certainly has expanded transparency, and this enables citizens to hold public ocials more accountable.
The chapter begins on page 88, rather than page 66, as the table of contents says.
Some of the references cited:
UNESCO. (2013). UNESCO Global Report: Opening New Avenues for Empowerment - ICTs to Access Information and Knowledge for Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved 29 April 2016, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/ images/0021/002197/219767e.pdf
UNESCO. (2015). Digital Empowerment: Access to Information and Knowledge using ICTs for Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved 24 July 2016, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/ images/0024/002445/244543E.pdf
UNESCO. (2015). e New Delhi Declaration on Inclusive ICTs for Persons with Disabilities: Making Empowerment a Reality. Retrieved 21 July 2016, from http://unesdoc. unesco.org/images/0023/002320/232026e.pdf
World Intellectual Property Organization. (2013). Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. Retrieved 7 August 2016, from http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/treaties/text.jsp?file_ id=301016
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
More reports are confirming the aforementioned stats.
Just 29% of all internet users in the country are female, according to a report (pdf) by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The 42 percentage point “digital gender gap” among internet users in India is far more extreme than the global divide. Across the world, 56% of all internet users were men in 2017, compared to 44% women.
For the most part, this gap is a result of deep-seated cultural barriers, particularly in rural India. “One village governing body in rural Rajasthan stated that girls were not to use mobile phones or social media,” the UNICEF report said. “Another village in Uttar Pradesh banned unmarried girls from using mobile phones (and from wearing jeans).”
The disparity is evident in mobile ownership, too: 114 million more Indian men have their own handsets compared to women, according to international mobile industry monitor GSMA.
Gender inequality is a feature on social media in India as well: a mere 24% of Indian Facebook users are female, a 2016 report from UK consultancy We Are Social found. Besides, a lack of exposure to technology at an early age results in women becoming less confident about performing complicated tasks on mobile phones in the future.
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