Has digital illiteracy, particularly in rural areas, couple with lack of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility hindered socio-economic development? Examine with justification. UPSC 2021, 15 Marks

Q16. क्या ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में विशेष रूप सेडिजिटल निरक्षरता ने सूचना एवं संचार प्रौद्योगिकी (आइ०सी०टी०की अल्पउपलब्धता के साथ मिलकर सामाजिकआर्थिक विकास में बाधा उत्पत्र किया हैऔचित्य सहित परीक्षण कीजिए।(उत्तर 250 शब्दों में दीजिए)
Q16. Has digital illiteracy, particularly in rural areas, couple with lack of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility hindered socio-economic development? Examine with justification. (Answer in 250 words) 15


Gandhi says soul of India lives in villages so as he emphasised on rural development and it has relevancy in present that more than half of our population lives in villages not equipped with basic amenities including important need of present ICT services. Their socio economic development is the nation’s growth in true sense hence we must provide them complete literacy to realise our constitutional goal of equality.

Conseuences of lack of Digital literacy and lack of Information and technology (ICT):

  • Educational: The digital divide in India will affect the capacity of children to learn and develop. Read about Digital Education in India.
  • Without Internet access, students cannot build the required technology-related skills.
  • Social: Internet penetration is associated with greater social progress of a nation. Thus digital divide in a way hinders the social progress of a country. Rural population is suffering from lack of information due to the Digital divide in India, this will only strengthen the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and backwardness.
  • Political: In the age of social media, political empowerment and mobilization are difficult without digital connectivity.
  • Economic: The digital divide will increase economic inequality between those who can afford the technology and those who don’t.
  • Governance: Transparency and accountability are dependent on digital connectivity. The digital divide affects e-governance initiatives negatively. Know about e-governance and its significance on the given link. 


Policy/Programmes for Addressing the Challenges in Bridging the Digital Divide

1.Digital India Initiatives by Government to improve internet access in the country. Know about Digital India on the linked page. A few initiatives under this are –  

  • In 2011, the BharatNet project was launched to connect 0.25 million panchayats through an optical fibre (100 MBPS) and connect India’s villages. 
  • In 2014, the government launched the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan. 
  • In 2015, the government launched several schemes under its Digital India campaign to connect the entire country. 
  • PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, launched in 2017, to usher in digital literacy in rural India by covering 60 million households.
  1. Seeing the importance of digital literacy, the Supreme Court of India has declared the right to access to the Internet as a fundamental right, making it a part of the right to privacy and the right to education that comes under Article 21 of the Constitution. 
  2. National Education Policy, 2020aims at making “India a global knowledge superpower” by introducing several changes from the school to college level in the Indian education system with special emphasis on digital education. Know more on New Education Policy at the linked page. 
  3. Internet Saathi Program – The Internet Saathi Program was launched in 2015 by Google India and Tata Trusts. The aim of this project is to facilitate digital literacy among rural Indian women.
  4. Optical Fibre Network (NOF-N), a project aimed to ensure broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) gram panchayats of India.
  5. DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) platform– DIKSHA is the national platform for school education available for all states and the central government for grades 1 to 12 and was launched in September 2017. As part of PM eVidya announced under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat programme, DIKSHA is the ‘one nation; one digital platform’ for school education in India.
  6. Unnati Project–  Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) which strives to bridge the digital divide in schools by giving the rural students with poor economic and social background access to computer education.
  7. Gyandootis an Intranet-based Government to Citizen (G2C) service delivery initiative started in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh in January 2000 with the twin objective of providing relevant information to the rural population and acting as an interface between the district administration and the people. 
  8. Digital Mobile Library: In order to bridge the digital divide in a larger way the government of India, in collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Computing (C–DAC) based in Pune.
  9. Online Massive Open Online Course MOOC courses relating to NIOS (grades 9 to 12 of open schooling) are uploaded on SWAYAM portal; around 92 courses have started and 1.5 crore students are enrolled. Know about SWAYAM Schemeon the linked page. 
  10. On Air Shiksha Vani, DAISY by NIOS for differently-abled, e-PathShala- Radio broadcasting is being used for children in remote areas who are not online (especially for grades 1 to 5).

Way forward:

  • Infrastructure development: The promotion of indigenous Information and Communication Technologies development under Atmanirbhar Abhiyan can play a significant role. Promotion of budget mobile phones is the key, we should explore migration to new technologies like 5G. It would resolve some of the bandwidth challenges. The creation of market competition between service providers may make services cheaper. Efficient spectrum allocation in large contiguous blocks should be explored.

Promoting Digital Literacy: Digital literacy needs special attention at the school/college level. The National Digital Literacy Mission should focus on introducing digital literacy at the primary school level in all government schools for basic content and in higher classes and colleges for advanced content. Higher digital literacy will also increase the adoption of computer hardware across the country. Furthermore, when these students will educate their family members, it will create multiplier effects. 

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