NSO Report shows stark Digital Divide affects Education - Daily Current Affair Article for UPSC, IAS, Civil Services and State PCS Examinations

Context

  • National Statistical Organisation (NSO) has released the findings of the survey on household social consumption related to education, as part of the NSO’s 75th round, conducted from July 2017 to June 2018.
  • Schools across the country are closed for six months due to Covid-19. This means vastly different things for different people like many who have access to digital resources are getting online education, those who do not have such resources are devoid of education.

Highlights of the Report

  • The report shows just how stark the digital divide is, across States, cities and villages, and income groups.
  • 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.
  • Odisha has the least Internet-enabled homes
  • For the child in urban Himachal Pradesh, where Internet penetration is higher than 70%, it likely means online schooling, Zoom classes and digital textbooks.
  • For the child in rural Odisha, where less than 6% of households have Internet facilities, such options are out of the question.
  • Even as digital literacy is likely to grow during this pandemic, concerns remain about basic literacy.
  • Over the last decade, literacy rates have increased from 71.7% to 77.7%, with the highest gains coming among rural women.
  • 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.

Details

  • Access to Computers and Internet : Almost 25% of all homes have Internet facilities, accessed via a fixed or mobile network using any device, including smartphones.
  • Urban-Rural Divide : Most of the Internet-enabled homes are located in cities, where 42% have Internet access. In rural India, however, only 15% are connected to the internet.
  • Access and Utilization Gap : Of course, having Internet access is no guarantee that one can use it. 20% of Indians above the age of 5 years had basic digital literacy, 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.
  • Regional Disparity : 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. Odisha is at the bottom with only one in ten homes having Internet. There is less than 20% Internet penetration, even in States with software hubs such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • Disparity due to 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%.
  • Intra-state Inequality : Kerala shows the least inequality with more than 39% of the poorest rural homes having 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 starkest 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.

Steps Taken

  • The Centre has directed State Education Departments to map the online access available to all their students in order to adequately plan curriculum and teaching methods that can reach such students.
  • Although much of the focus has been on digital platforms, television and radio are also being used to deliver lessons

Way Forward

  • To begin with, we need to promote and ensure digital literacy among the masses, primarily uninterrupted Internet connectivity and mobile network signals in rural areas.
  • The implications of school closures in the country are not just about education; they are manifold. An unprecedented social disaster can be avoided if more entities - Government and private - pitch into short-term and long-term futures of the children in this digital divide.

Mains Question:-

  • Discuss in details the regional dimensions of digital divide in India.