Supreme Court flags consequences of growing digital divide

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Supreme Court flags consequences of growing digital divide

  • The Supreme Court has flaggedthe consequences of growing digital divide.
  • It observed, the digital divide caused by online classes will defeat the fundamental right of every child to education.

What’s the issue?

  • The court was hearing a petition filed by private school managements challenging a Delhi High Court order of September 2020, directing them to provide their 25% quota EWS/DG students online facilities free of cost.
  • The High Court had said the schools could get reimbursement from the government.
  • The Delhi government had said it had no resources to reimburse the schools for the online gadgets.
  • Though the Supreme Court had stayed the High Court order in February 2021, the court said both the Centre and States such as Delhi could not bow out of their responsibilities towards children.

What is Digital Divide?

  • It means discrepancy between people who have access to and the resources to use new information and communication tools, such as the Internet, and people who do not have the resources and access to the technology.
  • It also means discrepancy between those who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and those who do not.

Status in India:

  • Although India has 220 million smartphone users and is the second largest smartphone market in the world, the overall penetration is still just about 30 per cent of the population.
  • There is a huge rural- urban and inter-state digital divide in India.
  • according to statistics, more than 75 per cent of the broadband connections in the country are in the top 30 cities.
  • Similarly, many states like north-eastern states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Assam lag behind other states in the use and development of ICTs.
  • Globally 12 percent more men used the internet than women in 2017, while in India only 29% of total internet users are females.
  • Another important reason of digital divide in India is knowledge divide.
  • Knowledge divide is directly related with digital divide.

Digital Divide – Types

  • There are numerous types of digital divide that influence access to Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Some of the vivid gaps in digital inequality include:
  • Gender Divide – the internet gender gap is striking especially in developing countries. Though mobile connectivity is spreading drastically, it is not spreading equally. Women are still lagging. Men are 90% more likely to own a mobile phone than women. Even among women owning mobile phones they have no access to internet connectivity.
  • Social Digital Divide – Internet access creates relationships and social circles among people with shared interests. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. create online peer groups based on similar interests. Internet usage has created social stratification which is evident among those that are connected to the internet and those that are not. Non-connected groups are sidelined since they don’t share in the internet benefits of the connected groups.
  • Access Digital Divide – The main barriers under this point are lack of telecommunication infrastructure with sufficient reliable bandwidth for Internet connections and cost, the ability to purchase, rent without financial hardship and the necessary equipment. This results in lack of access to technology.
  • Other Digital Divide – This includes inequality in the usage of digital technologies due to lack of ICTs skill or support, due to physical disability, cultural and behavioural attitudes towards technology like computers, mobile etc. are difficult to use or belong to a brainy people etc.

Impact of Digital Divide:

  • Political : In the age of social media, political empowerment and mobilization are difficult without digital connectivity.
  • Governance : Transparency and accountability are dependent on digital connectivity. The digital divide affects e-governance initiatives negatively.
  • 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 India is suffering from information poverty due to the digital divide. It only strengthens the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and backwardness.
  • Economic : The digital divide causes economic inequality between those who can afford the technology and those who don’t.
  • Educational : The digital divide is also impacting the capacity of children to learn and develop.
  • Without Internet access, students can not build the required tech skills.