Day 69 – Q 1.How does digital divide act as an impediment to e-governance initiatives? Illustrate with the help of suitable examples. What measures can be adopted to address the digital divide? Suggest.
1. How does digital divide act as an impediment to e-governance initiatives? Illustrate with the help of suitable examples. What measures can be adopted to address the digital divide? Suggest.
डिजिटल डिवाइड ई–गवर्नेंस पहलों के लिए एक बाधा के रूप में कैसे कार्य करता है? उपयुक्त उदाहरणों की सहायता से चित्रण करें। डिजिटल डिवाइड को संबोधित करने के लिए क्या उपाय अपनाए जा सकते हैं? सुझाव दें।
The Digital Divide, or the digital split, is a social issue referring to the differing amount of information between those who have access to the Internet (especially broadband access) and those who do not have access.
According to a 2017 global survey by the Pew Research Centre, only one in four Indian adults report using Internet or owning a smartphone.
About 70 per cent of over one billion Indians lives in rural areas, and only about 400 million have Internet access.
Digital divide as an impediment to e-governance initiatives:
- Infrastructure accessibility: without the infrastructure like internet connectivity, broadband connections, the e-governance projects wouldn’t reach the entire population. E.g. CSC, DBT schemes would be successful only with internet penetration to every parts of the country.
- Digital literacy: low digital literacy would hamper the effective use of e-governance initiatives. E.g. Inability to use the banking applications, Jan Dhan initiative suffer due to subsequent zero balance in opened accounts.
- Perception level: Without proper knowledge about technology, there is a scepticism shown by the users making the e-governance initiatives less efficient. E.g. the perception of risk in using internet banking/ATM make many people still preferring withdraw or transfer of funds by visiting a bank branch.
- Unequal utilisation: The use of e-governance initiatives is more in Urban areas and hence it further creates a divide in utility of government schemes.
- Digital divide results in high dependency of beneficiaries on middlemen and thereby vulnerable to misuse. E.g. theft of login credentials, proxy booking in schemes like PM Ujwala yojana and so on.
- Misuse: Digital divide would further the malicious use of technology tarnishing the e-governance initiatives. E.g. Without digital literacy, fake news being circulated in social media platforms couldn’t be curbed. The genuine information dissemination through e-governance initiatives suffers.
- Digital divide would take away any incentive for improvisation of e-governance initiatives which can happen only when the citizens are aware of the technology and suggest for reforms through feedback. E.g. In spite of citizen charter being introduced 2 decades back, there is hardly any improvement in service delivery as per 2nd ARC report.
- Lack of digital literacy will lead to corruption, conning of the vulnerable and without proper knowledge, the grievance redressal suffers thereby further eroding the trust of public in e-governance initiatives.
- digital divide is detrimental to trade, people to people contact E.g. the benefit of e commerce cannot be realised without internet penetration
To give some examples, cVigil app of election commission would be successful only if there is active participation of public; Soil health card scheme or PM Fasal Bhima Yojana etc., would be more effective only if the farmers are more aware of the technology involved; Citizen charter would be successful only if the clients are aware of how to effectively use it. Thus, without bridging digital divide, e-governance initiatives will only be handicapped.
Measure to address Digital divide:
- Accessibility: Digital Infrastructure penetration through initiatives like NOFN, Bharatnet, affordable internet plans, smartphone penetration initiatives etc.,
- Affordability: by building comprehensive communication infrastructure, promoting greater market competition in Internet provision and encouraging public-private partnerships in building ICT infrastructure.
- Digital literacy programmes like PMGDISHA, Vittiya saksharata yojana and so on making the beneficiaries effective recipients of e-governance initiatives.
- library and information centres: designed and delivered in a way that is understandable to the underprivileged users at different phases.
- Training – Making rural population familiar with the use of computer and basic functions. Example – National Science Digital Library: provides cheaper access to science and technology books.
- Behavioral economics: Nudge and motivate citizenry to make use of the information and communication technology (ICT) mechanisms. Awareness campaigns, workshops regarding the advantages, benefits of e-governance to overturn the negative perception. E.g. offering discounts on cashless transactions.
- Cooperative federalism: working with state governments to bridge the digital divide. E.g. states like UP, Bihar has low digital literacy, states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh has low digital infrastructure. Thus, an area-specific approach is needed.
- Private sector collaboration: ppp projects and so on. E.g. community technology skills programme, Youth spark programme of Microsoft; Unnati project of HPCL etc.,
- Overcoming language barrier: by integrating multilingual knowledge resources through schemes like Technology Development for Indian Languages.
ICT can benefit only to the extent that people having access to the technology also have the requisite skills and incentive for making optimal use of it. Thus, there is an urgent need to address the issue holistically from digital literacy to the availability of infrastructure which would help in efficient, effective governance and development as well as achieve sustainable development goals.