Only 31% women own mobile phones, says Oxfam report on India digital divide

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Source: The post is based on the article “Only 31% women own mobile phones, says Oxfam report on India digital divide” published in Hindustan Times on 7th December 2022

What is the News?

Oxfam has released a report titled ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’. The report highlights the extent of the digital divide in India and its impact on essential services such as education, health and financial inclusion.

What is Digital Divide?

Digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies(ICTs) and to their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities.

What are the key findings of the report?

61% of men-owned mobile phones in 2021 compared to just 31% of women. 

Only 31% of the rural population uses the Internet compared to 67% of their urban counterparts.

The reach of digital technologies remains largely limited to male, urban, upper-caste, and upper-class individuals. While 8% of the general caste have access to a computer or a laptop, less than 1% of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 2% of the Scheduled Castes(SC) afford it.

The use of computer devices has decreased in rural areas. While 3% of the rural population used to own a computer before the pandemic, the number slipped to just 1% post-Covid.

The employment status of Indians also proved to be linked to access to digital services as 95% of the permanent salaried workers have phones, as compared to only 50% of the unemployed.

The digital push driven by the pandemic resulted in India experiencing the largest number of real-time digital transactions in 2021 at 48.6 billion. However, the likelihood of a digital payment by the richest 60% is four times more than the poorest 40% in India.

Among states, Maharashtra has the highest internet penetration, followed by Goa and Kerala, while Bihar has the lowest, followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

What are the recommendations given by the report to bridge the digital divide?

a) Improve internet availability in rural and hard-to-reach areas through community networks and public Wi-Fi/ internet access points, b) Improve affordability by investing in digital infrastructure, bringing a strong regulatory framework and lowering taxes on computers and phones, c) Conduct digital literacy camps, especially in rural India, and digitize panchayats and schools, and  d) Grievance redressal mechanism to handle EdTech and Healthtech related complaints.

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