[5th July 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Computer literacy in India needs a reboot 

PYQ Relevance:

Q) National Education Policy 2020 isin conformity with the Sustainable Development Goal-4 (2030). It intends to restructure and reorient education system in India. Critically examine the statement. (UPSC CSE 2020) 
Q) “Demographic Dividend in India will remain only theoretical unless our manpower becomes more educated, aware, skilled and creative.” What measures have been taken by the government to enhance the capacity of our population to be more productive and employable? (UPSC CSE 2016) 


Q) Consider the following statements: (UPSC CSE 2018) 
1. As per the Right to Education (RTE) Act, to be eligible for appointment as a teacher in a State, a person would be required to possess the minimum qualification laid down by the concerned State Council of Teacher Education.
2. As per the RTE Act, for teaching primary classes, a candidate is required to pass a Teacher Eligibility Test conducted in accordance with the National Council of Teacher Education guidelines.
3. In India, more than 90% of teacher -5 education institutions are directly under the State Governments.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 3 only


Prelims: National Education Policy 2020; Digital India Campaign of 2015;

Mains: Social Issues and Justice; Education; Population; Literacy Rate;

Mentors Comment: Digital literacy is essential for full participation in India’s rapidly digitizing society and economy. As critical services like banking, healthcare, and government services have become increasingly digitized, the ability to effectively use computers and technology is crucial for accessing these essential services and enhancing quality of life. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the importance of digital skills, from online education to managing financial and medical needs remotely. However, India’s computer literacy rate stands at just 24.7%, with wide disparities between urban and rural areas as well as across age groups and socioeconomic status. Unless serious efforts are made to universalize digital literacy, a significant portion of the population, especially in rural and marginalized communities, will face exclusion from the digital economy and public services. 

Let’s learn. 

Why in the News?

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) and National Statistical Office, India still has lower levels of literacy than many other nations, though.

  • The literacy rate is 77.70%, with literate males at 84.70% and literate females at 70.30%,


  • The latest NSS survey shows computer literacy in India stands at only 24.7% among individuals aged 15 and above, with rural areas lagging behind at 18.1%. This digital divide puts a significant portion of the population at risk of exclusion from digital public services.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of computer and internet access for everyday tasks.
  • Unless serious measures are taken to universalize digital literacy, rural India’s population, which is nearly 70%, will face significant disadvantages in accessing critical services.
Initiatives taken up by government:

Digital India campaign in 2015:
The Digital India campaign launched by the Indian government in 2015 has had a mixed impact on computer literacy rates in the country.
The campaign aimed to transform India into a digitally empowered society and improve digital infrastructure and services.

National Education Policy (2020):

The NEP 2020 lays emphasis on the use of technology to provide high-quality education to students, irrespective of their geographical location.
Digital education will be an integral part of the curriculum, with a focus on developing digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Present Scenario: Progress of Digital India campaign and present literacy rates in India:

The Digital India campaign launched by the Indian government in 2015 has had a mixed impact on computer literacy rates in the country:

  • Limited Success: The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows that computer literacy in India remains low at just 24.7% among individuals aged 15 and above .
    • While this represents an increase from 18.4% in 2017-18, the figures still highlight a significant digital divide.
    • In rural areas, computer literacy stands at only 18.1%, compared to 39.6% in urban areas.
    • Nearly 70% living in rural areas, remain excluded from accessing digital services and public amenities.
  • Cohort Effect:
    • Computer literacy peaks at 45.9% among 20-24 year olds, but drops to just 4.4% for 65-69 year olds.
    • Even among younger working-age cohorts (20-39 years), computer literacy is only 34.8% on average.
  • Variations in computer literacy across Indian states:
    • Economically disadvantaged states like Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh have very low rates (under 30%). Prosperous states like Kerala have much higher rates (72.7%)
    • Bridging the digital divide requires sustained efforts by government, private sector and civil society.

Understanding the Causes:

  • Lack of infrastructure and qualified teachers in schools/colleges for adequate computer training limits job prospects and employment opportunities. It creates a digital divide and skill gap in the job market.
  • Gaps in access and quality of computer education in the formal education system leads to social isolation and financial exclusion from online services.
  • Lack of motivation and access to learning resources among older age groups restricts access to information and resources in the digital age.

Way Forward: There are some focus areas where we can concentrate:

  • For School level: School education should ensure that all graduating students possess computer literacy skills, as this is crucial to bridge the digital divide. The government should allocate resources towards the training of computer personnel and ensure sufficient staffing levels. 
  • For Old-aged people: For the older population outside the formal education system, targeted programmes are essential.
    • These should involve various institutions, including local governing bodies such as panchayats and non-governmental organisations, to effectively reach and empower older individuals with computer literacy skills. 
  • Quality Control and Monitoring: The government should also conduct a thorough review of such computer literacy and develop strategies to achieve higher literacy and reduce disparities in the coming years. 
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