Digital India Initiatives

Assessing the digital gap and learning losses


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Digital connectivity and social sector of India

A recent survey released seeks to analyze the COVID-impact on digital connectivity in the context of healthcare, education, and work.

About the Survey

  • LIRNEasia, an Asia Pacific think tank focussed on digital policy, tied up with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
  • They took part in a global study funded by the Canada’s International Development Centre to assess the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 .
  • They sought to analyse access to services, with a focus on digital technologies in healthcare, education and work.

Highlights of the Survey:

[A] Internet Access and Use

(1) Internet users

  • The survey found that 47% of the population are Internet users, a significant jump from the 19% who were identified as Internet users in late 2017.
  • At least 5 crores have already become new Internet users in 2021.

(2) Gender and internet

  • Men still use the Internet more than women.
  • There is a 37% gender gap among users, although this is half of the 57% gap present four years ago.

(3) Rural-urban Gap

  • The rural-urban gap has dropped from 48% in 2017 to just 20% now as more rural residents come online.

(4) Education

  • Among those with college education, 89% are Internet users, compared to 60% of those who completed secondary school.
  • Only 23% of those who dropped out of school after Class 8, and 9% of those without any education, are able to use the Internet.

Major inferences drawn

  • Among non-users, lack of awareness is still the biggest hurdle.
  • The percentage of non-users who said they do not know what the Internet is dropped from 82% to 49% over the last four years.
  • Increasingly, lack of access to devices and lack of skills are the reason why people do not go online.

Loopholes in Remote Education

  • 80% of school-age children in the country had no access to remote education at all during the 18 months of lockdown.
  • This happened even though 64% of households actually had Internet
  • Situation was worse for those homes without Internet connections, where only 8% of children received any sort of remote education.

[B] Internet connectivity

  • Apart from not having any devices, poor 3G/4G signal and high data cost were listed as the biggest hurdles.
  • Even among the 20% who received education, only half had access to live online classes which required a good Internet connection and exclusive use of a device.
  • Most depended on recorded lessons and WhatsApp messages which could be sent to a parent’s phone and downloaded at leisure.
  • Others were able to have more direct contact with teachers via phone calls or physical visits.

Worst consequences: Dropouts

  • Nationwide, 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school completely due to COVID-19.
  • The situation was significantly worse among those from lower socio-economic classes, or where the head of the household had lower education levels.

[C] Internet access and healthcare

  • About 15% required healthcare access for non-COVID related purposes during the most severe national and State lockdown.
  • Of the 14% who required ongoing treatment for chronic conditions, over a third missed at least one appointment due to the lockdown.
  • Telemedicine and online doctor consultations surged during these times, but only 38% said they were able to access such services.
  • With regard to COVID-19, about 40% of respondents depended on television channels for advice as their most trusted source.


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