Digital Divide: Is the Indian Education System Failing Its Youth?

How deep do our differences go?

physical and mental exhaustion due to sitting in the same posture for around six to seven hours, attending classes on smartphones which leads to backaches and eye-redness, with some students not even having access to stable learning conditions.

On the other hand, the teaching fraternity has also had to overcome stumbling blocks in order to arrange for and provide the required resources of learning: subject notes, recorded lectures, assignments etc. to the students in these difficult times of social-distancing and distant learning. Many teachers are unfamiliar with using the required online teaching software, and also have limited access to academic resources at home. The pandemic has certainly brought in an overwhelming amount of work and made it difficult for the teachers to maintain their work-life balance.

  • Among persons aged 15–29 years, nearly 56% in urban areas and 24% in rural areas were able to operate a computer,
  • In the same age group, nearly 25% in rural areas and 58% in urban areas reported the use of the internet.

This survey very well projects the gendered aspect of the digital divide, with just 14.9% of women — as compared to 25% of men — being able to operate the internet.

In another survey conducted by the Student Union of Ambedkar University Delhi, 60% of women are forced to perform household chores along with a minimum of six hours of online classes.

One of the most prominent reasons for this is the reluctance of telecom service providers to provide connectivity to North-East areas because of the sparse population bases in these regions, which might put them at a financial loss.

Not just the internet, but also a lack of electricity doesn’t allow the residents to charge their mobile phones and other gadgets in order to facilitate online learning. Students and teachers are forced to interact via Whatsapp or text messages as the only medium which works on very slow internet speeds, but is accessible to a small section, completely in contrast to the various Google and Microsoft platforms available to the students in metropolitan cities.

  • audio/visual transcripts,
  • notes in need-based format (which can be audio lectures or written in Braille script for visually impaired students).

Such a huge working-age population creates a demographic dividend, which, if provided the required opportunities to gain education and acquire skills, can prove to be very supportive to the socio-economic growth of the country.

The present digital divide needs to be reduced as much as possible. Urgent policy interventions are required to advance diversity and inclusion in higher education institutions at the national level. Promotion of Digital Literacy among the masses, primarily uninterrupted internet connectivity and strong mobile network signals, should be made available to all as the priority of the government. Policies should also focus on including the various disadvantaged sections of the society.

The official Sociology department magazine for Miranda House, University of Delhi. Run and written by students, for everyone.