GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation
Context: Addressing India’s digital gender divide will enable the Indian economy to achieve more inclusive growth in the long term.
Data related to India’s digital gender divide:
- National Family Health Survey (2019-21): One in three women in India (33%) have ever used the internet, compared to more than half (57%) of men [Rural India – 49% vs 25%].
Gendered barriers that need to be addressed:
Lack of access: Low levels of infrastructure, coverage and smartphone penetration → gender inequality → low access to digital devices and services.
- Solution: Bridging the access gap (especially in rural areas) by
- Enabling smartphone and internet access through wider connectivity and penetration in rural areas,
- Providing affordable solutions and educating households on the benefits of digital access.
Digital illiteracy: Inequality in functional literacy → Overall 59% (66% in rural areas) of women between 15-49 years have not completed 10 or more years of schooling → often cannot make optimum use of smartphones.
- Solution: Digital education would help this large cohort leapfrog the traditional development gender divide.
Cyber safety and security: Women may be more vulnerable to online harassment, cyberbullying and cyberstalking → which in turn widens the digital divide.
Areas that can play a catalytic role in bridging the gender digital divide:
- Designing digital solutions to advance gender equity: The involvement of girls and women in co-creation will accelerate digital adoption and help reduce the digital gender divide.
- Digital literacy and capacity building: Early access to digital technology to absorb new knowledge and skills → essential for employability → higher earning, and economic opportunities.
- Responsible technology: Protecting user privacy and data must be a top priority → stakeholders in the technology industry and the government need to collaborate.
The Indian government’s Initiatives in this direction:
- PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan under the vision of Digital India. It specifically targets the rural population, with 60 million households covered.
- The National Digital Library for children and adolescents proposed in the UB for 2023-24 will ensure equitable access to quality education and improve digital literacy levels.
- The ‘Stay Safe Online’ campaign by MeitY, conceptualised as part of India’s G20 presidency, will prioritize awareness creation.
Way ahead: India is home to the largest number of women (~691 million) in the world → opportunities for women to contribute, participate and innovate in this ever-expanding and dynamic digital ethos.
- With its position at the G20’s helm and drive towards a trillion-dollar-plus digital economy, the country has its building blocks in place to be at the forefront of the next digital revolution.
- With the stage for a transformative and gender-equal digital revolution been set, India must take advantage of the mutually reinforcing forces of socioeconomic and digital empowerment.