The digital divide in India refers to an unequal distribution of access to, usage of, or influence of information and communication technology among any number of separate groups, which can be characterised using social, geographical, or geopolitical criteria, or in any other way. One of the reasons for the widening of already extreme levels of inequality and the drag on economic development is that many people still lack the resources and expertise necessary to use the internet. Although the gap does not just exist in India, it is particularly pronounced in a country where more than half of the 1.3 billion inhabitants are under the age of 25.Origins of Digital DivideIn the mid-1990s, the phrase 'digital divide' was coined to characterise the disparity in equality between those who have access to computers and the Internet and those who do not. The most prevalent cause of a digital gap is poverty and economic restrictions that limit resources and prohibit individuals from accessing and using newer technology.Digital Divide in India todayAround 600 million people in India use the internet, which accounts for more than 12% of all users worldwide, according to Bloomberg. Yet just 20 per cent of Indians, according to official data, are proficient in using digital services, even though half the country's population lacks access to the internet. Only 43 per cent of people in India utilise the internet, according to the ITU's World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database. According to the IAMAI-Kantar Report ICUBE 2020, 58 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women in India use the internet. The rural-urban split is used as an additional basis for data segregation. Only 48.7 per cent of rural males and 24.6 per cent of rural females meet this requirement, compared to 72.5 per cent of urban males and 51.8 per cent of urban females who have ever used the internet. It's noteworthy to observe that urban men make up the majority of the population throughout all states, whilst rural women make up the minority.Types of Digital Divide in IndiaDigital Divide in India can be divided into three stages namely Economic Divide, Usability Divide and Empowerment Divide.Economic Divide: The term digital gap was coined in the mid-1990s to describe the discrepancy in equality between those who have access to computers and the Internet and those who do not. Poverty and economic constraints that limit resources and prevent folks from obtaining or using modern technologies are the most common causes of a digital divide. According to predictions made by experts, computers will be out of reach for the typical citizen in developing nations for the next 20 years or more.Usability Divide: Far worse than the economic disparity is the reality that technology is still so complex that many people would be unable to utilise a computer even if they were given one for free. Many others can use computers, but they do not reap the full benefits of the contemporary world since most of the available services are too complex for them to comprehend. Even though about 40 per cent of the population has low literacy abilities, few websites adhere to the rules for writing for low-literacy users.Empowerment Divide: Participation inequality is a manifestation of the empowerment divide that has persisted throughout the years of Internet growth: in social networks and community systems, roughly 90 per cent of users do not contribute, nine per cent contribute infrequently, and a tiny minority of one per cent accounts for the majority of contributions.Effects of Digital DivideThe digital divide in India has several implications on political, governance, social, economic and educational prospects. Without internet access, political empowerment and mobilisation are challenging in the age of social media. Transparency and responsibility demand digital accordance. Internet penetration is linked to a country's socioeconomic advancement.Thus, a country's socioeconomic growth is hampered by the digital divide. Because of the digital gap, rural India suffers from information poverty. It simply serves to exacerbate the tragic cycle of poverty, hardship, and backwardness. The digital gap creates economic disparities between people who can and cannot afford the technology. Finally, the digital gap influences children's ability to learn and develop. Students cannot develop the necessary technical abilities unless they have access to the Internet.Effects of Digital Divide during Covid 19 Pandemic in IndiaThe COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide in India and its role in limiting access to vaccinations. Families and communities were and still are frequently unable to schedule appointments to register for vaccines due to a lack of digital literacy and access. This adds to a slower rate of immunisations in India, emphasising the importance of bridging the digital gap in the country. According to a recent Oxfam research, up to 80% of Indian students were unable to access online learning during the lockdown, and many may not return to their classes after the epidemic is over.Services such as banking, education, and job searches migrated online after the lockdown was declared, and in some circumstances, they still are in certain cases today. Work from home is accepted as the new standard by many businesses. Most businesses today are prepared to switch to a hybrid business model, which makes it more challenging for those who have limited or no access to the internet and other forms of technology.How does Digital Divide affect Rural Women?Women, individuals in poverty, and those who live in rural communities are far less likely to have sufficient access to technology and the internet. In India, only about 16% of women utilize mobile and internet services due to the gender digital divide. News and information take a while to reach many Indians living in rural areas without access to the internet. Men are about twice as likely as women to have used the internet, making the digital divide in rural India even more prominent (49 per cent vs 25 per cent).Even though Covid-19 has made all of these activitieshybrid and distant employment, financial transactions, education, and video callsmore significant than ever before thanks to rising internet usage, persistent gender discrepancies prevent women from taking advantage of these opportunities. We continue to believe that the digital gap prevents women and girls from having access to financial inclusion, education and knowledge.How is the Government trying to bridge the Digital Divide?Governments have attempted to enhance internet connectivity in the nation during the last decade. The BharatNet project was initiated in 2011 to connect 0.25 million panchayats by optical fibre (100 MBPS) and connect India's communities. Its installation only began in 2014.The government also established the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan in 2014. It also announced many programmes in 2015 as part of its Digital India drive to link the whole country. This includes the PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, which was established in 2017 to bring digital literacy to rural India by reaching 60 million homes.How are organizations Addressing the Digital Divide in India?Many organizations in India are doing remarkable work to bridge the digital divide in India. For instance, the Soochnapreneur Project fosters and enhances the information system in rural areas. In technological fields, they educate women from rural regions. The poor and underdeveloped communities may then benefit from and learn from these women. Another noteworthy organisation, ThinkZone, educates students in underserved neighbourhoods by utilising a free mobile app and readily available technology. To help kids learn the fundamentals of language and math, the app provides educational materials to teachers and parents in places with poor internet connectivity.Steps needed to Counter Digital DivideDigital literacy requires special attention in schools and colleges. The National Digital Literacy Mission should prioritise establishing digital literacy at the primary school level in all government schools for basic material and advanced content in higher classes and universities. The kids will subsequently be able to educate their family members.When it comes to teaching the Indian audience, language is a major impediment. State governments should prioritise content production in Indian regional languages, especially those connected to government services. Regulators should lower entry barriers by revising licensing, taxes, and spectrum allocation policies. The government must create a comprehensive cybersecurity framework to ensure data protection, secure digital transactions, and complaint resolution.In January 2019, the Standing Committee on Information Technology reported that the government's digital literacy initiatives are far from sufficient. Clearly, internet penetration is insufficient. On some level, we can all agree that the internet has become unavoidable. On another level, it continues to receive insufficient attention from decision-makers. The most pressing necessity of the hour is to maintain continuous internet service.FAQs1. Will the digital divide eventually vanish?As ICTs spread and become more affordable, the gap will eventually disappear. The digital divide, however, is likely to continue or perhaps widen in the future for a variety of reasons.2. Is there a digital divide in India between men and women?The digital divide between Indian men and women remains pronounced despite fast improvements in internet access, particularly via mobile internet use, which nearly doubled from 2018 to 2020.