As per 75th round of National sample survey, just 15% rural households have access to the internet against 42% households in urban areas by 2018. A mere 13% of people surveyed in rural areas had skill to use the internet.
Lack of Information and communication technology (ICT) access and adequate digital skill hampered rural development in India in the following ways:
- Poor learning outcomes: lack of digital education failed to improve learning outcomes of rural students compared to urban. These inequalities further widened post pandemic as rural areas couldn’t switch to the digital education as easier as urban areas did. Ex: ASER 2020 found that only 18% of rural students attended online classes during lockdown.
- Disparities in Healthcare: Absence of Internet connectivity impeded the progress of telemedicine in rural areas. Digital platforms like COWIN for vaccine rollout couldn’t be effectively used by rural people and hampered vaccine access.
- Challenges in implementation of welfare schemes: Inclusion and exclusion errors of beneficiaries due to improper seeding of Aadhar and delay in access to payments made under DBT schemes due to lack of digital infrastructure.
- Digital divide and e-governance: In the absence of rural IT infrastructure, the people have to move to the nearby town because of which they have to pay a huge amount of money to access information through e-governance applications.
- Farming crisis: lack of Digital resources at farmer’s disposal led to the inefficient utilization of resources and failed to improve the productivity of fields.
- Rural unemployment: Digital divide can cause lack of opportunities amongst non-users. Opportunities of information access, employment and skill-based training.
Keeping in view of the importance of Digital access for rural development, it is not only enough to provide digital infrastructure across length and breadth of country but also necessary to provide digital content in vernacular languages and make it disable friendly.