Bridging digital divide: Eﬀorts in India
Siriginidi Subba Rao
Information Technology Department, Central Leather Research Institute, Adyar, Chennai 600020, India Received 28 January 2005; accepted 28 January 2005
The fruits of Information Technology sector such as the Internet blue chips, online shopping and nanosecond email have failed to cure century-old malaises like illiteracy, poverty and unemployment in India. The paper presents few facts about digital divide based on global and the USA perspective, its deﬁnition and types as global, regional and national, and societal implications. It highlights India in the context of digital divide by discussing its infrastructural bottleneck that includes electricity, IT penetration, teledensity and Internet industry, and its enabling policies to transform India as a knowledge society. It discusses various technology options for connectivity, viz. terrestrial wireless, satellite, wireline, etc. and presents snap shots of select successful projects that made an impact in helping to bridge digital divide in India, viz. passenger reservation system, Akashganga, Akshaya e-centres, Bhoomi, etc. It concludes that creation of Information and Communication Technologies infrastructure and content are the core methodologies, and a national agenda on a C-8 thrust towards: connectivity provision, content creation, capacity augmentation, core technologies creation and exploitation, cost reduction, competence building, community participation and commitment to the deprived and disadvantaged would deﬁnitely help in bridging digital divide. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Digital divide; India; Societal implications; Connectivity options and projects
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S.S. Rao / Telematics and Informatics 22 (2005) 361–375
India worries about the rapid strides being made in Information Technology (IT) that is fueling to widen gap between the countryÕs privileged urban population and its under privileged rural populace, where as the rest of world is worried about the slowdown of economy in the United States of America (USA), e-commerce, portals and cyber money. Though, the windfall of venture capital fund supported to increase the number of Internet users, the trickle down eﬀect, notwithstanding a few villages that now do their accounts on computers, has been non-existent. The fruits of IT sector yielded results only to most developed and computerized economies. On the other hand, the Internet blue chips, online shopping and nanosecond email have failed to cure century-old malaises, viz. illiteracy, poverty and unemployment in India. Also, in India, digital divide is not restricted to less developed states (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa) with traditionally weak infrastructure but also to new IT states (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh). The objective of the paper is to present few facts about digital divide based on global and the USA perspective, its deﬁnition and types, societal implications including reasons in India and IndiaÕs eﬀorts in bridging digital divide through governmental policies and implementation of several projects.
2. Facts about digital divide
The Internet users account for only 6% of worldÕs population and out of that 85% of them are in developed countries where 90% of all Internet hosts are located. This is the essence of global digital divide that needs to be transformed into global digital opportunity. For the Internet to be a true mass medium, it will have to achieve harmony among all consumer segments. There are diﬀerent dimensions to digital divide such as economic level of individuals, economic prosperity of nations, ethnicity, age (young/old),...