Digital Connectivity

Digital Connectivity

News: A recent survey released seeks to analyze the COVID-impact on digital connectivity in the context of healthcare, education, and work.

• LIRNEasia, an Asia Pacific think tank focussed on digital policy, tied up with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).They took part in a global study funded by the Canada’s International Development Centre to assess the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 .They sought to analyse access to services, with a focus on digital technologies in healthcare, education and work.

Highlights of the Survey:

Internet Access and Use
• The survey found that 47% of the population are Internet users, a significant jump from the 19% who were identified as Internet users in late 2017.At least 5 crores have already become new Internet users in 2021.
• Men still use the Internet more than women.There is a 37% gender gap among users, although this is half of the 57% gap present four years ago.
• The rural-urban gap has dropped from 48% in 2017 to just 20% now as more rural residents come online.
• Among those with college education, 89% are Internet users, compared to 60% of those who completed secondary school.Only 23% of those who dropped out of school after Class 8, and 9% of those without any education, are able to use the Internet.
• Among non-users, lack of awareness is still the biggest hurdle.The percentage of non-users who said they do not know what the Internet is dropped from 82% to 49% over the last four years.
• Increasingly, lack of access to devices and lack of skills are the reason why people do not go online.
• 80% of school-age children in the country had no access to remote education at all during the 18 months of lockdown.This happened even though 64% of households actually had InternetSituation was worse for those homes without Internet connections, where only 8% of children received any sort of remote education.

Internet connectivity
• Apart from not having any devices, poor 3G/4G signal and high data cost were listed as the biggest hurdles.
• Even among the 20% who received education, only half had access to live online classes which required a good Internet connection and exclusive use of a device.Most depended on recorded lessons and WhatsApp messages which could be sent to a parent’s phone and downloaded at leisure.
• Others were able to have more direct contact with teachers via phone calls or physical visits.
• Nationwide, 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school completely due to COVID19.The situation was significantly worse among those from lower socio-economic classes, or where the head of the household had lower education levels.

Internet access and healthcare
• About 15% required healthcare access for non-COVID related purposes during the most severe national and State lockdown.Of the 14% who required ongoing treatment for chronic conditions, over a third missed at least one appointment due to the lockdown.
• Telemedicine and online doctor consultations surged during these times, but only 38% said they were able to access such services.With regard to COVID-19, about 40% of respondents depended on television channels for advice as their most trusted source. 

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