This study focuses on the accessibility and usability of digital infrastructure and knowledge of using various online services. This study is conducted to understand and explore the status of digital literacy among youths at Jarauthi Village, Aligarh. The study uses both primary and secondary data, to understand the vision and perspectives at the policy level and to analyze the ground realities at the village level. The total sample of the present study is 60 educated youth (32 Male and 28 Female) and data has been collected through purposive sampling. The paper also discusses certain measures for the successful implementation of National Digital Literacy Mission in light of the findings of the study.
Keywords: Digital Literacy, Information Communication Technology, Good Governance, Digitalisation
In the era of digitalisation, India has focused on shifting the service delivery mechanism to online platform. Initiatives like Single Window Interface for Trade (SWIFT), Rapid Assessment System, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna, Passport Seva Project shows the Government’s approach towards making India digitally sound and ensuring the prompt service to the citizens of India. In this context digital literacy is an essential component in triggering the process of development. The use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) as a part of digital literacy is widely seen as having a positive effect on economic growth and development. It boosts the productivity, creates opportunities for business, and facilitates trade & co-operation between developed and developing countries. Further, the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) prompts effective public service delivery mechanisms through e-Governance which is instrumental in ensuring the success of Good Governance. As the Prime Minister of India conveyed in his message to the Nation on Good Governance (2014) “An important step for Good Governance is simplification of procedures and processes in the Government so as to make the entire system transparent and faster” further the message focuses on the belief that technology bridges the divide between the government and the citizens which ensure empowerment of the citizens and accountability for the government. By keeping in view, the pertinence of digital literacy and to make a person competent to participate in the knowledge society, Digital India Programme has been launched by the Government of India in the year 2015 by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The initiative focuses on Digital Infrastructure as a Core Utility to every Citizen, Governance and Services on Demand and Digital Empowerment of Citizens.
According to Census, 2011 India has more than 6 lakhs villages and the Rural-Urban distribution is 68.84% & 31.16% respectively. It shows the majority of Indian population inhabits in rural areas. Every fifth person in India is an adolescent (10-19 years) and every third is a young person (10-24 years) therefore investing in this segment of the population is the best way to ensure sustainable development. India is expected to have 34.33% share of youth in total population by 2020 (GOI, 2017). With this huge number of the youth population, India needs to ponder upon the importance of developing digitally literate knowledge society. This will also lead to the development of skilled youth which can be employable in almost all the job sectors. Illiteracy is viewed as one of the major impediments in creating a knowledge society. Moreover, the huge literacy gap between rural and Urban India with 68.9% and 85% literacy respectively is a matter of grave concern (Census, 2011). Availability of digital infrastructure is the prerequisite for digital literacy and India’s status is abysmally low in availability of digital infrastructure. The data shows that only 25.97% schools in India have computers (DISE, 2015-16) out of which only 54.07% are functional. As per the 71st NSSO Survey on Education 2014, only 6% of rural households have a computer, highlighting that more than 15 crore rural households do not have computers and a significant number of these households is likely to be digitally illiterate (The Hindu, 2017). This digital gap should be reduced through proper and effective implementation of digital literacy programme such as Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan (PMGDISHA) which aims to make six crore persons in rural areas, across States/UTs, digitally literate, reaching to around 40% of rural households by covering one member from every eligible household by 31st March, 2019.
Digital literacy is crucial aspect of government, business, and the lives of individuals and it empower individuals for effective participation in society. In the backdrop of the the current digital divide among rural and urban India, the present study was conducted to explore the status of digital literacy among rural youths at Jarauthi Village in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. This study focused on the accessibility and the usability of digital infrastructure and the knowledge of using various online services. The idea behind conducting this study is to understand and explore the status of digital literacy among youths at Jarauthi Village, Aligarh. The study uses both primary and secondary data, to understand the vision and perspectives at the policy level and to analyse the ground realities at the village level.
Review of Literature:
According to the Digital Literacy Mission, “Digital Literacy is the ability of individuals and communities to understand and use digital technologies for meaningful actions within life situations. Digitally literate persons would be able to operate computers/digital access devices (like tablets, smartphones, etc.), send and receive emails, browse the internet, access Government Services, search for information, undertaking cashless transactions, etc. and hence use IT to actively participate in the process of nation-building”.
Rai (2017) suggested that, at the backdrop of creating a participative, inclusive, responsive and transparent government, Digital India beckons new innings in transforming the largest democracy into a deepening democracy by empowering citizens digitally. Digital connectivity creates a level-playing field for all citizens. In a progressive nation like India where the majority of the population are youths, it is logical to think about country where disruptive transformation is required to deliver a big push to the socio-economic index of the nation.
The empirical findings by Zhao et al. (2015) indicates a strong positive reciprocal (two-way) relationship between e-government development and the digital economy. Further, the finding provides an empirical evidence to support the general notion of “co-evolution” between technology and organisations. The study also finds that along with social, economic, political, technological and demographic factors, certain national cultural characteristics also have significant effects on the digital economy and e-government development.
(Bhattacharya & Sharma, 2007) in their work India in the knowledge economy - an electronic paradigm focused on the importance of reducing the digital divide. The work strongly supports the educational systems must be equal to the task and should respond consequently, not only in endowing students with ICT skills but also in making the best use of the latent advantages ICT offers in developing teaching and learning.
Apart from this, there are many studies focusing on the importance of digital literacy. (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009) in the book, The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy gave a detailed history of the digital literacy where they divided the history of digital literacy in three phases: the public uptake of the computers in 1980’s, the rise of hypermedia and internet in 1990’s and the recent emergence of a networked information economy. (Venkatesh & Sykes, 2013) in their work ‘Digital Divide Initiative Success in Developing Countries: A Longitudinal Field Study in a Village in India’ tested model with longitudinal data gathered from 210 families in a rural village in India in the context of a digital divide initiative. As theorized, they found that the social network constructs contributed significantly to the explanation of technology use. Similarly, there are many studies focusing on the digital literacy and understanding the ways of imparting digital literacy in India. However, what seems to be missing in the existing review of literature is the micro level field study exploring the digital literacy among rural youth in India and a detailed analysis of gap between policies and ground realities. By keeping in view the gaps in the existing literature this study was conducted to understand and explore the status of digital literacy in one rural village of India. Similar studies should also be conducted at all India level to have detailed and clear understanding of digital literacy among rural and urban youths. This way, the necessary programme of action can be formulated to achieve the desired result and also to check the gap between existing policies and the ground realities.
Dimension of the Study:
Jarauthi is one of the large villages located in Koil (Administrative Division) of Aligarh district, Uttar Pradesh with total 338 families (Households) according to Census 2011. The Jarauthi village has a population of 2045 of which 1072 are males and 973 females. Average Sex Ratio of Jarauthi village is 908. Interestingly, Jarauthi village has a higher literacy rate compared to Uttar Pradesh. In 2011, the literacy rate of Jarauthi village was 68.27 in which Male literacy stands at 83.01 % while female literacy rate was 52.23 %.
Objectives of the Study:
Nature of the Study: The study uses mix method of research where both quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used.
Research Design: The study follows exploratory research design as no study has been conducted so far on exploring the status of digital literacy among rural youth in Aligarh District.
Inclusion Criteria of the Respondents
Sampling Design: The sampling in this study has been conducted through purposive sampling. The respondents were contacted based on the inclusion criteria of the study.
Data Collection: The data is collected through Interview Schedule with both closed and open-ended questions.
Data Analysis: The data collected has been coded and entered into MS-Excel. Then, necessary tables have been generated based on the objectives of the study. Analysis has been made on the generated tables to draw inference.
Table 1 shows the demographic data on sampled respondents. Out of 60 respondents 32 were male and 28 were female respondents. Further substantial population of the respondents belong to the age group of 16-20 years (Modal Value among male is 28 and among female respondents is 26) therefore, majority of the respondents were educated upto High School or Intermediate. However, majority of the female respondents were educated from Class VIII and Graduation.
Results and Findings
On exploring the status of knowledge of internet and access to internet it has been found that 62.50% of male and 64.28% of female respondents were aware about internet. However, access to internet is very limited to female respondents as only 14.2% of the female respondents had access to internet in comparison to male respondents. Male respondents (56.3%) had access to internet from their mobile phones or cyber cafes. It is seen that there is huge difference in internet accessibility among male and female respondents though the knowledge of internet is almost equal among both the gender. One of the major reasons for this huge difference is closely guarded social interaction of female and the use of internet by female is viewed as a major breach in this closely guarded social interaction. Access to internet is different from the knowledge of internet. Access is something where you can use the internet whenever you need it. The village has no cyber café; therefore, access to internet is limited to the people having smartphones and internet or cyber café’s nearby town.
Table 3 reveals the availability of smartphones to respondents and knowledge about installing applications. As Government of India has launched various official applications such as BHIM, installing and using applications in smartphones is one of the fundamentals of digital literacy in contemporary time.
Majority of the male respondents had smartphones (56.25%) as compared to female respondents (14.28%). Ironically, none of the female respondent were able to install application in mobile phones (rather they had no idea about play store in android or app store in ios) and 68.75% of male respondents were aware about installing application to their smartphones. This is again evident in this data that the numbers of male respondents having smartphones are actually four times the number of female respondents. This huge male female gap is largely owed to the patriarchal value system. In India and particularly in rural India interaction between opposite sexes is looked down on, even the platonic relationship between the opposite sexes could be seen as the disrepute to the female and its families and would eventually distanced the future marriage prospect of the girl. The responsibility of avoiding such situation is largely on women and anything which could provide an opportunity of interaction between the opposite sexes is seized, having a smartphone could one such possibility.
Online videos and tutorials are serving as teaching and learning aid. Many educational videos and channels are available online. The channels such as CEC-UGC and IGNOU have uploaded various tutorials and lectures by eminent academicians and professionals in various disciplines. Therefore, knowledge about online videos and channels is pertinent for enhanced learning.
Table 4 reveals respondent’s knowledge of online videos and channels. As high as 81.3% male respondents watch online videos and 12.5% male respondents subscribe to online channels. Only 14.3% of the respondents watch online videos and none of them subscribe to any online channels. These are the female respondents who have smartphones and access to internet. Therefore, availability and access to digital devices and internet is the need of the time to increase the use of online media for educational and service purposes.
Table 5 shows the banking facilities used by respondents. Various questions were asked to explore the whether they have the ATM card, knowledge regarding online banking, online shopping, fund transfers. The data shows the biggest concern in the path of smooth banking system is the unavailability of ATM cards to the majority of respondents and therefore the ATM usage is also very low. Only 25% of male and no female respondents had ATM cards. In the era of cashless economy majority of the people should have ATM cards and internet banking facilities.
Discussions and Suggestions:
The use of smartphones & computers by rural youth reflects their accessibility to digital services and the extent of digital literacy. In the rural community of Jarauthi, it was found that the digital literacy among males is higher than that of females. However both male and female respondents are not equipped fully to use the digital services available online. This shows the need for enhancing the digital literacy among rural youth at the samples area.
The present study strongly suggests the promotion of computer literacy among the youth by providing the necessary skills and training and making youth aware of the importance of digital literacy and its positive impact on their lives.
Initiatives like e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project (e-Panchayat MMP), online banking, passport services, online filling of pension schemes can only be successful when the users are digitally literate, therefore if through e-panchayat mission digital literacy can be spread to all the villagers, it will boost the overall productivity of the village.
Availability of computers, smartphones and internet should be ensured in rural as well as urban India across all section of the society. India’s smartphone user base topped 300 million in 2016 with the market growing by 18% led by the many International brands (economic times, 2017). However, the digital divide between rural-urban, literate-illiterate, male-female is a matter of concern.
Collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) should be promoted at the grassroots for successful implementation of Digital India Programme. The villages should have their own computer centre at every village panchayat or a centre managed by Non-Governmental Organisations to motivate females as some of the families hesitate to send their girl child to far-off places. Further, parents should be motivated to send their daughters to such computer centres at villages or panchayat.
As the study reveals the number ATM users among respondents are few, therefore for ensuring effective implementation of the cashless economy people should be digitally literate to use ATM. Apart from this availability of ATM should also be ensured, there should be at least some ATM’s at the panchayat level.
The government of India vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy is a vital step towards ensuring good governance. The present study also indicates digital literacy vulnerability among rural youths. The sampled area is one of the sufficiently literate villages of Aligarh District, still needs foremost improvement. Similar studies should be conducted in collaboration with district administration and institution of higher learning.
The reason for lower digital literacy among females is the direct reflection of social barriers a woman is facing in the society. This is manifestation of the patriarchal value system in India. There are various social and economic reasons for this wide gap between male & female digital literacy. It also interrogates the idea of women empowerment without women’s control over resources. Knowledge society would be a distant dream if India is not digitally literate. In realising this dream there is a need to reduce the digital literacy gap & enhance the digital literacy among rural and urban India. In rural India there is need to tail off the male-female gap in accessibility and usability of digital infrastructure and knowledge.
The government should also collaborate with NGOs to spread awareness about the importance and need for digital literacy among the youth. Also, the people should be motivated to promote digital literacy among youth.
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
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