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Women in Bihar and AP are the worst off when it comes to internet access, a new survey finds

National poll shows a gendered digital divide even as government services increasingly rely on internet access.

Adult women between the ages of 15-49 from Bihar and Andhra Pradesh are the worst off among all Indian States and Union Territories when it comes to access to the Internet, a report by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) showed.

While only 20.6% of adult women from Bihar had access to the Internet, 21.6% women from Andhra Pradesh had access, as per the report. There were other states too where access to the Internet for women was a little better than that of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, but equally bad in the larger context. These are the other seven states:

  • Chattisgarh: 26.7%
  • Madhya Pradesh: 26.9%
  • Odisha: 24.9%
  • Assam: 28.2%
  • Telangana: 26.5%
  • Tripura: 22.9%
  • West Bengal: 25.5%

In the entire country, adult women had lesser access to the Internet than men. Only 33.3% of women in India had access to the Internet as opposed to 57.1% of men, the NFHS-5 report said.

These figures shed new light on the repeated claims of Indian government officials that the country has been adopting smartphones and the internet at a rapid rate. This also brings forth questions as to how the Indian government is going to implement its various digital-intensive projects in key areas such as health care, digital identity, online dispute resolution, and so on. In fact,  the Indian government’s own policy think tank, Niti Aayog flagged India’s digital divide in its report on Online Dispute Resolution published recently.


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States with poor figures on internet access for women

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Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Tripura, and West Bengal are the worst-performing states when it comes to internet access for women.

Another key finding according to the NFHS-5 data showed that the rate of internet access among men in all these states (except West Bengal) was more than double the rate among women. Take a look —

Chandigarh and Sikkim fare best when it comes to internet access

Among all the Indian States and Union Territories, it was Chandigarh and Sikkim where access to the Internet for both men and women was at the highest rate, according to the NFHS-5 data. While 76.7% of women in Sikkim had access to the Internet, 75.2% of Chandigarh women had access. Meanwhile, 91.9% of men had access to the internet in Chandigarh as opposed to 78.2% of men in Sikkim.

It is important to note that the figures for Chandigarh only account for urban areas as the Union Territory is a city. For other States and Union Territories, the percentages were divided into urban, rural, and total. The data provided here is totaled — taking into consideration urban and rural (when applicable).

Other key findings —

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  • Goa: Goa had one of the highest figures for internet access in the country for both men and women — 73.7% for women and 82.9% for men.
  • Mizoram: When it comes to the northeastern states, 67.6% of adult women in Mizoram had access to the internet, a figure that is way better not just in comparison to the seven sisters, but also to north Indian and south Indian states. Arunachal Pradesh, also recorded decent figures in terms of access — 52.9% for women, and 71.6% for men.
  • Kerala: Among the south Indian states, Kerala fared the best in terms of internet access to men (76.1%) and women (61.1%).

Only 22% of Indian schools had access to the Internet last year

Out of more than 15 lakh schools in India, only 22.3 percent had access to the internet in the academic year 2019-2020, a report by the Ministry of Education revealed. Furthermore, only 37.13 percent of schools had functional computer facilities.

The digital divide is further evident between states. While most union territories perform well in both computer availability and internet access, there’s a significant disparity between states as well as between types of schools. Here are some other statistics revealed in the annual Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+) report.

Percentage of schools that had access to the internet in

  • 2019-20 – 22.3 percent
  • 2018-19 – 8.7 percent
  • 2012-12 – 6.2 percent

Percentage of schools that had access to the internet by management

  • Government – 11.6 percent
  • Government-aided – 42.2 percent
  • Private – 50.2 percent
  • Others – 21.42 percent

States with the highest percentage of schools with internet access

  1. Kerala – 87.4 percent
  2. Gujarat – 70.76 percent
  3. Punjab – 48.96 percent

Only two states had internet access in more than half the schools.

States with the lowest percentage of schools with internet access

  1. Tripura – 3.85 percent
  2. Meghalaya – 3.88 percent
  3. Assam – 5.82 percent

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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