Universal Digital Inclusion a Safety Net to Battle Pandemics Like Coronavirus
News 18 eJournal, April 21, 2020
One of the indisputable learnings from the COVID-19 crisis is that digital connectivity is essential to ensure the well-being of citizens. While India has an overall teledensity rate of 90.5%, this is skewed towards urban areas with multiple connections being owned by urban households. There are other inequalities in access. It is estimated that even in cities, less than 25% of women own mobile phones and it can safely be assumed that the aged and persons with disabilities would have very little digital accessibility and this problem would be worse in rural areas. The present USOF approach of having large, unwieldy, centralised schemes with restrictive technology specifications may not be ideal to achieve universal digital inclusion. Decentralization and technological neutrality, while ensuring competition and the ensuing innovation and economy, may be a better way forward.
In times of crises and disasters such as the one we are experiencing now, the easiest way of providing a safety net to the poor is to give them the same convenient digital access that the well-off benefit from in cities.
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