India and the Digital Enclave
India is among the enormous nations in the world that have traditionally depended on an agrarian economy. Furthermore, approximately 70% of India’s population still lives in rural settings. The infiltration level of the new digital era and the accompanying tools is low in rural areas as compared to urban regions. Generally, the world is currently experiencing the evolvement of new technologies and ICT platforms because of the partnership between the development agencies, educational stakeholders and the local government. Information and communication technology has become a significant tool in enabling any developing world in its path to prosperity. India, as one of the developing nations, has a rich heritage besides a talented work force. The nation is also emerging as one of the information technologies powerhouse. Nevertheless, the rate at which technological diffusion is taking place in rural areas of the nation is worrying, mainly because of many factors. This paper looks analyzes the concept of digital enclave in India, particularly the factors affecting technological diffusion of technology in rural regions and what need to be put in place to address the situation.
A change in technological advancement across the globe stances a challenge, particularly to populations in the developing world in seasons when the change is prevalent like in India (Narayanan et al. 416). The eradication of distance among nations offers a great opportunity for developing nations to stage up technological advancement despite the high intensive conventional technology investment. Generally, nearly 50% of the total globe’s population has not yet made a phone call. The number of individuals that have not been able to access, not mentioning using the Internet, is very high. More than 6 billion people on earth have been locked out of the digital revolution and its advantages. Generally, as the pace of the technological revolution enhances, so does the digital divide. The digital divide involves the governments, the private sector, global corporations’ financial organizations, non-governmental organizations, as well as citizens. Collectively, all these parties have the ability to ensure that everyone in different nations enjoy the digital revolution through uniting resources under a joint structure intended to enhance growth of information systems and technologies globally. The private sector is particularly obliged to play a significant role in this area to establish confidence as well as flexible, responsive, efficient, market led elucidations in meeting the national, social, and economic policy of information systems and technology. Furthermore, the private sector is in a good position to identify a suitable environment desirable for supporting economical and comprehensive dissemination of structure programs by means of information and communication technology (Heeks 3).
Emanating from the past decades, the world has begun to experience a new technologically compelled revolution, supposedly leading towards the common era of Information Age. This era is prompted by the outstanding explosion of computers and information devices, which are directly associated with the eruption of processing and access speeds that is making the Information Age a veracity to millions of people in the world. Furthermore, this revolution has been as intense and prompt as the agricultural revolution and the initial industrial revolution.
Generally, India has extensive rural villages that have not been exposed to the technological world. With regards to the nation’s digital enclave, the disparity between rural and urban India is relatively large. Therefore, bridging the technological gap in rural and urban settings in India obliges substantial investments from the usual condition. For example, the nation needs to incorporate a new technology that uses Wireless in the Local Loop, which will be significant in reducing the cost of installing devices and enhancing the enlargement of the number of rural villages linked technologically. Moreover, the nation needs to integrate the concept of Digital Convergence that has been developed in several areas across the world as an opportunity to facilitate low costs of installing technology.
India is composed of a union of states, making it the second most populous nation in the Asian region following China. Historically, India has been acknowledged as one of the nations that have attained an outstanding improvement in the field of science and technology and one of the biggest economies of the world in the future. Furthermore, India has also experienced significant transformations in the societies because of distribution of information through information and communication technologies. Currently, technology in the nation can be equated to what industrial machines signified during the industrial revolution.
Information Technology in India
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is among the important driving forces for the contemporary civilization. The rapid progression and eruption of ICTs has improved the nation’s economic and social change (Singh 1). This effect has impacted all ranges of human activity in the whole nation, thus making numerous transformations among the populations. Furthermore, technological progression in India has also improved an unobstructed collaborative communication through connecting different people and reducing the cost of co-ordination (Ganesh 759). Therefore, technological advancement in India’s ICTs is important in increasing development and enhancing poverty reduction, predominantly in rural areas. A good number of the poor population in the nation has been able to gain from the recompenses of technological advancement, for instance, through improved health care, enhanced education and training, and access to job opportunities (Hecker 3). Moreover, ICT systems have also played a significant role in the nation due to their transparency monitoring proficiency, which has a positive impact on financial savings and investments because of stakeholder self-assurance in the growth process and system (Martínez 10).
Additionally, the technological advancement in India has essentially changed the approach of doing business in the nation. For example, the widespread of the Internet services and the enabled business tools like e-commerce have provided great opportunities for enormous business opportunities and transformed the business environment by connecting the nation to the entire world. Furthermore, it is predicted that increased technological advancements in both rural and urban settings will have a positive impact on the socio-economic development process besides transforming the populations’ economic outlook and therefore changing their lives. Nevertheless, the impending problem to the attainment of the benefits of technology in India has been the failure of technology diffusion and access in rural regions of the nation.
Digital Enclave in India
Several studies have been undertaken to analyze the concept of digital enclave and divide. In the 1990s, the concept of digital enclave gained momentum because of the acknowledgement that some individuals and institutions were not accessing technological service, for instance, going online. Therefore, the concept of a digital divide and enclave between the technological haves and have-nots, particularly in rural and urban settings has been significant in enhancing greater and an equal access to dominant new information and communication technologies, for instance, the Internet. Generally, digital enclave is described as a situation where there exists a market gap in the accessibility and use of ICT devices measured in different forms, such as the number of fixed line phones per inhabitants, or the total population of mobile users or the Internet connections a given place.
With regards to OECD (5), digital enclave or divide entails the gap between individuals, households, businesses, and geographical regions at different socio-economic levels in accordance to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the Internet. This reflects the differences between, among, and within nations like India. Despite the fact that this decision bases its components at the national and international levels, the digital enclave exists at different levels, such as at the community and individual level. For example, in India, many communities in rural settings are segregated from the urban settings with regards to information and communication technologies access and use. Therefore, these regions are forced to reshape their ICT to their philosophy and norms (Barziliani and Barziliani 3).
In India, ICT infrastructure entails the main pillar of the contemporary society and forms the major enabler of transformation and process reforms. According to several studies, it is apparent that there cannot be good governance in any society with the absence of ICTs (Norris 2). In most cases, several governments are increasingly adopting information and communication technologies to provide citizens suitable services at different locations. Additionally, technology as aforementioned brings about efficacy and transparency in service provision systems. In India, telecommunication technology has been widely used in the past decade. The government and non-governmental agencies have put forth many efforts to enhance the telecommunication infrastructure. This development is aimed at enhancing modern telecommunication technologies to serve all segments of India’s population in both rural and urban settings. According to Servon (1), there seems to be a major problem of digital enclave in most of the developing nations like India. The gap of digital enclave is mostly experienced between rural and urban India (Malhan 328). Most of the urban towns in India are at the same level technologically with other cities of developed nations. Nonetheless, rural regions, for instance, Bihar and Orissa are known to have the worst technological development. In order to understand where the problem lies in the digital enclave in India, it is significant to analyze the following technological sub sections:
Tele Density Divide
Generally, there is low tele density in many South Asian nations with Pakistan having the highest rate and Bangladesh the lowest. India as a nation in the region has a high population, economy and telecommunication network. Nonetheless, there is a huge gap in the country in terms of the distribution of telecommunication access. More terrifying is the rate of disparity between rural and urban India. Regardless of numerous strategic initiatives to enhance rural penetration, growth in teledensity has continued to be twisted in favor of urban settings. The rural population has even become worse as it was in the preceding years.
Internet was initially introduced in India in the early 1990 and later connected by Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) via dial up in the six cities on 14 August 1995. During this period, there was inadequate Internet access in other metropolies, which were controlled by the government. Later on, VSNL, which was the agency accountable for the Internet activities in association with DOT (Department of Telecommunications), offered a distressingly unreliable connectivity with few phone lines. Nevertheless, the current situation has changed as a result of several small to large Internet service providers, thus increasing the number of users and reliability. Several small Internet kiosks have been established in small towns, which have enhanced the Internet supply. This case is nonetheless different in rural India where a minimal population of people has access to the Internet as compared to urban India.
Unlike in the past decades, mobiles have become a necessity product for human beings. In India, a huge spur of technological advancement in the recent years has also penetrated the rural areas. Additionally, with the entrants of CDMA11 (Code Division Multiple Access), for instance, Reliance communications and Tata Indicom, the call rates have been substantially decreased, thus enhancing usability. India has become one of the greatest nations in terms of the growing mobile market. The only other nation that has more mobile phones as compared to India is China. Nonetheless, there is a gap between mobile phone users in urban and rural areas. Despite penetration of mobile use in rural areas, the percentage is very low.
Determinants of Digital Enclave in India
From the initial discussion, it is apparent that there is a huge digital gap between rural and urban India. Conversely, the gap defers from one state to another. In some States, for instance, North East, Uttranchal, Bihar, Orrisa and Nicobrar Island, the digital divide gap is very pervasive, while it is narrow in some other states like Punjab, Maharashtra, and Kerala.
Furthermore, the digital enclave also differs from technology to technology. Despite the presence of technology in urban settings and states, some states have not been in a position to embrace even a single technology despite others having adopted effectively. Generally, technological adoption in several states is high, but the adoption degree in rural areas is very low. Additionally, in some cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Noida among others, ICT embracing rate is high while in some cities is low (Singh 9). The underlying issue is that there is a conspicuous problem of digital enclave in India. Despite being massive, the problem is also complex because the digital enclave is not only about the people who have access to technology and those who do not have it but also about people becoming knowers and know-nots. This is because there are few technological experts in the nation. Additionally, the presence of digital enclave in India as compared to several other developing and developed nations is due to various reasons that include:
Poor and Inadequate Infrastructure
The most important elements that are entailed in technology development include the prevailing infrastructure, for instance, communication amenities, electricity, telecommunications, markets, and governmental and non-governmental agencies tasked with societal developmental activities. Generally, India is a nation that does have a good network infrastructure, such as the railway reservation systems and the stock exchange transaction systems besides NICNET, which connect the center and the state government among others. All the systems have highly reliable networks. Altogether, the nation spends around 28% of the GDP in ICT only. Despite all these developments, the tele density of the nation has only reached an inadequate 3.63% rate. It is approximated that only 1.1 million out of the total 1 billion population have access to a PC (Paloti). All these are attributed to the lack of effective infrastructure in the nation. Nonetheless, the introduction of Public Call Offices has enhanced the access to telephone in rural villages despite a huge population being devoid of technology.
Unsteady Government and its Strategies
Among the major problems that India faces as a nation currently is the absence of a stable and effective government at the national level to control and coordinate the national development policies. According to a report by the World Bank (2002) on the political stability index, India showed a scanty -0.05%”. This also represents the case of government “effectiveness index,” which read 0.17%.” Additionally, India was also ranked among the top 100 nations in the world with a high “corruption perception index,” some few positions after China. For the nation to attain its developmental agenda, particularly technological growth in the rural regions, there needs to be effective as well as corruption-free politics, which will put in place a stable government at the center of coordinating this significant development. The statistics provided by the World Bank also necessitates a transformation in which the nation functions. The learned or educated communities also need to be encouraged to take part in active politics since they are the elite populations that can offer effective leadership and help the nation to embrace technological development, particularly in rural regions.
Low Levels of Literacy
Another main factor that has enhanced the digital enclave in India is the high rate of illiteracy, especially in rural regions. To provide the solution to this problem, the nation and communities need to ensure that children as well as adults in the nation, whether in rural or urban setting, receive basic education. If this essential right to education among children and other populations in the nation is not attained, there will be a certain widespread inequities in terms of technology despite any form of digital development. India has also been noted as a nation that spends little on matters of education, which is approximately 3.8% of the GDP, despite its average spending on education being 4.9%. This indicates the laxity of the nation to invest in education, which is an important bridge to technological development. Approximately, 46% of India’s population is below the age of 15 years, is illiterate, and lives in rural areas (Paloti). This is a different case with China, which spends only 2.6% of its GNP on education but has only 22% of its populace aged 15 years and above that is illiterate. Additionally, the rate of illiteracy and education in India varies from one place to another but high rates are apparent in rural settings, with regions, such as Kerala and other Northeastern regions indicating high literacy rates.
Another major problem that is a factor in enhancing the digital enclave in India is the large population with a massive linguistic diversity. As compared to the United States, this concept is a barrier in the development of the nation technologically since despite the huge population, all the US populace speaks, writes, and reads English. India’s basic education, particularly in rural regions, is characterized by mother tongues, making technological advancement, which is a global phenomenon, to be intricate. The main challenge that is as a result of the accessibility of local language is lack of relevant content. Therefore, in a nation that has more than 400 languages, it is difficult to come up with relevant technological content.
Another factor that enhances the digital enclave among the rural populations in India is the economic condition among the communities. Many populations in the rural settings in India still struggle with meeting their basic needs of their livelihood, which implies that the little income they get is spent on meeting their basic needs. Generally, the widespread poverty levels in the nation, particularly in rural settings, have had a negative implication on development, with technological development entailed. When people are poor, all they care is how to get food and other basic needs like shelter (Paloti). These populations do not also embrace other elements in life, such as education due to lack of income. Therefore, technological advancement in such a population is a difficult task. This enhances digital enclave since as other populations in urban settings strive to be connected with the world technologically, the poor populations in rural areas continue to remain poorer each passing day.
Addressing the Challenges of Digital Enclave in India
Despite several efforts by the Indian nation in trying to acquire competence in information and technology, the nation is continually being divided across digital enclave. Generally, it is evident that India has approximately half a million-software developers, coming second after the United States globally, but more than 300,000 Indian villages do not have access to phone connection. Huge populations do not have any form of technological access and another huge percentage grapples with poverty and illiteracy. The number of PCs and mobile lines in the nation are critically low as compared to China. Therefore, one of the main challenges that the government of India faces is helping in reducing the rate of digital enclave between the rural and urban regions by enhancing development and embracing technology.
Currently, several initiatives have been put in place by the government aimed at bridging the gap of digital enclave in India. Majority of these initiatives are directed towards reducing the gap existing between rural and urban digital enclave. For instance, through the passage of the 2000 Information Technology Act aimed at making e-commerce and e-governance successful in India, steps for enhancing technological development were set across the whole nation.
Additionally, in an effort to ensure a balance between the market driven systems of distribution that focused on cities and reducing rural urban migration, the Government of India had established a Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund (Singh 16). The USO initiative is aimed at providing services that will enable redistribution of resources to the seemingly unprofitable rural areas. In addition, the creation of the deficit charge by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is also aimed at bridging the gap between the cost of supply and provision of accessibility, particularly in rural areas. Moreover, because the cost of expansion and maintenance of technological infrastructure in rural networks is high as compared to the dense metropolis, the USO funding was expanded to mobile services and rural infrastructure. Thus, it was undertaken with an intention of providing enticements for private technological operators to penetrate into the rural areas.
Despite all these efforts, more needs to be done in addressing the issue of digital enclave among the rural and urban settings in India. Firstly, there must be an enhanced relationship between ICT and the education sector. According to Sign (18), education is the main foundation and complement to apply in using modern technologies, for instance, the Internet and different levels of education, such as primary and secondary determine the proficient skills to be applied in using technology. In a similar trend like other developing nations, the Indian government needs to focus on enhancing primary education, which is significant in giving back social benefits to the society. Nonetheless, in bridging the gap of digital enclave between the rural and urban settings in the nation, the government needs to come up with strategic advanced policy procedures to enable students to increase their education levels continually in rural areas. This also implies that the government needs to increase its budgetary allocation aimed at enhancing rural education.
However, many individuals should not also rely on the government in obtaining basic education. They can come up with other means of supporting themselves, given the availability of schooling facilities, to take advantage of ICT opportunities. To add on the formal education, the government and other stakeholders also need to enhance technical education in rural India.
Furthermore, in addressing the digital enclave in India, there is a need to enhance technologies that are suitable for the rural regions in India. For instance, to reduce the digital gap in rural regions, there is a need to expand PC penetration. This is because despite everything else, mobile devices cannot perform all tasks but a PC can. Nonetheless, mobile devices are cheaper to acquire, easily portable, and their stretched battery life can be functional in regions that other infrastructures like electricity are not available. Additionally, the infrastructure required to connect wireless devices to the Internet is easily available to build besides being cheap. Using mobile devices does not need formal learning skills. Therefore, the mobile is the most appropriate technological device in the Indian rural population. Consequently, the government and other stakeholders need to encourage the use and supply of mobiles in these regions and later on incorporate other devices like the PC gradually.
Another main barrier that is increasing the digital gap between the rural and urban populations in India is the fact that the Indian rural society populations do not associate the benefits of technology with their personal needs, having a perception that technology was not meant for them. Consequently, this has made most of them to behave inertly towards technology. As a way of awakening these populations, there need to be a clear enlightenment for the them to understand the significance of technology through motivation. This can be attained in close collaboration with the media productions, for instance, T.V. and serials among others.
Moreover, the digital enclave among the rural and urban regions in India can also be addressed through enhancement of telecommunication infrastructure, particularly in rural regions. The government plays a significant role in this concept by encouraging an IT infrastructure in rural India. This can be attained through a special expenditure aimed at bridging the digital enclave in rural regions. According to Wahid, (280) closing the gap in the digital divide cannot be attained without an added spending from the national budget. India as a nation also needs to learn from China largely. For instance, besides China investing heavily in the establishment of IT infrastructure, it has also encouraged a universal telecommunication access in rural and remote regions. In closing the widening gap between the digital divide in urban and rural areas, the Chinese government launched the initiative “every village has a phone” in 2004 and the Gold Farm Engineering in 1994’ projects that enhanced telephone access and Internet appliances in rural settings.
In addressing the linguistic concerns in India because of many local languages, the nation needs to give dominance to the use of English language in technology software and Internet. Despite the need to promote cultural diversity by encouraging several linguistics use, the nation also has a negative implication of social exclusion of the non-speaking populations. However small they may seem, these issues are critical to the concept of digital enclave. In addition, private investments need support in terms of resources in addressing the lack of technological facilities in the India rural settings. This is because most of the findings from developed nations aimed at implementing technological projects have been minimal as a result of budget constrictions and global economic go-slow. Finally, the digital enclave in India among the rural and urban regions can also be addressed through effective positioning of ICT applications essential in areas of education, healthcare, and connectivity that is aimed at restoring the populations’ urge through making them economical and affordable.
The volatile development of information, communication, and technology, its applications, and the advent of a global information have continued to transform the society by changing the way people live, work, and communicate. Improved accessibility to knowledge and information through technology is promptly becoming a powerful tool for endowing the populations and communities in their search for new opportunities, self-esteem, and an improved life. The digital enclave in rural and urban populations in India is one of the facets that threaten to aggravate the gaps between the rich and poor in the nation. Surprisingly, the majority of the populations in India have access to technology, for instance, the Internet and ICT but it is apparent the majority of the same populations, particularly from the rural areas, do not have the abilities to use the technology appropriately, thus not benefiting from its advantages. Therefore, the digital enclave between the two regions in the nation is a great challenge that needs the intervention of the government as well as the private sector to ensure that the rural dwellers are opened up to technology.
One of the fundamental concepts that can be applied in India as a way of bridging the digital enclave gap among the rural and urban populations is through eradicating poverty, illiteracy, and enhancing resilient economic base in the nation’s populations. This necessitates a stable and government free from exploitation that can instill the required transformation in the administrative structures. The nation’s policy makers in rural settings also need to assess their corroded concepts about technology and instill a fresh mindset about the significance of technology among the communities.
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