ANALYZING THE DIGITAL LITERACY IN INDIA AND WAYS TO IMPROVE IT
"Digital literacy is not the next big thing; it is the new big thing."
Digital Literacy means having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices.
In today's digital world, nearly every career requires digital communication at some point. The current COVID-19 outbreak has made the need for digital literacy and digital connections more apparent. With uncertainty and unease across the globe and millions working from home, there's an increasing spotlight and pressure on technology to keep countries worldwide.
During these difficult times, educational institutions showed how to efficiently utilize their time by holding online classes on various meeting apps (Zoom, Microsoft teams, Cisco WebEx). This was made possible by the digital literacy of teachers and students alike.
Digital literacy is fast becoming a vital job skill at all levels of an organization. Developing digital literacy and a chosen discipline can help employees and job candidates develop the hard and soft skills for which employers are looking. Digital literacy is a direct pathway to becoming a competitive candidate in today's workforce.
For the future to be digital, the digital world's knowledge and the technology involved are crucial. Our country, which has just started climbing up the ladder of development, struggling to take a step forward, digital literacy is a distant dream.
We have almost 40% of the population below the poverty line, the general illiteracy rate itself is 25 to 30%, and digital illiteracy is more than 90%. The digital divide in India is another significant road-blocks on the path of digital literacy.
Only 20.1% of people in all of India can use internet facilities. The presence of high-speed internet is limited to towns and cities, while many villages struggle to get a stable signal on their mobile phones. Also, the availability of broadband is almost negligible in rural areas. As for online education, not only many of the teachers are digitally incompetent, but a large number of them also have never used an online environment to teach.
One of the key Digital India schemes 'Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan' approved in February 2017 to make one person each in six crores rural households' digital literate by March 2019. However, as on 31 December 2019, only 3.19 crore people have enrolled and out of which training has been imparted to only 2.56 crore. Of this, only 1.88 crores have been certified under the scheme.
Even though TATA, JIO, and FACEBOOK rolled out several initiatives and projects for women and for low to bridge the gender and digital divide, but it's still a long way to go.
But sheer will and focused minds can overcome all odds; let's try this time, not as an individual but putting our Nation first.
If we all can have the same dream of "DIGITAL INDIA," we can indeed achieve elevated Digital literacy standards. Making the masses aware of the broad spectrum of functionality that they can have, with digital power in hand, will surely make them crave accessibility.
Our government needs to emphasize proper implementation and regulate deadlines of current existing policies and upcoming new policies in our favor. To state a few
1) Emergence to increase the coverage of target from every day 6 crore citizens, along with incentivizing to digital literacy training;
2) Subsidizing telecom operators to provide internet services to segments of the population below the poverty line as well as for people living in remote areas;
3) Better investments in infrastructure and broadband connectivity at the level of villages;\
4) Strengthening data access, sharing, protection, privacy laws (digital security is a primary concern of most people);
5) Establish an internationally recognized digital skill standard-setting body to balance and supply of digital skills.
Next, comes our state governments, local governing bodies who safeguard these policies, have to modify a bit to develop better-integrated projects making them circle rural areas more.
6) Conduction of free webinars at district levels for people related to different sections, for example - business people employing around 20 or more employee, firm managers, leaders of various small non-government people organizations running in a rural household, to seed the very idea of importance to elevate digital literacy and how it can help their sectors;
7) Another webinar for school teachers focusing first to make them digitally competent and then help develop alternative programs such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) eventually;
8) To develop some schemes, incentives to be awarded to those people who follow the above guidelines.
9) To set up a regulatory body among the above people to re-evaluate progress being achieved at every step.
We must not lose hope, and we should help our brethren as we all are part of this great Nation. A smart blend of online and offline teaching can help in bridging the digital divide. With the growing use of smartphones by all categories of people can also help serve as a tool to provide digital literacy. Moreover, modern-day youth is aware that digital literacy places them in a better position to earn a job.
Last but the most important group is us, who are reading this article and who somehow know how this Digital World works. A request from the entire Sakonsa family to analyze people in your immediate surrounding and teach them. A suggestion to women and our senior citizens who limit themselves and consider them to be old enough not to start something fresh.