On computing ability, rural India is lost in the woods

Just 8.8% of population can use PCs, smartphones: study

Updated - March 14, 2017 11:58 pm IST

Published - March 14, 2017 11:57 pm IST - Kolkata

The ability to use computers remains low in the country, in spite of campaigns for digitalisation, an analysis of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data reveals.

An estimated 8.8% of the rural population has computing ability. In urban areas, the figure is nearly four times higher, at 30.2%. These findings emerge from an analysis by Md. Zakaria Siddiqui, a scholar of Applied Economics from Australian National University and Sabir Ahamed of Pratichi Trust in Kolkata, of NSSO data of 2014.

Computing ability was defined as an user’s ability to operate a desktop, laptop, palmtop, notebook, smartphone and tablets.

The study, supported by the Australian Research Council, claimed that ‘computing ability’ is not linked to digital infrastructure or internet penetration.

“It is about use of gadgets,” Dr. Siddiqui said. “But if any one of the gadgets — especially a smartphone — is taken out, then the measure of computing ability will go further down.” The data was collated from the NSS 71st round of 2014.

Kerala on top

Among the major States, Kerala has the highest computing ability at 32.3% in rural areas, while Chhattisgarh has the lowest, 2.9%. In the urban areas, Kerala is in second position, after Delhi. Tamil Nadu and Punjab are in the middle of the table.

Computing ability, measured from NSS data on Social Consumption and Education, was found to be the lowest in the tribal population.

The researchers said village or urban blocks were identified to ensure representation of all districts, and for each of these, only eight households (in some cases a varying number) were chosen for the final survey.

The extraction and transfer of raw data from the NSSO into spreadsheets is ongoing, and the researchers would give their findings at a workshop in April. Scholars from research institutes like the Centre for Study of Regional Development [CSRD] of Jawaharlal Nehru University, IIM-Calcutta, International Institute of Population Sciences [IIPS] are expected to participate, said Amirul Alam, workshop coordinator.

Cooking fuel gap

Data on access to gas, electricity or kerosene for clean cooking indicate a wide gap between rural and urban consumption. While 14.9% of rural population has access to clean cooking, the figure goes up to 76.4% in urban areas.

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