Smart living beckons

Access to connectivity, devices, and services can be a great enabler for women and girls for critical information, services, and opportunities   | Photo Credit: Freepik

Priya Linda, who earns a living while working as a domestic help in Ranchi, now uses social media platforms, books appointments through phone, teaches her five-year-old, and voice chats with her parents who live 20 kilometres off the Jharkhand capital, after upgrading to a smartphone. She is a self-taught smartphone user, who says playing mobile games advanced her digital learning. She is among thousands of women from the economically-backward tribal community who now feel empowered for being able to use Android-based smartphones having an Internet connection.

But, even as these women carry smartphones, many of them are unable to participate in digital networks for better education, skill development, and economic advancement, because of the English language barrier which dominates the Internet. It has been found that in poorer states, innovations like gamification in e-learning programmes can bring about a big change as to how these young women look at the Internet as a medium of learning, thereby helping them make better career choices.

Technology, today, is all pervasive and is changing lives by improving access to information, services, and opportunities. In the wake of the pandemic, India has become among the biggest data consumers worldwide. A recent Ericsson report mentions that the average time online per day in 2016 among women was one hour nine minutes. In 2020, the time spent was eight hours 31 minutes.

Astute implementation

Access to connectivity, devices, and services can be a great enabler of critical information, services, and opportunities for women and girls . However, it needs to be supplemented with digital training, mentorship and adequate understanding on safe usage for education, career, and economic advancement purposes.

Findings from a recent micro study, with 40 adolescent girls and young women living in Patna’s urban slums shows that, though smartphone ownership is on the rise, they rarely use the Internet to access information related to healthcare, government welfare programmes, skill development, and so on, and primarily use it for recreation and to connect with family and friends. Many young women reflected that their interest in smartphones and the Internet may have developed from their fascination for mobile games, which are very popular and widely played. world. Mobile games including those online are widely played by young and married women. Madhu Kumari, a 19 year old, said, “When my data pack is finished, I play offline games. Sometimes, I play those on the phone too.” Pushpa, who gave up her dreams of joining the police after marriage and motherhood said that she felt “full of joy” when she won.

Mere access to Internet-enabled devices and connectivity may not lead these girls and women to leverage knowledge and participate in digital networks. While they are growing comfortable with technology, there is a pressing need to systematically and structurally address barriers for effective and fulfilling use of digital in respect of their economic empowerment.

Since adolescent and young girls in urban segments are active mobile game players, skilling and financial education may work better for them when gamified, as it can engage and improve their understanding of things ranging from life skills to financial wellness. Further, to promote entrepreneurship among women, gamification of financial literacy and entrepreneurship education can also be considered.

The writers are from the Centre for Catalyzing Change (C3).

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 9:32:30 PM |

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