Digital India program of the government of India is mainly focused on providing digital infrastructure and ruralconnectivity with high speed internet network. The objectives of the program are digital empowerment of citizens, EGovernanceand online provision of Government services. However, in addition to the need for infrastructure, there are anumber of other challenges that must be addressed to bridge the digital divide in India. This paper highlights some of thesechallenges that include other reasons for digital divide in India such as education and computer literacy, age and genderbased divide, lack of content in vernacular etc.
In addition to the digital divide, the paper also highlights the regulatory andlegal issues in cyberspace, security and privacy of data, cybercrimes, as well as emerging social issues such as open sourcemovement and intellectual property rights.Keywords: Digital Divide, Cyberspace, Regulatory and Legal Framework, Cybercrimes, Security and Privacy ofData, Open Source, IPRINTRODUCTIONDigital India program of the Government of India isa laudable effort to bridge the digital divide. Theprogram envisages connecting rural areas withhigh-speed Internet networks and improving digitalliteracy. The vision of Digital India program isinclusive growth in areas of electronic services,products, manufacturing and job opportunities etc.The focus of the program is on three key areas –Digital Infrastructure, E-Governance & onlineavailability of Government services, and DigitalEmpowerment of Citizens.Bharat Broadband Network Limited, a PSU underthe Department of Telecommunications, isexecuting the National Optical Fibre Networkproject (NOFN), now called BharatNet, that willprovide connectivity upto gram panchayats. BSNLproposes a mass deployment of hot spots across thecountry.
However, though good connectivity is amust for bringing the benefits of Information andCommunication Technology to the rural and remoteareas of the country, there are a number of otherchallengesOTHER REASONS FOR DIGITAL DIVIDEEducation and computer literacy is anotherimportant reason for the digital divide in India.1Some facts on literacy in India are as under:.• India is home to largest population of illiterateadults in world – 287 million, amounting to 37%of the global total.• 47.78 % out of school children are girls. In thenext census they will be calculated as illiteratewomen, which would then have a ripple effecton the education of their children.• Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh areamongst the bottom five states in terms ofliteracy of Dalits.• Though India’s literacy rate has increased sixtimes since the end of the British rule — from12% to 74% in 2011, yet, India has the world’slargest population of illiterates.
• 6.60 lakh children in India are still out-of-school• 7.92% government schools are yet to fullyimplement the RTE Act.According to some estimates, computer literacy inthe country is about 6.15%.India being a patriarchalsociety, the women are at a disadvantage vis-à-visthe men leading to a gender based divide.
The oldergenerations, even the educated ones, were notexposed to the computer technology resulting in adivide based on age.Finally, the Digital Divide alsoexists due to a lack of content in vernacular. Forexample, in India, most of the content is availableonly in English.ICT has a huge potential for employment. It hascreated a need for software professionals, systemanalysts, programmers, web designers, digitalcontent providers etc.
Many of the old processes arebeing automated 1. Those who do not have accessto ICT are, therefore, put to a disadvantage. ICT is asource of vital information to the society.Information relating to job opportunities, careers,education opportunities etc. is provided by ICT. Therole of “Adhar Card” in providing identity andaddress proofs (POI and POA) that can be verifiedonline is an example of how even the underprivileged segments of the society, who had nomeans for POI/POA, can be facilitated by means ofICT.
The access provided to banking through onlineand ATM machines to millions of persons, accessprovided to online bookings and transportation bytrains, taxis, and even buses, are some example ofrole played by ICT in the social and economicwelfare of the people and benefits denied to thosewho do not have this access .REGULATORY AND SOCIAL ISSUESIn addition to the issue of digital divide, there areother emerging issues in the use of cyberspace.Unlike physical space, cyber space transcends thenational and geographical boundaries. Internet is aconnection of computer networks that may bephysically located anywhere in the world. Whetherit is the availability of content, goods and services orsimple social interactions, the users in thecyberspace can interact/transact without limit ofany physical boundaries.
Though, cyberspace hasrevolutionized the way we live, interact with eachother, and do business, it has also thrown up anumber of challenges. The issues in cyberspace areregulatory as well as social.The regulation of cyberspace is a complex issue.
Since the internet can be used to provide digitalcontent such as movies, programs, music etc. there isa need to regulate as under:• To prevent distribution of obscene, indecent andpornographic content especially that related tochild pornography.• To protect the intellectual property rights of theowners/producers of the content.• To safe guard the data of the users• To ensure privacy of the users.• Use of cryptography. Encryption of data isrequired to prevent eavesdropping byunauthorized third parties and to prevent themisuse of commercial information.
On the otherhand, a strong encryption is not acceptable tomany countries from the security point of view.SECURITY AND PRIVACY OF DATAThe security of data and privacy, and prevention ofcybercrimes is another issue in cyberspace thatneeds to be addressed by the stakeholders,regulators and lawmakers. The cybercrimes canbroadly be classified into two categories; crimescommitted with the help of computers and usingICT; crimes that relate to ICT such as unauthorizedaccess to sensitive and confidential data, stealing theidentity of someone, stealing the digital signaturesetc 5. While the first category of crimes may betackled by modifying existing laws, separatelegislature is required for the second category ofcrimes.OPEN SOURCE MOVEMENTOn the social front, in addition to digital divide,there are issues of global commons and open sourcemovement.
The issue of global commons can be summarized as atrade-off between the open source and ownershipDigital India Program: Is connectivity the only challenge?03content protected by intellectual property rights.Historically, three types of properties arerecognized. Those that are privately held by theowner, public property that is meant for the use of allpublic and cannot be purchased or sold or passed onby inheritance, and the property that belongs towhole of mankind (6). Internet has lot of content thatis available freely without any cost to all. One suchexcellent effort is the project “Gutenberg”. Theproject is to provide worldwide literature, and booksin various languages, on the digital platform. Theliterature and the books that are not protected bycopy rights, are converted into e-books supportingvarious formats such as “MOBI”, “PDH” etc.
and areprovided free of cost to whosoever wants to usethem. The whole project is based on voluntarycontributions. Another example is the freecourseware content provided by MIT, USA, onlineto all. Wikipedia is another example. Internet itself isan open global common connecting variousnetworks of the world.
There is a creative commonsmovement and iCOMMONS is an internationalorganization that has grown from this. There is alsoan effort to promote international trade by globalcommons through the principal of reciprocity wheretariffs and other barriers to the trade arereduced/removed by the countries on a reciprocalbasis.Same as in the case of other content, software canalso be broadly classified into two categories;propriety software; open source software. Proprietysoftware, as the name implies, is owned by aproprietor and its use is controlled. This control maybe legal in the form copyrights and patent laws, andthe use of software may be licensed.
Generally, therewould be restrictions on the modification and redistributionof such software. Most of the softwaredeveloped by Microsoft, Apple Inc. etc. fall in thiscategory.
Open source software in contrast has nospecific owner and it is in the public domain just likepublic property. Anybody can adapt and modifythis software which may then be distributed further.”Linux” is the best example of an open sourceoperating system. “Android” is an example of an OSfor mobile phones that is in the public domain andhas gained a lot of popularity recently.CONCLUSIONTo conclude, the challenges of a digital India are notlimited to providing connectivity.
Thoughconnectivity is a must, there are a number of otherissues relating to digital divide, legal and regulatoryframework, privacy and security of data, preventionof crimes etc. As the use of ICT increases so will theattempts at data and identity thefts and other onlinecrimes. An attempt has been made in this paper tohighlight some of the issues that must be addressedso that the benefits of ICT may reach to all.REFERENCES1. Crandall, Michael, and Karen E Fisher. Digitalinclusion: measuring the impact of informationand community technology. New Jersey:Medford,2009.
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