Digital is mainly focused on providing digital infrastructure

Digital India program of the government of India is mainly focused on providing digital infrastructure and rural
connectivity with high speed internet network. The objectives of the program are digital empowerment of citizens, EGovernance
and online provision of Government services. However, in addition to the need for infrastructure, there are a
number of other challenges that must be addressed to bridge the digital divide in India. This paper highlights some of these
challenges that include other reasons for digital divide in India such as education and computer literacy, age and gender
based divide, lack of content in vernacular etc. In addition to the digital divide, the paper also highlights the regulatory and
legal issues in cyberspace, security and privacy of data, cybercrimes, as well as emerging social issues such as open source
movement and intellectual property rights.
Keywords: Digital Divide, Cyberspace, Regulatory and Legal Framework, Cybercrimes, Security and Privacy of
Data, Open Source, IPRINTRODUCTION
Digital India program of the Government of India is
a laudable effort to bridge the digital divide. The
program envisages connecting rural areas with
high-speed Internet networks and improving digital
literacy. The vision of Digital India program is
inclusive 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 & online
availability of Government services, and Digital
Empowerment of Citizens.
Bharat Broadband Network Limited, a PSU under
the Department of Telecommunications, is
executing the National Optical Fibre Network
project (NOFN), now called BharatNet, that will
provide connectivity upto gram panchayats. BSNL
proposes a mass deployment of hot spots across the
country. However, though good connectivity is a
must for bringing the benefits of Information and
Communication Technology to the rural and remote
areas of the country, there are a number of other
challenges
OTHER REASONS FOR DIGITAL DIVIDE
Education and computer literacy is another
important reason for the digital divide in India.
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Some facts on literacy in India are as under:.
• India is home to largest population of illiterate
adults in world – 287 million, amounting to 37%
of the global total.
• 47.78 % out of school children are girls. In the
next census they will be calculated as illiterate
women, which would then have a ripple effecton the education of their children.
• Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh are
amongst the bottom five states in terms of
literacy of Dalits.
• Though India’s literacy rate has increased six
times since the end of the British rule — from
12% to 74% in 2011, yet, India has the world’s
largest population of illiterates.
• 6.60 lakh children in India are still out-of-school
• 7.92% government schools are yet to fully
implement the RTE Act.
According to some estimates, computer literacy in
the country is about 6.15%.India being a patriarchal
society, the women are at a disadvantage vis-à-vis
the men leading to a gender based divide. The older
generations, even the educated ones, were not
exposed to the computer technology resulting in a
divide based on age.Finally, the Digital Divide also
exists due to a lack of content in vernacular. For
example, in India, most of the content is available
only in English.
ICT has a huge potential for employment. It has
created a need for software professionals, system
analysts, programmers, web designers, digital
content providers etc. Many of the old processes are
being automated 1. Those who do not have access
to ICT are, therefore, put to a disadvantage. ICT is a
source of vital information to the society.
Information relating to job opportunities, careers,
education opportunities etc. is provided by ICT. The
role of “Adhar Card” in providing identity and
address proofs (POI and POA) that can be verified
online is an example of how even the under
privileged segments of the society, who had no
means for POI/POA, can be facilitated by means of
ICT. The access provided to banking through online
and ATM machines to millions of persons, access
provided to online bookings and transportation by
trains, taxis, and even buses, are some example of
role played by ICT in the social and economic
welfare of the people and benefits denied to those
who do not have this access .
REGULATORY AND SOCIAL ISSUES
In addition to the issue of digital divide, there are
other emerging issues in the use of cyberspace.
Unlike physical space, cyber space transcends the
national and geographical boundaries. Internet is a
connection of computer networks that may be
physically located anywhere in the world. Whether
it is the availability of content, goods and services or
simple social interactions, the users in the
cyberspace can interact/transact without limit of
any physical boundaries. Though, cyberspace has
revolutionized the way we live, interact with each
other, and do business, it has also thrown up a
number of challenges. The issues in cyberspace are
regulatory as well as social.
The regulation of cyberspace is a complex issue.
Since the internet can be used to provide digital
content such as movies, programs, music etc. there is
a need to regulate as under:
• To prevent distribution of obscene, indecent and
pornographic content especially that related to
child pornography.
• To protect the intellectual property rights of the
owners/producers of the content.
• To safe guard the data of the users
• To ensure privacy of the users.
• Use of cryptography. Encryption of data is
required to prevent eavesdropping by
unauthorized third parties and to prevent the
misuse of commercial information. On the other
hand, a strong encryption is not acceptable to
many countries from the security point of view.
SECURITY AND PRIVACY OF DATA
The security of data and privacy, and prevention of
cybercrimes is another issue in cyberspace that
needs to be addressed by the stakeholders,
regulators and lawmakers. The cybercrimes can
broadly be classified into two categories; crimes
committed with the help of computers and using
ICT; crimes that relate to ICT such as unauthorized
access to sensitive and confidential data, stealing the
identity of someone, stealing the digital signatures
etc 5. While the first category of crimes may be
tackled by modifying existing laws, separate
legislature is required for the second category of
crimes.
OPEN SOURCE MOVEMENT
On the social front, in addition to digital divide,
there are issues of global commons and open source
movement.
The issue of global commons can be summarized as a
trade-off between the open source and ownership
Digital India Program: Is connectivity the only challenge?
03
content protected by intellectual property rights.
Historically, three types of properties are
recognized. Those that are privately held by the
owner, public property that is meant for the use of all
public and cannot be purchased or sold or passed on
by inheritance, and the property that belongs to
whole of mankind (6). Internet has lot of content that
is available freely without any cost to all. One such
excellent effort is the project “Gutenberg”. The
project is to provide worldwide literature, and books
in various languages, on the digital platform. The
literature and the books that are not protected by
copy rights, are converted into e-books supporting
various formats such as “MOBI”, “PDH” etc. and are
provided free of cost to whosoever wants to use
them. The whole project is based on voluntary
contributions. Another example is the free
courseware content provided by MIT, USA, online
to all. Wikipedia is another example. Internet itself is
an open global common connecting various
networks of the world. There is a creative commons
movement and iCOMMONS is an international
organization that has grown from this. There is also
an effort to promote international trade by global
commons through the principal of reciprocity where
tariffs and other barriers to the trade are
reduced/removed by the countries on a reciprocal
basis.
Same as in the case of other content, software can
also be broadly classified into two categories;
propriety software; open source software. Propriety
software, as the name implies, is owned by a
proprietor and its use is controlled. This control may
be legal in the form copyrights and patent laws, and
the use of software may be licensed. Generally, there
would be restrictions on the modification and redistribution
of such software. Most of the software
developed by Microsoft, Apple Inc. etc. fall in this
category. Open source software in contrast has no
specific owner and it is in the public domain just like
public property. Anybody can adapt and modify
this software which may then be distributed further.
“Linux” is the best example of an open source
operating system. “Android” is an example of an OS
for mobile phones that is in the public domain and
has gained a lot of popularity recently.
CONCLUSION
To conclude, the challenges of a digital India are not
limited to providing connectivity. Though
connectivity is a must, there are a number of other
issues relating to digital divide, legal and regulatory
framework, privacy and security of data, prevention
of crimes etc. As the use of ICT increases so will the
attempts at data and identity thefts and other online
crimes. An attempt has been made in this paper to
highlight some of the issues that must be addressed
so that the benefits of ICT may reach to all.
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