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Digital India: 3 crore students don’t have access to digital devices in India, says Education Minister in Parliament

The figures provided by the minister gain significance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent migration to online classes.  

Over 2.96 crore school students in India do not have access to digital devices, Education Minister Dharmendra Kumar said while responding to a parliamentary question posed by BJP Lok Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Singh.

According to the data shared by the minister, Bihar ranks the highest, among the states, with over 1.4 crore students who don’t have access to digital devices, followed by Jharkhand with around 35 lakhs such students. Tripura ranks the lowest, among the states, with 13,909 students without access to digital devices in India.  

Why it matters? Ever since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 and the announcement of the lockdown around the same time last year, schools have largely been shut in several parts of India and had to shift to online classes. Thus, an increasing number of students have had to rely on mobile phones or laptops with access to the internet in order to attend classes. The lack of access to digital devices feeds into the widening disparity of access to education faced by students across the country. Earlier, a report by the Ministry of Education had also revealed that only 22% of government schools had access to the internet last year. 

Other figures revealed by the Education Minister

States in which the following percentage of children don’t have access to digital devices:

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  • Delhi – 4%
  • Jammu and Kashmir – 70%
  • Madhya Pradesh – 70%
  • Punjab – 42%
  • Chhattisgarh – 28.27%

States for which no data was available regarding the number of children who don’t have access to digital devices:

  • Arunachal Pradesh
  • Goa
  • Maharashtra
  • Manipur
  • Uttar Pradesh

Data for Union Territories like Andaman and Nicobar Islands was also not available whereas the survey to obtain such data is still in progress in West Bengal, according to the Education Minister’s reply.

Only 2 out of 10 schools have access to internet facilities: Report

Another question raised by Congress Lok Sabha MP Hibi Eden about the effects of digital education, the Education Minister listed the number of schools in each state that have access to internet facilities. Rajasthan ranked the highest with 16,332 schools that had access to education whereas Mizoram ranked the lowest with 60 such schools.

According to a report released by the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+) last month, out of more than 15 lakh schools in India, only 22% of schools had access to the internet last year. In addition to that, only 37.13% of schools had functional computer facilities. The digital divide was more apparent in states as most union territories performed well in both computer availability and internet access.

States with the highest percentage of access to the internet:

  • Kerala – 87.4%
  • Gujarat – 70.76%
  • Punjab – 48.96%

Kerala and Gujarat were the only two states that had internet access in more than half the schools.

States with the lowest percentage of access to the internet:

  • Tripura – 3.85%
  • Meghalaya – 3.88%
  • Assam – 5.82%

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