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93% of Indian villages have 3G or 4G connectivity, Minister claims in Lok Sabha

Wireless and wireline connections are being used to provide broadband across villages, the minister revealed.

Out of the 5,97,619 inhabited villages in India, 5,58,537 villages have access to mobile broadband through 3G or 4G, claimed Devusinh Chauhan, Minister of State for Communications, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on December 8.

Inquiring about the progress of the National Broadband Mission, several MPs asked the Ministry of Communications about “the time by which the broadband access is likely to be provided to all the villages across the country.”

As the pandemic increased our reliance on the internet for fundamental services like education and employment, the issue of India’s stark digital inequality has taken on new significance. While the minister may claim that 93% of Indian villages have internet access, other metrics indicate otherwise.

Only 22% of Indian schools had access to internet in 2020: Govt data

Out of more than 15 lakh schools in India, only 22.3 percent had access to the internet in the academic year 2019-2020, a report by the Ministry of Education revealed in May this year. Here are key data points from the report:

Percentage of schools that had access to the internet in

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  • 2019-20 – 22.3 percent
  • 2018-19 – 8.7 percent
  • 2012-12 – 6.2 percent

Percentage of schools that had access to the internet, categorized by management

  • Government – 11.6 percent
  • Government-aided – 42.2 percent
  • Private – 50.2 percent
  • Others – 21.42 percent

States with the highest percentage of schools with internet access

  1. Kerala – 87.4 percent
  2. Gujarat – 70.76 percent
  3. Punjab – 48.96 percent

Only two states had internet access in more than half the schools.

States with the lowest percentage of schools with internet access

  1. Tripura – 3.85 percent
  2. Meghalaya – 3.88 percent
  3. Assam – 5.82 percent

Supreme Court flags growing digital divide, access to education hurdles

The growing digital divide in India could undermine the right to education of poor children, the Supreme Court highlighted in a judgement on October 8:

The needs of young children who represent the future of the country are being ignored. The State cannot wash its hands off the obligation imposed particularly by Article 21 A of the Constitution. A solution has to be arrived at, at all levels of the government both in the States and in the Centre to ensure that adequate facilities are made available to children across social strata so that access to education is not denied to those who lack resources — the three-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and B.V. Nagarathna noted in an order. (emphasis ours)

The judgement was given in response to a petition by private schools challenging an order by the Delhi High Court directing them to provide online facilities free of cost to students from economically weaker sections.

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