LIRNEasia had partnered with ICRIER and carried out a nation-wide survey in 2021 about how the digital users increased during the pandemic times.
The survey findings were released at a virtual launch event conducted on 12 November 2021, which included a panel discussion with leading government, private sector and civil society representatives.
“If we only think of people getting connected, India is making great strides. But systematic and structural changes are needed before the real benefits of ‘Digital India’ reach people,” said the CEO of LIRNEasia, Helani Galpaya. “Seven percent of people who did not work from home during the lockdown indicated that they could have, but their supervisors didn’t allow it. Workplaces do need to think of modern, hybrid ways of working. Similarly, in education, few schools were ready for remote teaching in the first (2020) lockdowns. Unless digital technology is incorporated into teaching on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult to suddenly start using digital means of teaching during a lockdown or other crisis.”
According to Rajat Kathuria, Senior Visiting Professor at ICRIER, “The survey results confirm what we presumed all along. There has been a huge uptake of digital services during the pandemic much above what trends foretold. That is a positive. What is equally clear however is that the benefits of increased digitization have been unevenly spread across the geography and population. Trickle-down to lower-income groups and laggard regions is not a given and will require policy support. For meaningful and relevant societal impact policies must recognize localized socio-economic challenges such as availability of infrastructure, relatable and vernacular content. The journey to digital inclusion must look at an expansive understanding of access that goes beyond laying fiber and providing cheap smartphones-the latter is necessary but certainly not sufficient”
Panelists included Jaijit Bhattacharya (President, Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research), Abhishek Singh (President & CEO, National e-Governance Division, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), Nishanth Baghel (Director of Technology Innovations, Pratham) and Helani Galpaya (CEO, LIRNEasia). The discussion was moderated by Rajat Kathuria (Senior Visiting Professor, ICRIER).
The recent national survey showed that Internet use had more than doubled in the past four years and that COVID-related shutdowns contributed significantly to the increased demand for connectivity.
The 2021 survey showed that over 130 million users came online in 2020 and 2021. Of the nearly 80 million who started using the internet in 2020, 43% or over 34 million said they started doing so because of needs brought about due to the COVID crisis.