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36% Indian kids lacked Internet access during Covid lockdown: Report

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New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) During the Covid induced lockdown last year, schools shifted their classes online to safeguard children from the infectious disease and maintain smooth flow of their lessons. However, a new report on Friday showed that more than a third of children in India did not have access to the Internet during that period.

The report by LIRNEasia, a regional think tank working on digital policy issues — in partnership with ICRIER, an economic policy think tank — showed that 64 per cent of all households with enrolled school-age children had Internet access while the remaining 36 per cent didn’t.

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The research included a survey consisting of 7,000 households across India including 350 villages and wards.

Among the households with Internet, 31 per cent of children were likely to receive remote education of some kind, while only 8 per cent of the households without Internet said they received some kind of remote education.

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At the same time, a recent national survey conducted by LIRNEasia, 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.

Among the 15-65 age group population, 49 per cent said they had used the Internet, compared to only 19 per cent of the 15-65 age group population claiming the same in late 2017. This translates to 61 per cent of households in 2021 using the Internet compared to 21 per cent in 2017.

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It 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 per cent or over 34 million said they started doing so because of the Covid crisis.

“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 Helani Galpaya, CEO of LIRNEasia, in a statement.

“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 digitisation 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,” added Dr Rajat Kathuria, Senior Visiting Professor at ICRIER.

–IANS

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