The rapid progress of digital technologies has surpassed predictions, having a dramatic impact on societies all around the world. Within barely two decades, these technologies had touched almost half of the developing world’s population, bringing about profound changes. Technology has the potential to bridge societal divides and promote equality through enhanced connection, increased financial inclusion, and improved access to trade and public services.

Nonetheless, despite the potential benefits, a sizable percentage of the population remains unconnected and so barred from reaping the benefits of the digital era. Women, the elderly, people with disabilities, ethnic or linguistic minorities, indigenous populations, and residents of impoverished or distant places are among the marginalised groups disproportionately affected by this digital gap.

These individuals and communities face barriers to accessing and utilizing digital technologies, hindering their ability to benefit from opportunities presented by the ongoing digital revolution.

Children from disadvantaged homes are especially vulnerable because they lack access to the resources needed to navigate and use evolving technologies. This digital disadvantage exacerbates existing inequities and hinders the educational, economic, and social opportunities for these youngsters.

According to a report produced jointly by Unicef and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)2, a large section of the global population—specifically, 2.2 billion children and young adults aged 25 and under—do not have internet access in their homes.

Notably, South Asia is home to 768 million children who do not have access to the internet. Closer to home, according to a research from the Unified District Information System for Education plus (UDISE+) 2021-23, over 66% of schools in India lack internet connectivity. The research also emphasises that less than 50% of the schools surveyed had functional computers.

This condition provides a substantial barrier to children and young people’s potential achievement in all facets of life, including academic, professional, and personal aspirations, in an increasingly digitised environment.

Investing in education to bridge the digital divide is critical for marginalised children in India to fully engage in the digital age. We must aim to provide them with access to high-quality educational information, online tools, and interactive learning platforms, allowing them to overcome obstacles and make important contributions to society. By investing in infrastructure, improving connection, and providing inexpensive internet services, the private sector might play a critical role. Telecom businesses, for their part, can partner with governments to expand network coverage, while technology companies can help with digital literacy and skills training. Capacity-building projects that combine digital literacy with entrepreneurship can also assist empower individuals, particularly those from marginalised groups, to use technology for personal and economic growth. Prioritising equitable and cost-effective access to the internet is imperative for the country to create an inclusive educational ecosystem that uplifts disadvantaged learners and fosters equal opportunities for all.

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