As the covid-19 pandemic has necessitated closure of schools and universities across the globe, teaching has moved online. However, in a country such as India where access to the internet is pitifully low, this new education model may fail miserably, an article by Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay of the Indian Statistical Institute argues.
Using data collected by the National Sample Survey as part of the Survey on Education (2014), Mukhopadhyay argues that only 27% of households in India have some member with access to the internet.
Access to the internet does not necessarily mean that a household actually has internet at home as less than half of the households that have any access to internet own a computing device, he points out.
As such, effectively only 12.5% of the households of students in India have internet access at home. Mukhopadhyay argues that this distinction between home and in-general access to the internet is important during the current crisis.
Holding online classes for those students who have gone home during the crisis will be a big challenge. For instance, while around 85% of university students who belong to urban households have access to the internet, only 41% are likely to have access at home. Among students from rural households, only 28% are likely to have internet access at home.
The gaps across states are also significant, according to him. While 51% of rural households in Kerala have access to the internet, only 23% of rural households have internet access at home. This difference is more stark for states such as Andhra Pradesh where 30% of rural households have access to the internet but only 2% are likely to have access at home.
In states such as West Bengal and Bihar, only 7-8% of rural households have any access to the internet while the proportion that have access at home is minuscule.