54pc rural families lag behind in internet use

Staff Correspondent

14 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

More than half of rural households (54 per cent) don’t use the internet though the government digitised the public services delivery over the last one decade, a study conducted by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) suggests.

Rural households still lag behind in their adoption and use of electronic services due to lack of better access to information and communication technology (ICT) as well as the lack of skills needed to operate devices.

BIGD senior research fellow Wasel Bin Shadat presented the findings of the study at a webinar on Sunday.

The report also mentioned that lack of access to the internet is a major hindrance for delivering public services at people doorsteps, the main objective of the Digital Bangladesh vision.

There are around 161.2 million mobile connections, which is 100.75 per cent of the country’s population of 160 million, according to the latest data of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

After surveying 6,500 rural households all across the country, the study is the first of its kind to develop a digital literacy index.

Some 96 per cent of households have a mobile phone though the majority (59 per cent) doesn’t have smarts phones, according to the study.

Besides, around 49 per cent households have no computer and 54 per cent households lack access to the internet, the BIGD study said.

However, the government claimed that there are 103.4 million internet connections among 160 million people while 94.9 million people are enjoying mobile internet.

Researchers feared at the situation are persisting ‘digital divide’ among the rural and urban households in Bangladesh continue to hinder the successful expansion of the country’s e-government system.  

The study also revealed that around 68 per cent mobile users can read or write text messages while only 10 per cent maintain communication over email.

Meanwhile, only 27 per cent people search the internet for information and 59 per cent obtain public service-related information through digital media.

The most interesting part of the study is only 3 per cent people use online shopping or pay bills via mobile and 6 per cent use computer for productive activities.

According to the study findings, rural households in Chattogram, Dhaka, and Khulna divisions possess higher digital access, digital skills, and digital literacy status, while households in Mymensingh, Rangpur, and Sylhet divisions have a significantly lower level of digital access, skills, and literacy.

Research for Policy and Governance Lead Mehnaz Rabbani, Policy Lead Gregory Chen, Brac Executive Director Asif Saleh, Aspire to Innovate (A2i) policy advisor Anir Chowdhury, Economic Research Group (ERG), Executive Director Dr Sajjad Zohir also joined the webinar, among others.