The government’s effort to introduce online classes for students across the country has exposed a glaring divide along the digital line with one section equipped with digital gadgets and internet connections, and another section left behind. As this inequality cannot be removed overnight, the authorities are in a fix over successful implementation of e-learning amid the closure of all education institutions for an indefinite period due to the coronavirus pandemic. A good number of institutions have been conducting online classes but around half of their students are missing out on online learning. What would be the fate of those disadvantaged students who lagged behind academically is now a moot question.
This is, however, one aspect of how digital divide is exacerbating the existing social disparity in the country. A recent study by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) may help us understand the extent of digital discrimination in the country. As per the findings of the study, 72% rural households have low digital access, 61% are categorised as low skills, 54% have no internet access while 49% lack computer access and 59% have no smart phone access.Lack of computer skills and internet facilities means these sections of people cannot avail themselves of digital services, even though as part of the government’s pledge to build digital Bangladesh, a growing number of government’s services are being digitalised. In fact, digitalisation of services is giving good result both in terms of making the service delivery faster and checking corruption in government offices. But now, uneven access to digital facilities and skills appeared to be a major cause for concern.
However, we can hope that as the benefits of digitalisation are demonstrated, the people in their increasing numbers will embrace the idea quite enthusiastically. As we know that the common people of this country do not resist innovation. For example, the people accepted the cellphone speedily and maximised its benefits. But as the usage of internet requires a certain level of affordability and skill, the youth and common people should be trained so that the nation doesn’t get divided across digital line.