The percentage of men with phones is more than women, with as many as 61% of them having a mobile by the end of 2021 as compared to 31% of females, a gap of 30%, according to a report by Oxfam India. 

Titled the ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’, the report has analysed the data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) household survey and secondary data from the national sample survey office between January 2018 and December 2021, regarding internet access, mobile ownership, computer, and broadband availability. The data is analysed to assess the inclusivity of digital initiatives during the period. The report says India’s growing socio-economic inequalities are being widely replicated in the digital space. 

In terms of the gender gap towards mobile ownership, women had less access to mobile internet by 33% as compared to men in 2021, according to a mobile gender gap report by GSMA. This has led to a fewer number of women having access to information, independent decision-making, support networks and provision of health services amongst others, thus widening the digital divide between genders. 

In terms of education, the percentage of mobile ownership has witnessed a significant increase with the rise in education level. According to the report, a person with higher education such as a PhD has a 60% higher chance of owning a smartphone as compared to someone with no education. 

In terms of employment, the report revealed a digital divide based on employment status where 95% of the salaried permanent workers have a phone whereas only 50% of the unemployed (willing and looking for a job) have a phone in 2021. 

In terms of internet connectivity, the report says that 70% of the country’s population has poor or no connectivity to digital services, and only 8% of households with members aged between 5 and 24 have access to both a computer and an internet connection. 

Amitabh Behar, the chief executive officer of Oxfam India said, “India's growing inequality is accentuated due to the digital divide. The growing inequality based on caste, religion, gender, class, and geographic location also gets replicated in the digital space. People without devices and the internet get further marginalised due to difficulties in accessing education, health, and public services. This vicious cycle of inequality needs to stop.”

“This is worrying because this digital divide can further deepen the existing socio-economic inequalities in the country. We urge the state and union governments to immediately take necessary steps to universalise internet connectivity and treat digital technologies as a public utility, not a privilege,” he added. 

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