India, along with China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, Qatar, Cuba, Venezuela have voted against the UN resolution recognizing Internet access as human right (Right to Internet Access). These states particularly opposed to a specific para in the resolution which condemns “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online”.
India’s ‘Digital India Plan’ triggers several digital initiatives and forced more Indians go online for various services and entitlements. As the government wants to ‘transform the entire ecosystem of public services through the use of information technology, the Government of India has launched the Digital India Programme with the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy’. It means the holistic approach of the Digital India Programme is to bring all Indian citizens in the digital domain. However, the larger question is what about more than 72% Indian population who are still excluded from the larger information society.
Those who are left behind, they are poor, marginalized; they live in remote parts of India; they are Dalits, they are tribals and indigenous population; they are minorities; they are physically challenged or they are women.
Those people who are already left behind, they are now becoming further marginalized as the ‘Digital India’ initiatives progress. Interestingly, these digitally marginalized citizens are likely to be disproportionately significant users of government services and welfare schemes, access to Internet is the most important medium to access various services and entailments.
On one hand, the Indian government is moving different services and welfare schemes rapidly to self-serve channels, but on the other hand Indian government is opposing the UN Resolution recognizing Internet access as human right. Most of our Indians are already ‘developmentally’ excluded, economically poor, they do not have Internet access, they are unable to browse online, or they are computer-illiterate. They will definitely miss out on government welfare initiatives and other services online.
And now, by opposing the UN Resolution recognizing Internet access as human right, India is actually contradicting the ambitious Digital India Plan. Definitely, this approach will create further ‘digital divide’ within Indian societies.