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India’s Digital Divide: The Need For Greater Collaboration And Technological Intervention To Overcome The Pandemic And Become Future-Ready

FinTech startups are leveraging technology to help fill the gap prevalent in rural areas and identify the target groups without access to technology by adding additional features on their platforms.

After a long pandemic pause that lasted nearly a year, several countries across the world are beginning to restart their economies and have begun the journey to recovery, albeit amidst the new world order that the pandemic has left in its wake. Throughout the cascade of devastating events that have unfolded over the past year, the world has relied on one element to help restore a certain sense of normalcy and avoid life coming to a grinding halt entirely – technology.

Technology’s role in helping us tide over the pandemic has been instrumental with cutting-edge tech such as AI, ML, Blockchain, IoT, etc., being harnessed not just for remote working and entertainment but for the public-health response to COVID-19 worldwide. Right from contact tracing to case identification, evaluation of severity, e-pharmacies, etc., technology has been the key aspect in the war against COVID-19. Now, in India, a nationwide vaccination drive for everyone aged above 18 is underway having opened on 01st May 2021 even as the country grapples with a disastrous second wave of the pandemic.

India’s urban-rural digital divide

However, for those falling within the 18-44 age group, registering for vaccines online is a must since the government has regulated that no walk-ins will be permitted. This poses a problem for a majority of those residing in non-urban and rural areas since they aren’t digitally savvy. There exists a massive digital divide between urban and rural India. Despite the increased internet proliferation in tier-II, tier-III cities in recent years, India’s hinterlands paint a contrasting picture.

Nearly 70% of the rural population does not have access to the internet or smartphones and therefore, aren’t digitally savvy/aware of how technology can enhance their lives and help them navigate through important things such as vaccine registration, with ease. While people in the urban or even semi-urban parts of the country are familiar with technological advancements, have access to precautionary measures, medical equipment, and vaccine awareness, a significant number of people in rural areas lack this knowledge – a crucial element, given the current scenario.

There is an urgent need for greater collaboration and technology intervention not just to help people in remote pockets of the country get access to precautionary measures and vaccine registrations but also to bridge the overall digital divide. This is where businesses, especially FinTech startups focussed on the rural customers, are stepping in to assist India’s rural population in gaining awareness and getting inoculated.

Stepping in for a cause

The countrywide vaccination drive is a major step in slowing/curbing the transmission of the virus that is spreading like wildfire. FinTech startups are leveraging technology to help fill the gap prevalent in rural areas and identify the target groups without access to technology by adding additional features on their platforms. For instance, people in rural areas who are not digitally equipped can go to the nearest outlets that are often neighborhood kirana stores of these platforms to get themselves registered for the vaccine with the help of the platform’s agents or correspondents. Through such initiatives, these companies will be able to cover a larger population while helping to address the gap that exists when it comes to technological innovations and stay prepared for any future crisis.

Final word

Although companies are rising to the occasion to do their part in ensuring that people in India’s hinterlands aren’t left behind when it comes to registering for vaccinations, the current scenario underscores the glaring gap between urban and rural India and the increasing need for collaboration and greater technological intervention in India’s fight against the pandemic. The future is bound to be increasingly digital and startups, besides offering their extensive range of products and services, are facilitating the dawn of new-age technologies in regions of the country that have never before come across such innovations, thereby taking the country a step closer to its Digital India vision.

Source: Business World

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