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    Right to access to internet and digital literacy

    In the era of digitization, internet has become a very important means of communication and information acquisition. Decades ago, access to the Internet was considered an indicator of luxury, but today the Internet has become the need of all. Keeping in mind the need of internet, the Kerala High Court recently in the case of Fahima Shirin v. State of Kerala made the right to access to the Internet fundamental, making it a part of the right to privacy and right to education falling under Article 21 of the Constitution. Has declared authority.

    What is the matter?

    • Hearing a petition filed by a student studying in Kozhikode, Kerala, Justice PV Asha has declared the right of access to the Internet as a fundamental right.
    • It is noteworthy that the girl was expelled from her college hostel because she was using a mobile phone during the restricted time in the hostel. The student challenged the same subject before the Kerala High Court.
    • The petitioner had also claimed that this type of ban was discriminatory on the basis of gender, as it was not uniformly applicable in boys’ hostels.


    Importance of internet

    • Internet is an invaluable tool for communication and it cannot be denied that the availability of internet has made communication quite easy and convenient in the present era.
    • The Internet has also opened up the option of better education for those students living in far-flung areas, who have not yet had this type of facility.
    • A strong revolution has also been witnessed in the field of information through the Internet. Now we can get any type of information through the Internet within a few minutes.
    • The common people have also become aware of their rights due to easy access to information.
    • Reduction in government costs can also be ensured by making all services available online:
      • It enhances government accountability and transparency.
      • It is helpful in successful implementation of government schemes.
    • It also helps in increasing the participation of citizens in politics and democracy.
    • It also promotes the government’s efforts to provide better education, health and employment opportunities.
    • It is helpful in socio-cultural mobilization in Indian society.


    Role of internet in education

    • Internet plays a very important role in the education sector. There is no doubt that at present almost all people search on Google for their problems and questions.
    • There is a lot of knowledge available on almost all subjects on the Internet, which can be searched anytime according to your needs.
    • Benefits of Internet in Education:
      • The biggest obstacle facing education in the country is the cost of education, but the Internet has eliminated this barrier to a great extent. Along with this, improvement in the quality of education has also been possible through the Internet.
      • The Internet has also facilitated communication between teacher and students.


    Challenges before Internet availability in India

    • In the last few years, many private and government services have been digitized and some of which are available only online, causing inequality to those who are digitally illiterate.
    • Digital Divide arising from lack of reliable information, infrastructure and digital literacy can lead to social and economic backwardness.
    • The digital divide can be seen across the socio-economic spectrum across India i.e. rural and urban India, rich and poor, demographic profile of India (old and young, male and female).
    • A report released in mid-2016 revealed that the digital literacy rate in India is less than 10 percent.
    • The Meaning of Digital Literacy
    • Digital literacy refers to a set of skills that are necessary to use the Internet and adapt to the digital world. As the scope of print medium is gradually shrinking and the scope of information available online is becoming wider, digital literacy is necessary to understand the information available online.

    Digital Literacy and India

    • It is noteworthy that India is the second largest online market in the world after China, with about 460 million internet users.
    • According to statistics, there will be an estimated 700 million Internet users in India by the year 2021, which is a very large number.
    • The above statistics make it clear that India’s Internet base is very wide, due to which the subject of digital literacy has become very important here.
    • India’s efforts for digital literacy
    • BharatNet Program
    • The BharatNet project was earlier named Optical Fiber Communication Network.
    • The objective of this project is to provide broadband services accessible to citizens and institutions in rural and remote areas with the participation of states and private sector.
    • Under the BharatNet project, more than 2.5 lakh gram panchayats were to provide high speed broadband at affordable rates through optical fiber. Under this the broadband speed was set from 2 to 20 mbps.
    • The project was funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund-USOF.
    • Under this, internet connection was provided free of cost in schools, health centers and skill development centers.


    National Digital Literacy Mission

    • The National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) has been launched with the objective of making at least one person digitally literate in every household in India by the year 2020.
    • The project aims to help technically illiterate adults to find their place in a rapidly digitalizing world.

    How relevant is the fundamental right to access the Internet?

    • Making the right of access to the Internet a fundamental right can be seen as a step taken to reduce digital inequality.
    • At the same time, granting the status of fundamental right to the right to access to the Internet, supports other rights such as right to education, right to privacy and right to freedom of expression, etc.
    • The move may also help reduce digital segmentation.

    Fundamental Right to Access to the Internet and the United Nations

    It is noteworthy that in 2016, the United Nations announced the recognition of the right to access to the Internet as a fundamental right, as well as that the separation of people from the Internet is against human rights violations and international law.

    Road ahead

    • The biggest challenge before the spread of internet is the lack of infrastructure and hence it is necessary that the central and state governments prioritize investment in this area so that the internet can be made accessible to all.
    • Today, the definition of digital literacy should also include the ability to view and access resources and information online.
    • Internet access and digital literacy are interdependent, so building digital infrastructure as well as imparting digital skills is essential.
    • In addition, telecom regulations need to be further strengthened in the country to ensure market competitiveness.


    The conclusion

    The recognition of the right to access to the Internet as a fundamental right is a commendable step taken by the Kerala High Court. Obviously, this step will not only support other fundamental rights but it will also help in reducing digital inequality in the country. But to get the full benefit of this, it is necessary that the barriers facing them like digital literacy and lack of digital infrastructure etc. are removed in time.

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