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Pandemic widens digital divide in the desert state

Covid-19 has widened Rajasthan’s digital divide, with those with smartphones and links to social media getting greater access to education, vaccinations, and medication than those residing in rural Rajasthan.

Due to the lack of access to the Cowin app by village residents, the vaccination programme in villages is moving slowly.

“About 90% to 95% of people from Gujarat’s cities are flocking to villages in Udaipur, Banswara, and Dungarpur for vaccination,” said Opposition Leader Gulabchand Kataria, an Udaipur legislator.

According to Kataria’s letter to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, tribals constitute 70% of Gehlot’s electorate and are unable to enter vaccine slots via the app.

“Youth from Udaipur villages such as Khairwada and Gongunda are unfamiliar with the online slot booking method. The same is valid for citizens of Banswara and Pratapgarh.” Appointments for vaccinations can be postponed due to unsuitable circumstances.

Many sites even show manifestations of the digital divide. Schools throughout the state have eliminated in-person classes during the past year. Many students who are unwilling to enrol in online courses run the risk of being left behind by others who have access to laptops and smartphones. “In the long run, our children would suffer and slip behind other children their age,” Sandhya, whose child is a Class VIII student at a government school, said.

Girija, another mother, expresses frustration about her child’s inability to participate in online courses. “How are our children going to be promoted if they didn’t gain as much weight as they should the previous year?” she inquires.

Apart from education and college, many people who use social media have a more involved role in civic treatment than others who do not — they share and tag their political officials while they are in need of medical help, when opposed to those who cannot.

Senior politicians including former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, BJP state president Satish Poonia, and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot use social media to organise outreach activities for their respective teams.

“My father received a ventilator bed after another neighbour was unable to do so following our Twitter appeal,” Vidhi, a Jaipur resident, explained.

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Written by Ankur J Kakoti

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