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New Delhi: India has a large number of internet users, but the disparity in digital access is coming in the way of inclusion and equity that needs to be assessed, according to NITI Aayog.

The federal policy think tank said that although more people in India have access to internet than the whole population of the US, who uses internet remains a question. Almost half of the Indian population does not have access to the internet, NITI Aayog said while announcing its plan to study how the bottlenecks in digital literacy could be addressed even as the country is going through a demographic and technological transformation.

“Most of the internet users are in urban educated classes. This situation reflects that majority of the Indians still remain unfazed by the information technology revolution. With such a disparity in digital access and literacy, it is hard to aspire for inclusion and equity… India is expected to have the largest working age population, which requires rapid job creation. Digital literacy becomes a crucial medium of communication with global citizens," NITI Aayog said in a communication posted on its website.

According to the think tank, like other developing countries, India also needs a sufficient thrust to overcome the challenges of exclusion, poverty and inequality. It said that although 65.07% of the population of the country is in rural areas, digital penetration has picked up pace in the past few years, thanks to one of the cheapest internet rates globally.

The think tank said it was commissioning a study on the status of ‘digital literacy in the country, the bottlenecks and the way forward’ to identify the opportunities and challenges faced by India to overcome the prevalent digital divide.

NITI Aayog has increasingly been playing a key role in central government’s policy making efforts especially in areas like stepping up the share of manufacturing in the economy, infrastructure investments, sustainable development goals, electric mobility and sustainable farming. It is also giving key inputs to central ministries in promoting investments into sunrise industries and in the government’s disinvestment and asset monetisation programmes.

Industry reports suggest that the number of internet users in India, which was at around 622 million in 2020, is set to touch 900 million by 2025.

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