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Women constitute one-third of Internet users in India: Report

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  • Published
    9th Dec, 2022


In a report “India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide”, released by an NGO called Oxfam India, it has been found that Women constitute one-third of Internet users in India.

Key Highlights:

  • Indian women are 15 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone.
  • They are 33 per cent less likely to use mobile internet services than men.
  • In Asia-Pacific: India fares the worst with the widest gender gap of 40.4 per cent.
  • Rural-Urban digital divide: Only 31 per cent of the rural population uses the Internet compared to 67 percent of their urban counterparts.
  • State-wise Data:
    • Maharashtra has the highest internet penetration, followed by Goa and Kerala.
    • Bihar has the lowest, followed by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
  • Religion-wise Data: Among all religions, Sikhs have the highest likelihood of having a computer followed by Christians, Hindus and lastly Muslims.
  • Caste-wise Divide: The likelihood of access to a computer is more for the General and OBC groups than for the SC and ST populations.
  • Debunking perception about computer devices:
    • Rural Areas: The use of computer devices decreased in rural areas. Pre-pandemic, only 3 per cent of the rural population owned a computer.
    • Urban Areas: The number of people with computers is 8 per cent.

Growing inequality is accentuated by the digital divide:

  • The growing inequality based on caste, religion, gender, class, and geographic location also gets replicated in the digital space.

India’s rank in UN’s e-participation index (2022)

  • The report highlighted that India ranked 105 out of 193 nations in the UN’s e-participation index (2022).
  • The index is a composite measure of three important dimensions of e-government, namely provision of online services, telecommunication connectivity and human capacity

Why do we need women to have equal access to mobile devices?

  • The essential requirement for modern civic participation.
  • The government is moving to an ‘integrated e-service delivery’
  • Financial entitlements are increasingly tied to mobile phones.
  • COVID-19 pandemic accelerated reliance on digital technology

Determinants of women’s mobile phone use:

  • Access to the handset: Women’s dependence on men for phone ownership and lower proximity to phones
  • Phone characteristics: The poorer functionality of women’s phones.
  • Digital skills: In many cases, women's usage of mobile is constrained by limited digital skills.
  • Permitted and desired use: Narrow expectations and desires around how women would use phones.
  • Time allocation: Women were subject to social norms that discouraged using a phone for leisure.

Patriarchal gender norms limit women’s use of mobile phones:

  • Domestic focus: wherein, married women were expected to focus their energy on the maintenance of the home
  • Patriarchal exogamy, wherein on marriage, women join their husband’s family and leave behind their natal family

Emancipation of Women- Digital India Initiatives:

  • Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (W2E2): It is a programme designed to create women’s microlevel social enterprises based on Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
  • ArogyaSakhi: The programme is crafted to help rural women develop their own personalities to provide health care to rural areas.
  • Internet Saathi: It is a long-term vision of Ratan Tata, Former Chairman of Tata Sons. Ratan Tata joined hands with Google and Intel to help women in rural India to access the Internet in large numbers.
  • National e-Governance Plan: The Plan provides opportunities to rural women entrepreneurs for citizen-centric services including access to land records and utility bill payments.
  • Sanchar Kranti Yojna (SKY)-Chhattisgarh: Under SKY, college students, women residing in rural areas and every individual, who falls under the poverty line, will be offered a free mobile phone.
  • Purity: wherein married women must avoid any suspicion of sexual relations outside marriage and
  • Subservience: wherein married women submit to the needs and wishes of their husbands and their in-laws.


  • Accessibility: Union and state governments to ensure universal access to internet connectivity by investing in digital infrastructure.
    • This will not only make the internet affordable but also push for greater accessibility to smartphones.
  • Digital literacy camps: The report also recommended that digital literacy camps be conducted, especially in rural India, to teach the use of technology in schools, and digitize panchayats.
  • Establish grievance redressal mechanism: It will help to handle edtech and healthtech-related complaints by parents, children, and other consumers.
  • Bridge India's current income inequality:
    • It can be done by improving the income of the poor
    • Setting a decent minimum living wage
    • Easing the indirect tax burden on citizens
    • provision of universal health and education services

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