Girls in rural India less likely to know how to use smartphones, computers: Survey

Boys more than twice as likely than girls to own their own smartphone, finds ASER 2023

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Thursday 18 January 2024
Photo for representation: iStock

Almost 90 per cent of Indian youth aged 14-18 have a smartphone in the household and know how to use it, a new survey has found. However, there are significant gender gaps in digital literacy, with girls being less likely to know how to use a smartphone or computer or own a phone, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), a nationwide household survey.

The ASER 2023 Beyond Basics survey was conducted in 28 districts across 26 states of the country, reaching a total of 34,745 youth aged 14-18 years. Each major state had one rural district surveyed, with the exception of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, which had two. The report was released on January 17, 2024.

Read more: How much loss have we seen in child education during the pandemic?

The survey provides an overview of the state of children’s education and learning in rural India, including digital connectivity and skills. It found significant digital literacy divide between the genders. For example, girls were found to be less likely to know how to use a smartphone or computer as compared to boys.

Males (43.7 per cent) were also more than twice as likely as girls (19.8 per cent) to own their own smartphone. 

The gender gaps in digital literacy extended to online safety. Almost all youth (90.5 per cent) said they used social media in the reference week, with boys (93.4 per cent) reporting it more than girls (87.8 per cent). However, more worryingly, only about half were familiar with the online safety settings — with boys again being more likely to know about them than girls.

The surveyors also looked at the youth’s ability to perform digital tasks such as finding specific videos on YouTube, sharing the video with a friend, searching the internet for answers to questions, setting an alarm for a specific time and using Google Maps to calculate the time it takes to travel between two points. Across all tasks, boys outperformed girls. 

Read more: Raising marital age of women: Smashing patriarchy or further regression?

Youth who were surveyed were also asked to bring a smartphone with good connectivity — their own, a family member’s, or a neighbor’s — for the digital skills assessment. A little more than two-thirds of young people could bring one and boys were more likely to bring a smartphone (72.9 per cent) than girls (62 per cent).

About two-thirds of the youth reported using smartphones for educational purposes, such as watching online videos related to studies, solving doubts or exchanging notes. A quarter of youth who are not currently enrolled reported doing educational activities on their smartphone. 

Read more: 

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.