The Human Development report released earlier this month indicates that India climbed one spot to 129 among 189 countries in the 2019 human development index (HDI). The report by UNDP also highlights that new forms of inequalities will manifest in future through climate change and technological transformation which have the potential to deepen existing social and economic scenario of the country. 


Despite India being one of the ‘emerging economies’ of the world, and its impressive economic performance after the introduction of economic reforms in the 1990s, progress in social reforms has been slow and uneven. Large inequities between different sections of the society continue to exist and have even widened across states, between rural and urban areas and within communities. Inequities in the diverse society of India may have persisted due to three primary reasons-

  1. Historical inequities that have their roots in the policies and practices in British Colonial India, which continue to be pursued even after independence.
  2. Socio-economic inequities manifest in caste, class and gender differentials. 
  3. Inequities in the availability and affordability of the resources and facilities. 


The higher the level of human development, the greater the access to technology. The digital revolution has moved fast and had an enormous impact, but it is far from universal. In 2017 almost 2 billion people still did not use a mobile phone. And of the 5 billion mobile subscribers in the world, nearly 2 billion—most of them in low- and middle-income countries—do not have access to the internet. In 2017 the number of fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants was only 13.3 globally and 9.7 in developing countries, and the number of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants was 103.6 in developed countries compared with only 53.6 in developing countries. Inequalities are much greater for advanced technologies, such as access to a computer, internet or broadband. (HDR 2019) 


The convergence in basic technologies, such as mobile phones, has empowered traditionally marginalized and excluded people. But digital gaps can also become barriers not only in accessing services or enabling economic transactions but also in being part of a “learning society.” 


The empowerment of traditionally marginalised and excluded people is a good example of how affordable and simple technology has interspersed with the rural population of India. 

Visiting one of the villages in Goa, I met Chandravati. A rural woman living in a kutcha house in Wadaval village. She lost her husband at a young age, and life has not been easy for her. She does not belong to the so-called upper caste and the deeply rooted caste system of the village deprived her of education and other basic necessities.

 Chandravati says (translated in English), “Being a woman is not easy. I take care of my house and family and work in the farms of the local landlord. There are so many restrictions and traditions of the village, but we never questioned them. What will people say if I do so?” She falls in the below poverty line category and runs her house in whatever government aid she gets along with her meagre income.  She adds, “I got a mobile phone recently and my daughter taught me how to use it. It has made life easier as I can call relatives now and don’t have to depend on the landlords to do so. Moreover, I can call the ambulance immediately in case of emergency now and don’t have to depend on others.” 



Chandravati using her phone

It is not only Chandravati but many marginalised and poor people in India who have benefitted through the technology. However, a great digital divide persists in the same village in the type and amount of technology being used based on caste, income and education levels. With the world moving towards advanced technological changes, with artificial intelligence shaping the world, the persisting digital divide would deepen. The new forms of inequality highlighted in the Human Development report 2019 mentions that the groups with lower human development have systematically less access to a wide range of technologies. In such a scenario, human development has to be targeted at a faster pace in India and their foundation has to start from rural India. A bottom-up approach would help in catching up the digital divide which is expected to deepen if right policies and interventions are not taken systematically. 


Feature Image Credits: Sriya Rane and PSBT


Sriya Rane 

[email protected]


With the whole campus shifting its focus to the global scenario: international internships, foreign exchange programmes, internships with MNCs et al doing the rounds, a rural fellowship programme is quick to turn a few heads and raise a curious eye.

Poultry and pastures are perhaps the first thing that would come to ones mind when asked to define the term ‘rural’. However,a rural fellowship and the projects associated with it venture much deeper. Rural fellowships give you a chance to explore as well as study rural India in actuality. Also, the fellows are given an opportunity to work on the various issues directly concerning the particular region assigned to them. These projects generally address a range of issues  from microfinance, education, health and sanitation to child labour and agriculture .

What makes this programme so unique from is that one gets a first hand experience: instead of working on the issue from the comfort of your air conditioned room like any other ordinary work, you will the get the opportunity to reside with your host NGO in the village itself and work and live with the people, like the people, and study the problems of rural economy upfront.

iVolunteer India, in partnership with Sir Ratan Tata’s Trust, selects up to 20 students every year to go for a youth fellowship programme for six weeks to villages across the  country. The primary aim of all the fellows is to help make a difference in rural India by virtue of their talent and education.  As part of this year’s recently held fellowship programme, students from all over the varsity including colleges like Kirori mal college, Sri Venkateswara College St. Stephens. ,worked on  a variety of projects such as child rights in Dehradun ,microfinance and livelihood, Shubhangi Shukla from Miranda House is still helping to promote art as a subject in the region of Kumaon where they children have never seen a set of crayons in their life. States Udisha Saklani, a second year student of St. Stephens who worked in on a water and sanitation project in Uttarakhand, “This exposure should be mandatory for every student, as it helps you both on a personal and professional level and sensitizes you towards bigger, more real issues that apparently sixty percent of our economy suffers from. This fellowship helped me become aware of the same.” Deepti Khera, a mass communication student from Mumbai worked in the village of Kolwan, Pune with autistic and schizophrenic people. “It was a life changing experience. I initially felt odd living with the special friends 24/7. I was also hit by an autistic person. But I realized how much more sensitive these special people are than us. “, she says. The fellowship also further inspired her to get into rural reporting. Also, her experience helped her gain admission in one of the top five mass communication institutes of India. Thus, one cannot deny that a rural fellowship does wonders for your CV., especially if seeking a scholarship in universities abroad.

For those dynamic ones ready to sample India for what it really is, rural fellowships are an excellent avenue providing a zing to your resume and an opportunity to do something meaningful with your time.