Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Demonetisation & The Big Digital Divide

Demonetisation & The Big Digital Divide

India is a huge country with a massive 1.3 billion people. This massive population is not homogeneous. There is a big division among this people. Apart from language, castes, religions Indians are also divided by the wealth they possess ie. whether they are rich or poor, literate and illiterate etc. Now, there is another stark division between Indians, that of digital literacy.

Since November 8th 2016, it has been a difficult time for people in India as the Government of India in a sudden move banned the Rupees 500 and Rupees 1000 notes. Now the Government is pushing for digital payments as it believes blackmoney generation is mostly through cash. This push for payments through online or digital wallet mode has now has focused on the digital literacy or awareness about online and digital payments.

Despite smartphone penetration, there are many Indians who despite being well-to-do don't own smartphones. They are not comfortable with internet and mobile technology. They still do their banking via cheques, bank drafts etc and prefer to make payments in cash. They still struggle to draw their money through ATMs. There are many who forget their ATM pin numbers and write it down behind the ATM cards. This massive population, despite being literate in the conventional sense is not aware about e-banking and mobile technologies. It would be difficult for these people to learn to start using cashless mode for their payments.

These days this educated mass of retired, senior citizens and others are feeling as if they are illiterate. "I don't know this PayTM thing" is the general refrain. At the fag end of their careers, a sense of inadequacy is haunting many such individuals. India Today is changing too fast for such citizens. Ridiculed by the 20 somethings and other people as oldies and other choicest abuses, the older generation is slowly bowing their heads for something which they don't need but is thrust upon them. The respect for the older generation is all but vanished. Is this the price to pay?

If people hurtle into depressions, then no one will know as in India the society is not mature to handle depressions and mental health issues.

Demonetisation will also lead to more and more Government departments completely shifting to e-tender modes. Today, many small time businesses find the e-tenders cumbersome and a big technological challenge. The way e-tenders have been implemented till date is very cumbersome. It is not user friendly. So unless people master the various technologies, it will be difficult to compete as they are already disadvantaged.

If the Government can come out with well thoughtout applications and deploys a huge number of people to increase the awareness then slowly people may start understanding the intricacies. However, there are many big ifs involved here and the Government seems to be pushing through things without much of prior thought. Hope there is some light at the end of the tunnel, so that the common man and woman can learn and pick up the threads in their lives.

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