There is concern that lackings in digital literacy and access in rural areas will hamper the country’s e-governance expansion
The internet is still inaccessible for more than 50% of rural households while nearly half of the rural families do not have any access to a computer, says a research.
Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) conducted the research. The institute's Senior Research Fellow Dr Wasel Bin Shadat revealed the study findings at a webinar on Sunday.
BIGD conducted the survey on 6,500 rural households across the country ─ illustrating the current state of digital literacy in rural Bangladesh.
According to the research findings, though nearly 96% of rural households have mobile phones, a large number of them (nearly 59%) do not have any smartphone.
Experts at the programme are concerned that the lacking in digital literacy and access in rural areas will hamper the country's e-governance expansion.
Researchers categorised the total responders into four classes—none, low, basic, and above basic—based on their overall digital access and found almost three quarters of households having 'low' and only 4% having 'above basic' access.
It was found that 68% of the responders can read or write text messages while 10% can check and send emails. Only 15% of the respondents were found to be able to make video calls while 41% joined in social media, and 28% can make comments there.
Meanwhile, only 27% can search the internet for information while 59% of them can reach public service-related information. However, in problem-solving tasks, the number is very low.
Meanwhile, only 3% of the responders said they pay bills via mobile phone, 6% use a computer for productive activity and 3% have online shopping experiences.
Among the total responders, 20% have used the internet for functional activities (reading news, online training etc) while less than 1% earns through online activities.
Similar to digital access, all the responders were also categorised into the same four classes based on their digital skills. Of them, two-third of the rural households appear to have 'low' skills while 16% households have 'no' skill.
Apart from this, 15% households have 'basic' skills, and 8% households have 'above basic' skills.
According to the study, rural households in Chattogram, Dhaka and Khulna divisions hold higher digital literacy status while households in Mymensingh, Rangpur and Sylhet divisions have a significantly lower level.
Dr Wasel Bin Shadat recommended special attention on rural people to enhance digital literacy as he claimed "this is highly relevant to employment".
Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD, expressed his aspiration for creating an entire social shift towards the science of digitisation, which will be highly relevant in coming years. He said this survey was a part of that.
Gregory Chen, policy lead of CGAP, said digital literacy is the outcome of several determinants, and only when the determinants are identified and addressed, the level of digital literacy will be improved.