Despite the government's pro-digital approach, 54 percent rural households in Bangladesh do not have access to internet, a new study shows, as experts fear the 'digital divide' could hinder e-governance progress.
According to the research findings unveiled Sunday, 59 percent of them do not have access to a smartphone and 49 percent have no access to computers.
The study, carried out by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), surveyed 6,500 rural households across the country to develop a Digital Literacy Index (DLI) that illustrates the current state of digital literacy in rural Bangladesh.
Experts at an online seminar titled 'Digital Literacy in Bangladesh', where the study results were unveiled, feared that this persisting 'digital divide' among the rural and urban households in Bangladesh will continue to hinder the successful expansion of the country's e-governance system.
According to the study findings, rural households in Chattogram, Dhaka, and Khulna divisions enjoy higher digital access, digital skills, and digital literacy status than those in Mymensingh, Rangpur, and Sylhet divisions.
It also revealed that among the surveyed households less than one percent generates any form of income through online activities. The income of a household has a strong and significant impact on its digital access, skills, and literacy, the findings showed.
Similar to digital access, categorised in four classes based on their digital skills, two-third of the rural households appear to have "low" skills, 16 percent households have "no" skill, 15 percent have "basic" skills, and eight percent have "above basic" skills.
The study also found that while the gender of the household head has no significant impact on digital access, female-headed households are more likely to have better digital literacy.
BIGD Senior Research Fellow Dr Wasel Bin Shadat while presenting the results said stakeholders must urgently develop a comprehensive National Digital Competency Framework that can bridge the existing 'digital divide' in Bangladesh.
Consultative Group to Assist the Poor Policy Lead Gregory Chen said digital literacy is the outcome of numerous determinants affecting one another. "Only when all of these different determinants are identified and addressed, will the level of digital literacy improve," Chen said.
BIGD Executive Director Dr Imran Matin said the said research was a part of that digital social science domain and more discussion on the matter will follow from BIGD soon.