What is Digital Fluency?

Digital Fluency is being well-versed and competent in using existing technologies to achieve desired outcome professionally or academically. Have you noticed that the term used is Digital Fluency and not Digital literacy? Fluency goes much beyond having the basic skills. It is being able to seamlessly switch between the technologies and using it to empower oneself.

India can get 27% richer if there is gender parity at workplace, says an estimate by the IMF.

Interesting isn’t it? Gender imbalance at workplaces in India, in sectors across India has been a matter of immense concern. In fact, rural India has seen more involvement of women at work than urban India, because of agriculture, cottage industry and home-based cottage industries.

digital fluency

There are a lot of reasons that can be attributed to this. We are aware that the social fabric and patriarchal mentality prevalent since ages in India are the core reasons behind this.  But do we know that the lack of Digital Fluency among Indian women is also one of the factors behind gender imbalance at work?

Digital Fluency will draw more women to the workforce

According to a study by Accenture in 2016, about three-quarters of the respondents, which includes men and women said that “the digital world will empower our daughters”. According to the study by Accenture, there is a correlation between Digital Fluency, employability and progression of women in India.

  • Rural India 

Thousands of girls in remote villages, even in the era of Digital India campaign, do not have basic access to Information and Communication technology (ICT). Due to gender-based discrimination, female participation in India is very low. For such women in rural India and small towns, Digital Fluency will open up new avenues for education and up skilling.

Improved access of ICT to women can play a major role in reducing rural poverty. Women in Indian villages are actively involved in agriculture and distribution. If they gain access to right information on pricing, production techniques, logistics etc. they can leverage it to improve their earnings. This will contribute their overall economic welfare and India’s at large also.

  • Urban India

At the same time, women in Urban India need better work-life balance to stay in the workforce. Competency in digital skills allows them to explore arenas wherein they can re-skill themselves and remotely contribute to the workforce while fulfilling other family obligations. Not only this, Digital fluency also results in enhanced productivity and better time-management skills.

Improved digital skills will also encourage women to turn entrepreneurs and pursue their passion. More entrepreneurship means more employment generation. So digitally fluent women will not only add to the country’s workforce themselves but also draw others into it. The Accenture survey revealed that nearly 61% of women respondents in emerging markets like India said they aspired to be entrepreneurs rather than just being regular employees. This is more than twice the 29% as seen in the developed economies.

Initiatives towards bridging the Digital gender divide

digital fluency

  • Google’s programme Internet Saathi, in collaboration with Tata Trusts’ rural network, has aimed at training women on how to take advantage of Internet and lay their hands on a treasure of knowledge related to farming, education, Government initiatives, subsidies etc. Google provides smartphones and tablets with internet access through this programme is adding 500 women per week through this initiative.
  • Other companies like Wipro, Microsoft and Infosys Foundation have also tied up with few villages and worked towards promoting ICT to the underprivileged in India.

Conclusion: It is now or never

Indian economy has suffered a lot in the past due to lesser participation of women in the workforce. Times need to change and it demands participation from Government, private players as well as families to run this cause. Digital Fluency can level the playing field for male and female workforce in India. UNICEF representative in India, Yasmin Ali Haque, said that “Girls and boys in India have the unique opportunity to benefit from the connectivity that the digital world can provide. India is famous as an IT hub and no matter where they live, every girl or boy should have a digital advantage”. We are at an inflexion point and witnessing technology disruption big time. According to Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) report by World Bank, India is ranked 121st out of 131 countries. This is alarming! If women do not participate in the ongoing digital revolution in India, the country will be left far behind.