Governments responded with lockdowns as COVID-19 swept through countries, driving people to internet markets. In just two months in 2020, global digital adoption increased by five years. India has set a goal of growing its digital economy to $1 trillion by 2025, up from $200 million in 2017–18. 500 percent rise in tele-health consultations With e-retail reaching 95 percent of Indian districts, there has been a structural shift towards online buying. The number of digital payments has surpassed 100 million per day.
Digital difference between men and women
Women in India are 15% less likely than males to own a mobile phone and 33% less likely to utilise mobile internet services. In 2020, 25 percent of all adult females owned a smartphone, compared to 41 percent of adult males. Within Asia-Pacific, India has the largest gender disparity in internet usage in recent years, with only 15% of women using the internet compared to 25% of males.
Women in India face a number of challenges
First, there is a digital gap between rural and urban areas, with rural broadband penetration of just 29% compared to a national average of 51%. Women in rural areas are less likely to own cellphones than women in urban areas across the country. Second, there is a digital gap between households that is dependent on income. Given India’s average data pricing of $0.68/GB, each GB of data costs low-income families (earning less than $2/day) 3 percent of their monthly income vs 0.2 percent for middle-income households (earning $10–$20 per day). Finally, intra-household discrimination hinders women from having equal access to digital devices within the home, resulting in a gender-based digital divide.
Women’s inability to participate in the digital economy due to social factors
Women’s internet behaviour is frequently regulated by male relatives, even when they are allowed to possess or use household-level mobile devices. Pre-marriage, mobile phones are seen as a threat to women’s reputation; after marriage, phone use is seen as a disruption to caregiving obligations. Due to current social conventions and fear of judgement, women typically avoid talking on their phones in public settings, preferring to conduct their conversations at home. Women businesses were prevented from shifting to online markets after COVID-19 due to digital illiteracy and unfamiliarity with digital platforms.