(Dis-)Connected Youth. Political Dimensions of the Digital Divide in South Asia

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Elvira GRANER, Heidelberg University and ICAS:MP New Delhi, Germany
with Siri Hettige (Colombo Univ.) and Sanjay Kumar (CSDS, Delhi)

At a global level, communication policies and e-governance regularly address young people worldwide as the ‘digital generation’. On the other hand, many countries in the ‘Global South’ still find it difficult to translate these ideas into national policies, and even more so to implement these at the local level. Some of these debates have been captured in discourses such as ‘digital divide’.

Our paper aims at providing analyses of countries in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh) where on the one hand digital policies and information technology are quite advanced. At the same time, these countries have been, and have remained until today, characterised by vast social and regional disparities. Thus, India in particular can be seen as the epitom of a communication hub, with globally well-connected centres such as Bangalore and Hyderabad on the one hand, but vast rural (and urban) areas where communication has remained limited to privileged social groups. Empirical evidence of such selective inclusion mechanism can be found, inter alia, in several Youth Surveys that have been conducted in recent years (for India in 2009 and 2016, for Bangladesh in 2011 and for Sri Lanka in 2009 and 2014). Thus, even the most recent of the Indian Youth Surveys confirms that half of Indian youth do not use social media (facebook or WhatsApp, and even more for twitter). Similar patterns have also been documented for Sri Lanka (2009 and 2013), as well as for Bangladesh, where the Youth Survey (2011) had shown that youth mainly used the mobile phone for giving each other missed calls, ie. a no-cost utilization pattern.