The study also finds that the income of a household has a strong and significant impact on the household’s digital access, skills, and literacy
A recent survey has revealed that about half of all rural households in Bangladesh do not have access to a computer or the internet.
The study, conducted by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Brac University, shows that rural households in the country are still lagging behind in their adoption and use of e-services due to lack of better access to information and communication technology (ICT), and lack of skills needed to operate devices.
The findings of the survey were presented by Dr Wasel Bin Shadat, senior research fellow at BIGD in a webinar on Sunday.
The study surveyed 6,500 rural households across the country and found that although 96% of rural households have a mobile phone, the majority (59%) of them do not have access to a smartphone. Moreover, about half of the households have access to neither a computer (49%), nor the internet (54%).
Findings also suggest that among the respondents, 68% can read or write mobile SMS, 10% can check or send emails, 15% can make video calls, 41% participate in social media, and 28% can make comments on social media. Meanwhile, only 27% search the internet for information and 59% obtain public service-related information through digital media.
When it comes to problem-solving, the percentage of households who possess the obligatory skills is staggeringly low, the study found. Only 3% of respondents pay bills via mobile, 6% use computer for productive activity, 20% use the internet for functional activities (eg reading news, online training, etc), 3% have online shopping experience, and less than 1% earn through online activities.
According to the study findings, the rural households in Chittagong, Dhaka, and Khulna divisions possess higher digital access, digital skills, and digital literacy status, while households in Mymensingh, Rangpur, and Sylhet divisions have a significantly lower level of digital access, skills, and literacy.
The study also finds that the income of a household has a strong and significant impact on the household’s digital access, skills, and literacy. Though household size has a significant impact on digital access, it does not have the same impact on digital skills.
Mehnaz Rabbani, lead, research for policy and governance (RPG), BIGD said: “To create an e-government system, we need a critical mass of digitally literate people. This literacy should not only reflect in people's access to digital devices but also in their behaviour. And like any other behavioral shift, this will require carefully designed innovative interventions.”
Imran Matin, executive director, BIGD said: “As a research institute, we at BIGD want to create an entire social science of digitization, which will be highly relevant in coming years. This survey was a part of that digital social science domain. There are more dimensions of what we discussed today, and we look forward to sharing them with you in the next webinar.”