Availability of electricity
In reference to infrastructural preparedness, the most primary technical requirement of an ICT-driven system has to be electricity. According to the World Bank Global Electrification Database, in 2019, more than 97% of Indian households have electricity added to the list of their available basic amenities. This is undoubtedly a remarkable leap forward from 88% in 2015 and 89.5% in 2016. However, the vast land of India is not so uniform to be treated as a single entity. A very basic division would tell that among the 1.2 billion population, more than 833 million reside in rural areas whereas only 377 million are urban residents (Indian Census 2011). While the situations in rural and urban India are not quite similar, on average the disparity is not that pronounced. In fact, since 2015, the electrification process in rural India has been quite successful according to the data given by the Council of Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) (Agrawal et al. 2020). The average daily supply of electricity to an urban household is 22 h compared to their rural counterparts, lagging behind only by a minuscule 2 h with an average daily supply of 20 h. However, a further division with respect to states can take one deeper into the scenario. On the one hand, despite the very successful rural electrification project, 2.4 percent of households (mostly rural) still have no electricity in their houses due to the affordability factor. This 2.4 percent of households majorly belong to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. Three of these states, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar have been part of the ACCESS program (The Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity—Survey of States) and have shown steep increment in electrification in the rural areas along with Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. Despite that, there are still people in these states who can not afford electricity. Compared to only 12.5 h daily in 2015, the average electricity availability has significantly increased to 18.5 h daily in 2020. In 2020, 73 percent of rural consumers have reported to be satisfied with the facilities related to the availability of electricity in their households which is a significant increase from only 23 percent in 2015 and 55 percent in 2018. Therefore, despite some hindrance, the overall situation in terms of availability of electricity in rural India has significantly improved after 2015. However, specific states, e.g., Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Bihar are still behind (Indian Residential Energy Survey 2020) with less than 18 h of supply in rural areas and about 20 h in urban areas which lie quite below the average line for India as a whole. In sum, it indicates that while there is some lack of consistency across all states and demographic variations of the country, the holistic picture of the entire country shows a significant improvement over the past few years. But there is definitely room for improvement. For instance, two-third of rural households and two-fifth of urban households still face abrupt power disconnection at least once a day as reported by CEEW. In a nutshell, a significant trend of improvement is evident with some space for refinement in the way of building a sustainable system.
Availability of internet
In the queue, the next is access to the internet. After the introduction of the “Digital India” programme in 2015, several steps were taken in the way of revolutionizing the telecom industry in India and it has significantly increased access to the internet through mobile networks. One of the major contributions came from Jio telecom services introduced by the Reliance group in 2016. In 2021, the world’s second-largest online market (behind China) India had over 560 million internet users with a projected number of 650 million in 2023 (Statista, August 2021). It is true that this constitutes only around half of the existing population in the country. In other words, the internet penetration is only 47% in India (Keelery 2021). However, here as well, it is to be noted that this number was only 27% in 2015 (and about 4% in 2007), therefore, it can be thought of as quite a leap forward in the past few years. However, it is important to mention here that while the disparity among the number of internet users in rural and urban India is relatively low, there is a significant gender bias when it comes to the rural population where 58% of the users are male and the rest 42% are female (Statista 2021). Similar to electricity, a disparity is observed from state to state. While the average penetration rate in India is 40 percent, it is 68 percent in Delhi followed by Kerala at 56%. Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal belong to the bottom of the list with a slightly above 30 percent penetration rate (Statista, March 2022).
Availability of digital equipment
Availability of digital equipment has been seen to be the epicenter of the quibble in many cases during the COVID-19 lockdown in the country. In fact, many students have reportedly committed suicide after being deprived of the privilege to join online lectures due to the lack of a smartphone or similar device. Including the incidents that happened in Mysuru, Karnataka (August 2020); Satara, Maharashtra (September 2020), and Punjab (June 2020), scarcity of digital resources has surely been a major contributing factor in the loss of nearly 12,500 lives of students in 2020 alone as reported by Times of India in November 2021 (Kumar 2021). The data shows that the number of smartphone users in India is nearly 748 million in 2020 (Statista, September 2021) which is around 57% of the entire population. More importantly, it is to be noted here, that usually, young students do not own their own devices. For instance, a student studying in kindergarten is not expected to have his or her own device. Moreover, as per world bank reports, the per capita income of an Indian individual is USD 1927 which if calculated, turns out to be USD 160 per month. The average price of a smartphone is recorded to be USD 196 in 2020–2021 (Statista, December 2021). Therefore, affordability becomes an issue in this case, specifically for low-income groups. This establishes the fact that in terms of access to digital equipment, there is a serious disparity among people belonging to different socioeconomic backgrounds when it comes to the availability of digital resources. This is one of the major problems dreading the EdTech-driven system. Inclusivity is expected to be hindered in this case.