Aspirations and Perceived Benefits of the Internet

Chapter 7

INTRODUCTION

This chapter discusses whether there is an aspiration to go online in the six study settlements, particularly for those who are not yet connected. What is the importance attributed to the internet by residents of informal settlements? Is getting online a priority for them? Do they want public access points within their neighbourhoods? The chapter also reports the perceptions of users on the changes the internet has brought to their lives.

The chapter has been organised in seven sections. Section 1 introduces the chapter. Section 2 records the aspirations of non-users to go online and the perceptions of users on the difference that the internet has made in their lives. Section 3 discusses social support as an enabling factor, and Section 4 presents the views of respondents on the factors that most helped them get online. Section 5 records the respondents’ views on the need for public access points in their settlements. Section 6 points to future trends in internet penetration in the study settlements by comparing internet penetration for the under-25 and over-25 age-groups. Section 7 concludes the chapter.

ASPIRATION TO GO ONLINE

Non-user respondents

A whole 73% of internet non-users aspire to go online in the future (Table 7.2). Further, 78% of non-users agreed that internet is as important as any other basic amenity such as electricity, including for those who live in low-income settlements and slums (Table 7.1). In-depth interviews and focus group discussions also did not indicate that the residents of these colonies feel that roti, kapda aur makaan (or improved food security, shelter and other basic needs) are more pressing needs that must be addressed before they can think about internet connectivity. This is a very positive finding in terms of the potential to bridge the digital divide and the receptivity of low-income, resource-poor and diversely-literate urban populations to digital inclusion initiatives.

Table 7.1 Non-users’ perceptions of the internet

Table 7.2 Aspiration to go online (Non-users)

A large percentage of non-users think that the internet is useful for employment, education and connecting with people (Table 7.1). They disagree that the internet is just for entertainment (85.6%). Seventy-five percent feel that the internet can make life better. Seventy-six percent stated that the internet is useful for women, but that still leaves a substantial 21% disagreeing, indicating that special efforts will be called for to address the gender bias and apprehensions about women’s safety online.

User respondents

An even greater number of internet users (80% compared to 78% of non-users) responded that the internet is needed as much as any basic amenity in their settlement (Table 7.3). Over 95% say the internet is useful for employment and education; 90% disagree that the internet is just for entertainment (Table 7.3).

Table 7.3 User respondents’ perceptions about the internet

But as many as 32% disagreed that the internet was useful for women, which is surprisingly higher even than the non-users. Not surprisingly, though, almost 75% of female respondents agreed that the internet was useful for women, but only 62.4% of males held the same view.

Table 7.4 Percent of male and female user respondents ‘agreeing’ to statements on the internet (n=564)

Benefits of the internet as perceived by users

Both male and female respondents reported that the internet provided them a source of entertainment and that it was an important way to network socially and keep in touch with friends and relatives (Table 7.5). More than one-third of male users (35%) and about one-fourth (24%) of female users felt that the internet had increased their confidence and enhanced their personality, a factor that is especially significant for socially and economically excluded communities who live at the margins of the city. Digital inclusion will thus contribute in many different ways to social inclusion.

Table 7.5 Perceived changes in the family/individual as a result of internet use – User respondents

However, only 8.7% stated that the internet had provided them more knowledge about local issues and facilities, pointing perhaps to the absence of local and hyper-local content that these users would find relevant to their lives.

Just 8% of users said they found the internet useful in finding out about government benefits and services such as Aadhar cards, voter cards, policies and schemes for the economically and socially-excluded. This indicates that government at all levels – local, state and central – cannot expect its Digital India and e-governance initiatives to simply trickle down to excluded communities.

Qualitative interactions with user respondents revealed additionally that users believed that the internet enhanced their knowledge of the English language and improved their communication skills (Box 7.1). Some users specifically mentioned that the net gave them a sense of freedom and independence because they had a ready source of information on any subject they needed to know about and were no longer dependent on their families for every bit of information. Women reported using the net for information on healthcare, beauty treatments, fashion, cooking and tailoring as well as for information necessary for their children’s school projects. Men were also found to be using the internet for small businesses. Carpenters and upholsterers reported downloading furniture designs, drivers have turned entrepreneurs thanks to the internet-enabled radio cabs that have been introduced in the city, and DJs and dancers are learning their craft online and uploading their creative outputs on the internet. Many of these case studies have been recorded by CCDS and are available on netpehchaan.in as stories or short films.

Box 7.1: Perceived benefits of the internet

The internet tells you about fashion, hairstyles and improves your communication. The way you speak changes. The internet certainly changes the way you think. It also gives you more confidence.

(Female internet user, 28, educated up to Standard 10, homemaker)

I have got a lot of knowledge from the internet, and the confidence that I can do things. Not everything, but I do feel I can do more things… I got to learn English because everything is in English if one does a search. My reading and writing improved. Earlier I couldn’t speak much English but when I started using the internet I learnt some English… I think in the future everything will be online – including education… Exams too will be online.

(Male internet user, 20, unmarried, third-year Bachelor of Computer Applications student

SOCIAL SUPPORT AS ENABLER

Among non-users who had heard of the internet, 73% said that they intended to use the internet in the future. However, when asked if the family would be supportive of their internet use, only 76% (of non-users who intended to use the internet in future) reported that they expected family support. Among the users, 80% had support from their families to use the internet, but a significant 19% said that either the family did not know about their internet use or that they did not have the support of their families (Figure 7.1). Nearly 57% of users sought help from friends when facing problems with internet use. Only 11% of users sought help from family members. They also reported seeking help from cybercafé managers (Table 7.6).

Figure 7.1 Family support for using internet (% of user respondents, n=564)

Table 7.6 Support for internet use (% of user respondents, n=564)

ENABLING FACTORS REPORTED BY INTERNET USERS

The CCDS survey asked users for their views on the special factors they felt had enabled them to go online.

Both men and women reported that having ICT skills, knowledge of English and being educated were enablers. Seventy-one percent of female internet users reported that having ICT skills was an enabler and 55.5% stated that having an education was an enabler.

Figure 7.2 Enablers for internet use (% of user respondents, n=564)

Fifty-one percent of men said that having a personal mobile phone or other internet-accessible device was an enabler. Fewer women than men reported a personal device as an enabler, but 37.7% of the female users said this was a factor that helped them get online.

Around 20% of users pointed out that the availability of internet at home was an enabler. Only 16% reported economic status as an enabler.

ENABLING INFRASTRUCTURE

A whopping 97% of respondents – users and non-users combined – stated they would like to have a public internet access point within their settlement. Nearly all of them agreed that the facility should be located in a public space within the settlement (Table 7.7). The respondents felt that public internet facilities were especially important given the problems associated with getting a wired internet connection. Table 7.8 shows the preferred public access points: 51% said they would like it to be located in the anganwadi or corporator’s office or community hall. Others suggested a separate space inside the settlement.

Table 7.7 Need for internet facility (Users and non-users)

Table 7.8 Preferred public internet access point (non-users who have heard of internet, n=502)

FUTURE TRENDS

Awareness is a significant barrier in internet access. It is evident (see Figure 7.3 below) that those under 25 years are most likely to have heard of the internet even though they might not be using it. The percentage of non-users who have heard of the internet and those who are completely unaware (who have not even heard of the internet) gets reversed in the under-25 and the over-25 age-groups. This indicates that the task of raising awareness about the internet might need to be focused more on the older age-groups.

Figure 7.3 Awareness of the internet among non-users by age-groups (n=1,070)

In the study settlements, it is the youth (below 25 years of age) who constitute the greatest number of internet users. This can be seen across all socioeconomic groups (Figure 7.4 to Figure 7.7). A significantly higher number of women under 25 years are online, compared to women over 25. Even among other groups that have shown a lower proportion of users, such as persons with no/primary education, those not working and those from the lower wealth quintiles, the proportion of users under 25 is much higher than in the above-25 age-groups.

Figure 7.4 Internet users by gender (% of user respondents, n=564)

Figure 7.5 Internet users by education (% of user respondents, n=564)

Figure 7.6 Internet users by occupation (% of user respondents, n=564)

Figure 7.7 Internet users by wealth quintile (% of user respondents, n=564)

Figure 7.8 Perceived changes as a result of internet use (youth below 25 years)

 Attitudes of the younger generation towards the internet are also very positive. Figure 7.8 shows the attitudes and perceptions of youth towards the internet. A large proportion say it has helped them network and make social contacts. It has also improved the quality of their entertainment. More than 30% feel that the internet can help in confidence and personality development, a factor that is very important for these young people who are socially excluded not only by virtue of living in slums but also because they have little education, economic means and, in many cases, because they belong to a marginalised community.

Box 7.2 Subjects in the Network Society

A detailed study of internet access among young men in low-income Pune settlements illustrates how the net is used to break through several levels of social exclusion

Eyes firmly fixed on the skyline of the expanding metropolis, replete with mobile cranes hovering over under-construction towers, Sanjay1 lets his thoughts wander. ‘I would often check the list of India’s richest people online,’ he says, as he turns his attention to the ill-kept stadium where kids hang out doing nothing in particular. ‘One day I came across a write-up on Bruce Lee, who was once among the world’s richest people. It described how Lee had decided to distribute all his wealth to the needy instead of giving it to his son. That set me thinking… What is the use of amassing a lot of wealth?’ he says, slipping his Micromax A27 phone into the pocket of his trousers and gesturing to me that it is time to leave.

Sanjay works as an AutoCAD designer at a gear-manufacturing unit in the MIDC industrial area in Bhosari, part of the Pimpri-Chinchwad municipality. At 27, he has none of the trappings of most other men his age in the settlement. He does not seem overly concerned with his appearance; in fact, in his ill-fitting shirt and trousers he is a far cry from the jeans-and-T-shirt culture that seems to have overtaken his counterparts. His hair is oiled and combed in place, and he sports a moustache that belongs to the ’80s.

Sanjay’s foray into cyberspace began at a time when mobile phones were becoming a common sight in various parts of the country. Over the last decade, the mobile phone has played a pivotal role in enabling the ‘common man’ to access the net. All 18 men interviewed at length for this report accessed the internet primarily on their mobile phones. Only two of them had another device connected to the internet at home. A few were able to access the net on their office computers, but were reluctant to do so owing to privacy issues.

While most entrants to the online world in the last three or four years started by using a smartphone, those who adopted the technology earlier went to cybercafés. Sanjay, who moved to Pune after finishing his secondary education in a village near Solapur, recalls his first visit to a cybercafé clearly: ‘My uncle’s son was visiting Pune and suggested we go to a cybercafé. I went with him and got hooked… Those days Yahoo was popular. I created an account. My cousin showed me how to chat and I befriended a woman abroad on Yahoo Messenger. I would figure out whether she was online by looking for the green dot. We would chat often, but in Hindi2… If I had the money, I would spend the entire day at the cybercafé.’

Yogesh, who works as an administrator in the corporator’s office in Sanjay’s settlement, also began his online journey via Yahoo Messenger: ‘Back in 2002, I would visit the cybercafé to play computer games, and learnt how to use the internet by looking at others around me. Almost immediately, I started chatting on Yahoo Messenger. It felt very good.’

The pull of the internet for these men was curiosity and novelty. More than a decade on, although both factors remain important, the vehicles youngsters in low-income settlements choose to journey into the online space have changed. Kishore, a 17-year-old school dropout who helps his uncle run a mobile-repair-cum-download shop in the same settlement, says his first brush with the net was via Facebook. ‘I would keep hearing friends talk about Facebook, and tried opening the site on my Nokia C1, sometime in 2012. I got so hooked that I would initially spend four to five hours every day on it.’ He has as many as four Facebook accounts.

Bollywood was another avenue through which young people were introduced to the net. Suraj from Pune’s Aundh area says he would spend all his pocket money at the cybercafé when he was in Class 7 (in 2007), downloading Bollywood songs and videos: ‘I would get bored at home as I was not interested in studies. The internet was a good way of passing time, and I would regularly download songs and videos and copy them onto a pen drive… Once I got a mobile phone, in Class 8, I created a Facebook account and would chat with girls all night long.’

Although entertainment – be it Yahoo Messenger, Facebook, songs or pornography – was the entry point into the virtual world for most of these men, they soon tired of it. Says Kishore, who helps customers create Facebook accounts for a fee at his uncle’s shop in the settlement: ‘Within four to five months, I lost interest in chatting on Facebook as there was nothing much to chat about.’ Others too described a similar ebbing of interest in the entertainment aspect, but to varying degrees and at various points in time.

What is clear, however, is that these initial encounters marked the beginning of a journey – a journey into the world of ‘net packs’, ‘selfies’, ‘profile pictures’, ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘shares’. Today, their lives encompass the real and the virtual: ‘life’ is captured on screen, and from the screen flows ‘life’. Sociologist Manuel Castells refers to this as the ‘network society’: a society ‘built around microelectronics-based information technologies’3 (Castells 2005); a society where conversations among friends in the neighbourhood happen via WhatsApp, and face-to-face conversations revolve around jokes shared on this messenger service.

Real virtuality in the network society

What characterises the network society, says Manuel Castells, is ‘real virtuality’. ‘We live in a culture of not virtual reality but real virtuality because our virtuality – meaning internet networks – is a fundamental part of our reality,’ he says in an interview4 (Mason, 2012).

My interactions with young people in the basti bear out this notion that internet networks are a fundamental part of their reality. For Suraj, Facebook is the repository of truth: the images he shares via the social networking platform stand testimony to his relationship with a girl. The girl’s brothers can’t deny that their sister is in a relationship they’re opposed to on religious grounds because the ‘proof is on the net’.

In the same settlements there are middle-aged men who use the internet for just one purpose: to check the results of matka5. They gather at the tea stall every evening, and get a youngster with a smartphone to check the results from URLs written on tiny chits of paper.

Reality, here, is immersed in the virtual, in line with Castells’ concept. While explaining how the network society operates as a ‘cultural system’ characterised by real virtuality, the sociologist writes: ‘Real virtuality is a system in which reality itself (that is people’s material/symbolic existence) is entirely captured, fully immersed in a virtual image setting, in the world of make-believe, in which appearances are not just on the screen through which experience is communicated, but they become the experience’6 (Castells, 2000: 404).

This appearance-experience conundrum was apparent in the conversation I had with a group of young boys in a Kondhwa settlement. The discussion took place in a Buddha Vihar, where the boys hang out. Barring a core group of six boys, others kept streaming in and out of the conversation, in this community space.

Life’s on screen

Satish, in his mid-20s, took the lead in narrating the story while the rest chipped in with minor details, amply demonstrating that everyone was aware of the story and its contours, and was enjoying the narration.

‘We have a friend, and he had fallen in love with a girl a few years ago. He proposed to her, but the girl responded with a casteist slur; she made it clear that since she was a Maratha she did not want to associate with a dalit. Our friend was very upset and vowed revenge. He got a young man he knows to woo the girl and have sex with her. One day this man shot their sexual encounter on his mobile phone. He had placed it on the table in such a way that it would record everything. You could see everything in the video.’ The video was later used by a third man to manipulate the girl. It had obviously gone public.

The story and its narration raises a host of issues, including the extent to which reality is immersed in a virtual setting. It’s clear that the internet has become ‘so comprehensive, so diversified, so malleable that it absorbs in the same multimedia text the whole of human experience: past, present, future,’7 (Castells 2000: 404).

This hybridity of appearance-experience, so characteristic of the network society, was apparent in the lives of other respondents too. For Tarun, a resident of another Kondhwa settlement, tweaking appearances (virtual image-setting) is a means of ensuring a better experience (reality). Tarun describes himself as a student on Facebook, though in reality he works at a shop in the neighbourhood. His reason for this is simple: it draws in many more women.

‘If I were to state that (I work in a furniture shop) on Facebook, the friend requests I get would cease to come my way, and the requests I send would not be accepted. Girls like to associate themselves with students – that’s why I have called myself a student on Facebook.’

Tarun realises that a better appearance leads to a better experience. Therefore, he ensures his style quotient is in place in every picture he uploads on Facebook: he wears a pair of aviator glasses and, during one of our meetings, talked about how he ensures that every new pair of glasses resembles the earlier one.

After a recent visit to Goa, Tarun changed his WhatsApp profile picture to one that showed him sitting beside a bikini-clad fair-skinned foreigner. For the self-confessed Casanova, this is as much an act of bravado as it is a way of enticing female friends into conversation. Flirting, says Tarun, is almost impossible without the internet, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp.

Once conversation is initiated on one of the platforms, the fact that it is not ‘real’ gives him some elbow room. Tarun says: ‘The internet allows you to be daring. You can say what you want – I like this and that about you – without fearing a reaction because the girls to whom you say it do not know you and may be living far away… The first step, once you find someone you like, is to check whether the account is fake or real. Once this is done, I send them a friend request, and, upon acceptance, start chatting with them. Then I take their number and connect with them on WhatsApp. From here, the road to meeting them and calling them to places of your choice is easy. The trick is to say good things about the girls; saying good things brings the girls closer. Then you can call them to meet you in the garden or the college or some other place, and you can do what you want.’

Very little of this activity – of connecting with girls and flirting – is visible on Tarun’s Facebook timeline though. He says he uses Facebook Messenger to go about his flirtations, since it allows for privacy. ‘If we don’t use Messenger, those who know us would get to know about our activities. People around us may start blabbing about it,’ he says by way of explanation, making it amply clear that activities in the online world are tempered by the effect they may have on real people, in real situations. In other words, the network society works around already existing hierarchies and power equations.

This is evident in the words of Arun, a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party worker who lives in the same Kondhwa settlement, a couple of lanes away: ‘The local corporator is an upper-caste person, and I am generally wary about criticising his work on social media. This is because he may take it as an affront: how can a person from a lower caste publicly criticise someone who sits far higher in the caste hierarchy?’

Arun’s wariness about commenting on the upper-caste corporator’s work shows how conscious he is that caste does in fact play a role even in the virtual image setting. While this consciousness may have limited the benefits the MNS worker can draw from the internet, there is little doubt that access has widened his horizons.

‘I had recently organised an eye camp in the locality, and had put up information about it on Facebook. The number of people who attended the camp shot up considerably. I had people telling me that they received word about the camp when their children told them about it after seeing the post on Facebook…The internet helped me take my social work to a much larger group of people.’

For those like Arun, the ability to reach out to greater numbers of people without relying on traditional media networks is one of the major positives of the internet. In the words of Castells (2005 p 38) again: ‘As the network society diffuses, and new communication technologies expand their networks, there is an explosion of horizontal networks of communication, quite independent from media business and governments, which allows the emergence of what I call self-directed mass communication. It is mass communication because it is diffused throughout the internet, so it potentially reaches the whole planet. It is self-directed because it is often initiated by individuals or groups by themselves, bypassing the media system.’8

This expansion of one’s reach, however, does not bypass some of the deep-set hierarchies and divisions in society, as mentioned above, although few are aware of hierarchies being a factor online. Suraj from Aundh confesses that although he considers the internet a repository of truth, his online activities are measured, as he does not want to offend those in ‘superior’ positions in his everyday life.

In a complicated relationship with a girl from another religious community, Suraj says:  ‘Her family is opposed to our relationship and has sent her off to a relative’s place so that she does not get a chance to meet me. I have uploaded our picture on the site as it is proof of our relationship. The presence of the picture (he’s ensured her face is not revealed) in a public forum means that her family, especially her brothers, cannot deny our relationship among friends and relatives present on Facebook.’

The fact that Suraj is a dalit is at the centre of the girl’s family’s reluctance to agree to the relationship. ‘People here have a very bad habit of telling the family things like, “See what your girl is doing. The boy is from Jai Bhim. This is not right”,’ he explains.

It is this aspect that prevents him from revealing his girlfriend’s face in the pictures: if he did this the entire neighbourhood would come to know that a dalit boy was in a relationship with a girl from another community. Hence, a paradox: Suraj must use the internet to claim the ‘truth’ about his relationship, but at the same time he cannot reveal who exactly he is in a relationship with for fear of overturning strong social hierarchies.

The logic of the network

The network society is characterised by information flows via microelectronics-based networks. This information flow, the logic of the network society, affects even those who are not online.

This was borne out in a discussion I had with a group of youngsters in Bhosari. The conversation revolved around Ajit, a youth in his late-20s who works as a designer with a private firm. Ajit is a self-proclaimed critic of the internet and is famous in his locality for destroying the smartphones of friends and relatives, as he believes they spend way too much time on them at the cost of face-to-face contact. In so believing, he is only confirming himself as a member of the network society.

‘Kids these days get exposed to all kinds of things because of the internet. There is a proper age for everything, but the internet has broken all that down. Kids in Class 2 or 3 can now access pornography, and people are only keen on looking for useless things online. They search for ways to make money illegally… they search for information on Dawood Ibrahim… for photos and trivia about Bollywood heroines. They don’t bother to look for information about APJ Abdul Kalam, or about how Sachin (Tendulkar) reached where he did.’

Ajit’s argument about the damaging effects of the internet – of the lack of control over what children are exposed to at an improper age – flags one of Castells’ main arguments about the network society: that it breaks down previous hierarchies, as people move from communicating within vertical organisations (like the church and the office) to horizontal networks of communication.

The conversation with Ajit happened at a roadside tea stall, and the lack of a controlled environment meant that anybody who dropped in to have a cup of tea or exchange pleasantries or try their hand at a game of cards chipped in. Soon, passersby were putting in their two bits about the internet.

Rather than disturbing the conversation, however, it threw up some interesting information. People spoke about how the practice of matka has been transformed by the internet. The placing of bets was now possible online, but for that one needed to visit a vendor located far away. The inhabitants of Bhosari preferred buying ‘actual’ tickets locally. But they relied heavily on the internet for the results. A man in his mid-30s, who was sipping tea at the stall, put it like this: ‘The results of different games are announced at specific timings. Earlier, we would have to go to the vendor, whose shop is far away. These days, one person checks the results on the website and informs the others. Many of us do not have smartphones; we rely on the select few who do. They help us get the results in no time.’

Others at the shop had similar things to say. Most had never accessed the internet, yet were immersed in the information flows characteristic of the network society. If these older men (most were over 30) had more time and money to spare, gambling would probably be their point of entry into the online world.

Catalyst of upward mobility

For most respondents, knowing English, or not knowing it, proved crucial in their negotiation with the net. In these circles, as in most parts of the country, knowledge of English is aspirational and is seen as key to moving several notches up the socioeconomic order. The areas in and around the three settlements where this study was conducted sport several makeshift hoardings and posters advertising spoken English courses.

Yogesh mentioned how lack of knowledge of English was a detriment in the early days of accessing the internet. He explains how he would access the net with a friend who knew English by his side, as he wasn’t able to understand what was written on the web pages. This aspect is highlighted in Sanjay’s comment about gauging if a person was online by looking for the ‘green dot’ (denoting the online status). In the absence of knowledge of English, respondents often figure out commonsensical ways of working around the net. Over time though, this changed and they began understanding the language better.

Sitting on the terrace of one of the boys’ homes, a few days before Diwali, with crackers going off all around, one young man, Rajesh, explains how this came about. ‘We did not know English well some years ago and would make innumerable spelling mistakes. But then I realised that once you start typing a word on the internet, the rest of the word appears beneath it. For instance, if I type ‘wh’, the internet completes the rest of the word, like ‘what’ or ‘where’. This has helped us improve our English spelling.’

Rajesh’s friend Salil, a 17-year-old boy, elaborates, helped along by Akshay: ‘Earlier, we did not know the meaning of words like “comment” and “share”. But we kept seeing these words on Facebook. Over time, looking at the context in which they were appearing, we began to understand what they meant; as a result, when someone uses these words in everyday conversation, we know exactly what they mean. We also use these now as part of our conversations.’

Tarun adds that the word ‘notification’ was unheard of before Facebook came into the picture. ‘Initially, we were at a loss when we saw the word. But then we understood that it appeared when someone posted something or commented on something. It told us something new had happened on our or our friends’ Facebook page.’

This knowledge of English has enabled them to use the language in posts on Facebook and WhatsApp, although such posts don’t really fare too well as far as grammatical correctness goes. Comprehension too is sometimes difficult for the researcher. For instance, a young man who helps his parents run a tea stall in Bhosari, posted this message on WhatsApp: ‘What happens ur not cam to what’s online… so by friend…’

Most of the time, they use functional words like ‘hi’, ‘hello’, ‘chill’ and ‘great’ in their online activities. Their Facebook posts, primarily in Marathi typed in the Roman script, are peppered with these words, reflecting how the internet aids partial knowledge of the English language.

Of late, some have started visiting e-commerce sites. Krishna mentions how his bank account is internet-enabled, and how sometimes friends use it to pay for stuff online. ‘I recently ordered a pair of goggles on Flipkart,’ he says.

The goggles are perhaps Krishna’s way of fitting into a society that has traditionally excluded people like him. Being low-caste, from a community of waste-pickers, and a slum-dweller, has meant various levels of exclusion. That pair of goggles may have helped break some of the barriers.

~ Aritra Bhattacharya

Endnotes

1. All names changed to protect the interviewees’ privacy

2. Sanjay did not know English then, though he now has rudimentary knowledge of the language

3. ‘So, what is actually new, both technologically and socially, is a society built around microelectronics-based information technologies. To which I add biological technologies based on genetic engineering, as they also refer to the decoding and recoding of the information of the living matter.’ Manuel Castells in ‘Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint’ in The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, edited by Manuel Castells. Page 7

4. See http://www.bbc.com/news/business-20027044. Retrieved on November 11, 2014, 2:50 am

5. Illegal gambling, prevalent in parts of Maharashtra

6. Castells, M (2000), The Rise of the Network Society. Vol 1, 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell. P 404

7. Castells, M (2000), The Rise of the Network Society. Vol 1, 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell. P 404

8. Castells, M (2005), ‘The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy’. In Castells, M and Cardoso, G (eds). The Network Society: From Knowledge to Policy, Washington, DC: Center for Transatlantic Relations, Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Available at: http://www.umass.edu/digitalcenter/research/pdfs/JF_ NetworkSociety.pdf

SUMMARY

There is a strong aspiration to go online amongst non-users in the study settlements. The majority of respondents – users and non-users alike – stated that the internet was as important for them as any other basic amenity such as electricity or water supply.

To address infrastructure gaps in internet access, respondents voted overwhelmingly in favour of public access points in their settlements.

Asked what factors enabled them to become internet users, respondents pointed to the importance of being educated, having ICT skills, and having access to a personal mobile or internet within the household.

Users also said that the internet had made changes to their lives. It helped them network and build social contacts, gave them new avenues for entertainment, and boosted their confidence and personality. However, less than 10% reported any use of e-governance services, any impact on growing their business or livelihood or any enhanced knowledge of local issues and problems through the internet.

There are clear indications that greater numbers of younger internet users (under-25) are overcoming barriers of gender, education and economic deprivation to get online.

In the next chapter, we examine the efforts of the state and civil society to make Pune a digitally inclusive city.