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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 4th April, 2017

  • April 4, 2017
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs April 2017, IASbaba's Daily News Analysis, National, Science and Technology, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 4th April 2017

Archives

SOCIAL ISSUE

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

Disability-inclusive development and digital push

Introduction

Digital revolution started in India from late 1990s with the IT boom. Governance also took to digitalization with major programmes like National e-governance plan and Digital India. As India catapults towards a digital economy, making ICT accessible to the disabled is a must.  For an inclusive and sustainable governance paradigm disability inclusion should be fundamental to the same.

Issue:

Around 8-10% of India does population lives with disabilities, with an equal number constitute the aged.

  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential to significantly impact the lives of these groups, facilitating access of services available to them and allowing them to handle a wide range of activities independently, enhancing their social, cultural, political and economic participation.
    • Making ICT accessible no longer remains an option but has become a necessity.
    • Poor accessibility due to lack of focused information and political will has led to social exclusion of people with disabilities, exacerbating the negative impact of the existing digital divide.
  • The new call for action of disability rights activists now is “Cause No Harm”, thus ensuring future generations are not excluded from mainstream activities due to a hostile infrastructure.
  • This assumes a greater thrust given the unprecedented developmental activity in the country under the various missions launched by the present government, such as the Smart Cities Mission and Digital India.
  • Accessibility for disabled people is a cross-cutting theme across all of these and care must be taken to ensure disability-inclusive development.

Accessibility as a link

Incorporation of accessibility principles across all new developments will also complement the Accessible India Campaign

  • The flagship campaign launched by the Prime Minister on World Disability Day which aims at achieving universal accessibility for all citizens and creating an enabling and barrier-free environment.
  • India was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    • The recently passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates adherence to standards of accessibility for physical environment, transportation, information and communications, including appropriate technologies and systems, and other facilities and services provided to the public in urban and rural areas.
    • These include government and private developments.
    • The Act also mandates incorporation of Universal Design principles while designing new infrastructure, electronic and digital media, consumer goods and services.
    • Most importantly, the Act sets timelines to ensure implementation of the above and punitive action in the event of non-compliance.

Accessibility and Government initiatives:

  • Accessibility therefore forms the common thread weaving together
    • The Accessible India Campaign, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, the Smart Cities Mission and the Digital India campaign to achieve the combined goal of creating an inclusive society that will allow for a better quality of life for all citizens, including persons with disabilities.
  • Beyond the social implications, accessibility makes for business and economic sense too.
    • If principles of Universal Design are incorporated at the design stage, cost implications are negligible.
    • Retrofitting, on the other hand, has huge cost implications.
    • Exclusion of persons with disabilities from education, employment and participation on account of a hostile infrastructure and inaccessible technology has huge economic implications.
  • UN agencies put this cost at around 7% of national GDP.
    • On the other hand, accessible services and business premises can broaden the customer base, increasing turnover and positively impacting the financial health and social brand of the company.
    • Recent research pegged the market size of different product categories needed by persons with disabilities in India at a whopping ?4,500 crore.
  • Disability is not an isolated issue.
    • It is cross-cutting and can impact everyone irrespective of caste, gender, age and nationality.
    • Thus ensuring a disability-sensitive development agenda across all ministries, sectors and causes becomes critical if growth has to be truly inclusive.
  • ‘Nothing about us without us’ assumes even greater significance in the current context.

The importance of synergy

As India catapults towards a cashless and digital economy and as human interface between service providers and end users gives way to digital, it becomes imperative to ensure accessibility for inclusion.

  • The government’s procurement policy too must mandate accessibility as a key criterion.
  • Adherence to the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines should be made mandatory while developing websites and mobile applications.
  • Also important is the synergy between various arms of the government.
    • The Smart Cities Mission focusses on comprehensive development leading to the convergence of other ongoing government programmes such as Make In India, Digital India, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), etc.
  • But the Accessible India Campaign does not even find a mention!
    • This is so when as many as 39 cities out of the 50 cities of the Accessible India Campaign are also among the shortlisted Smart Cities.
  • Much after Independence, there has been minimal change in the fortunes of India’s disabled population.

Conclusion:

As India catapults towards a cashless and digital economy and as human interface between service providers and end users gives way to digital, it becomes imperative to ensure accessibility for inclusion.

It becomes our collective responsibility to ensure inclusive development, one that engages all stakeholders through a pragmatic and judicious combination of interventions while effectively leveraging technology to ensure truly inclusive and sustainable development.

Connecting the dots:

  • As India moves towards a less cash and digital economy the need for an inclusive development is crucial. Elaborate the criticality of disability inclusive development agenda in this regard.


NATIONAL/SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

General Studies 3:

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Whether ‘Right to Internet’ is good idea or bad idea?

In News:

Kerala became the first state in the country to declare Internet access as a human right for every citizen just like food, education and water. The state budget has unveiled a project, which aims to provide internet connections free of cost to 20 lakh poor families and at subsidised rates to others.

The Kerala government feels that nobody in a country rapidly heading towards hassle-free governance and a cashless economy should be at pains to acquire the new-age technology.

The government plans to provide free Internet connections to people from economically backward sections, and at subsidised rates to others. It hopes to achieve 100% connectivity in a year’s time. At least one person of a family will be given access initially.

A tribal settlement in Malappuram was declared as the country’s first digital tribal colony last December. The district administration achieved this by training 100-odd families in carrying out cashless transactions.

High-speed internet connectivity is a basic right in most developed nations. In 2010, Sweden became the first country to make broadband Internet a legal right for every citizen. Canada followed suit last year, ensuring that every resident was entitled to Internet access at a minimum speed of 50 Mbps.

What is ‘Right to Internet’?

‘Right to Internet’ entails that all people must have access to broadband Internet, so they can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and speech. States, therefore, have the responsibility of ensuring that Net access is made available to them.

In 2016, the UN said that depriving people of Internet connectivity was a human rights violation running contrary to international law.

At present, Internet connectivity is a human right in Sweden, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, Estonia and Canada. According to a study conducted by Committee to Protect Journalists, the worst violator of this ‘right’ is North Korea (where only 4% of the population have Internet access) – followed by Myanmar, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, China and Pakistan. India ranks at 47.

Why the ‘right to Internet’ is a good idea?

In this increasingly digital age, where the government is on a mission to move towards a cashless economy and promote e-governance and digitisation, access to Internet is absolutely essential. Without basic access to the Internet, all digitisation initiatives will prove fruitless.

Right to Internet includes easy access of Internet services and this will boost economy, employment opportunities, financial inclusion, more inclusive growth, equality of opportunity, better service delivery and good governance etc.

Why the ‘right to Internet’ is a bad idea?

“Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself”. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.

‘Right to Internet’ enables the holder of the right to claim a good or a service against the state or someone else. These rights—or simply, entitlements—require fiscal allocations and hence are subject to budgetary constraints. In India, such rights include the right to work (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005), right to education (Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009), and right to food (National Food Security Act, 2013).

When legislated, supporters argue, Internet rights become justiciable and enable the citizens to demand better services from their governments. But justiciability works only in theory, not in practice. Non-provision of these rights can be justified on several grounds like budgetary constraints and fiscal prudence and no one in the government can be held accountable.

Right to internet would lead to centralization of internet as a commodity and not take into account ground realities of localities.

According to UN declaration, access to Internet as a basic human right, should consider two distinct issues –

  • the access of Internet services to people who cannot afford it currently, and
  • the disruption of Internet services for current users.

However, the latter can be covered under both the right to access information and the right to freedom of expression.

Conclusion:

The usefulness of the Internet cannot be overstated and the government should do everything possible to bridge the digital divide among its constituents. But declaring access to the Internet as a citizen’s right is not a defensible proposition.

Connecting the dots:

  • Internet access should be a basic human right. Do you agree with this view? Give arguments in favour of your answer.
  • Is the right to internet a good idea? Critically comment.

 

Assessment/Debate: Try to think on these lines

  • Is Internet access really all that fundamentally important, or are we simply exaggerating its importance having lost sight of a world without Internet?
  • Is the Internet comparable to other things that some people call “rights”, like the right to expression or the right to an education.
  • Or, should rights be defined more narrowly to include only those things that governments cannot take-away, instead of those things that government must provide?

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