GUWAHATI: Smartphone availability at home for schoolchildren has doubled to 71% during the Covid pandemic in Assam and for the two northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland it went up to 92% this year. But their access to smartphones for purposes of study remains a concern. For more than half of the schoolchildren, smartphones are available sometimes or not accessible at all.
This was revealed in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 published on Wednesday, covering 581 districts across 25 states and three Union Territories in the country.
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In the five northeastern states, where the survey was conducted, the smartphones were available at homes of 36.1% of the surveyed children of Assam in 2018. The corresponding figure in Manipur went up to 92.9% in 2021 from 53.4% in 2018. In Nagaland also smartphones were available with 92.9% children at home in 2021, though the same was 50% in 2018. For Meghalaya, the corresponding figures were 41.3% (2018) and 77.9% (2021) respectively.
In Assam, 51.4% of the surveyed children got access to smartphones for purposes of study sometimes, whereas for 22.9% it was not accessible despite being available at home. In Manipur, 39.9% got access only sometimes and for 24.5% it was not accessible. The corresponding figures for Meghalaya were 34.2% and 30.7% respectively.
Interestingly, in Nagaland, 41% got access to smartphones sometimes, though only for a mere 3.8% it was inaccessible. In Arunachal Pradesh, 84.6% of the enrolled schoolchildren had smartphones at home in 2021. But 50.7% of them had access for study purposes sometimes, while it was not accessible for 19.9%. In Arunachal, which has a poor mobile network coverage in the vast hilly and mountainous terrain, only 57.3% children had smartphones at home in 2018.
Research manager of the study for Assam, Trishna Lekharu, told TOI that the demand for smartphones increased during Covid across India. “Although the number of houses with smartphones increased, the level of their availability for children’s studies was low. The good news is that the availability of smartphones can help the government in delivering smart education through the digital media,” she said.
ASER 2021 was a household rural survey conducted via phone. At an all India level, 67.6% children were found to have a smartphone at home.