‘Accessibility barrier’: Centre asked to clarify how urban-rural gap in vaccine drive be bridged

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Pointing towards the digital divide in rural and urban India when it comes to Covid-19 vaccination, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to explain how it is going to overcome this through the CoWin app, used for booking slots.

“A vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal for vaccinating a significant population of this country between the ages of 18 and 44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunisation owing to such a digital divide. It is the marginalised sections of the society who would bear the brunt of this accessibility barrier,” the order stated, pointing out that CoWIN is not accessible to persons with visual disabilities, and that accessibility barriers should be addressed. 

The bench cited the “Household Social Consumption: Education” conducted by the National Statistics Office (July 2017-June 2018) to highlight that around 4 per cent of rural households and 23 per cent of urban households possess a computer.

Further, in the age group of 15-29, around 24 per cent in rural households and 56 per cent in urban areas are able to operate a computer. It additionally showcases that 24 per cent of the households in the country had internet access during the survey year.

It cited more data showing that out of a population of 1.3 billion, only 578 million in India (less than 50 per cent) have a subscription to wireless data services. Also, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam have a tele-density of less than 75 per cent.

The order from the three-judge bench further states that there exists a digital divide in India, particularly between rural and urban areas. Also, the extent of advances made in improving digital literacy and digital access falls short of penetrating the majority of the population in the country.

Explanation sought on… 

  • Not feasible for majority of population to rely on friends/NGOs for digital registrations over CoWIN
  • Overcrowding may also arise at CSCs in rural areas where people would have to visit constantly in hope of a vaccine slot opening up
  • Certain vaccination centres may be earmarked for on-site registrations for the population aged between 18 and 44 years
  • CoWIN site and other applications like Aarogya Setu be made available in regional languages
  • Conducting a disability audit for the CoWIN website and applications like Aarogya Setu to ensure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities



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