Daily Editorial Analysis for 24th June 2021

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The gender technology gap has to end

Why in News

  • As the result of pandemic, the inequalities have again surfaced, one aspect stands out: access to technology has never been so crucial to ensuring public health and safety.
  • Around the world, information and access to health care have largely moved online, and those left behind face grave disadvantages.

Limited or no access

  • According to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimates, over 390 million women in low- and middle-income countries do not have Internet access.
  • South Asia has more than half of these women with only 65% owning a mobile phone.
  • In India, only 9% of women were reported to be using the Internet.
  • Recent local data revealed that nearly 17% more men than women have been vaccinated.
  • While improving awareness of how to access vaccination and help are crucial to protecting women, the mindset around digital technology and device ownership must also change.
  • In part, this is due to deeply held cultural beliefs: it is often believed that women’s access to technology will motivate them to challenge patriarchal societies.
  • There is also a belief that women need to be protected, and that online content can be dangerous for women/expose them to risks.
  • These gaps prevent women and LGBTQIA+ people from accessing critical services. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example, fewer women than men received the necessary information to survive COVID-19.
  • The concept of Feminism is beyond the ‘rights of women’. It means being inclusive, democratic, transparent, egalitarian, and offering opportunities for all. We can call it equality through innovation.
  • Feminist technology (sometimes called “femtech”) is an approach to technology and innovation that is inclusive, informed and responsive to the entire community with all its diversity.

 Steps to an equitable future

  • As part of the Generation Equality Forum in UN, the goal is to double the number of women and girls working in technology and innovation.
  • By 2026, the aim is to reduce the gender digital divide and ensure universal digital literacy, while investing in feminist technology and innovation to support women’s leadership as innovators.
  • Through digital empowerment programmes and partnerships such as EQUALS and International Girls in ICT Day led by UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union, we hope that more girls will choose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Hardly a neutral world

  • The supposedly neutral world of technology is full of examples of this: from video games to virtual assistants to the increasingly large dimensions of “handheld” smartphones, technology is not always made with everyone in mind.
  • Policy cannot solve this on its own, but the private sector can. Companies should not look at gender-equal technology solely from an altruistic perspective, but from a pragmatic one.
  • Women and girls are the largest consumer groups left out of technology and could be major profit drivers.
  • Other than apps, built-in features on mobile phones such as an emergency button connecting women to law enforcement if they face unwanted street harassment should also be considered.
  • We now have the opportunity to shape our future in a way that is more equal, diverse, and sustainable in the world of technology in the aftermath of the medical and socioeconomic devastation in the past year.


  • Now is the time to act. The right thing to do is also the smart thing to do.
  • Bringing an end to the gender technology gap will save lives and make livelihoods more secure. As a result, the next pandemic, once it arrives, may not be nearly as destructive. It can only lead to a better community and a better world for us all.

GS PAPER III          

India needs third generation reforms

Third Generation Reforms

  • In India’s development journey, two major policy departures stand out. In each case, there was an acceleration in growth, which then started petering out.
  • We are at a similar crossroads and it is time to usher in a third generation of reforms.

First Generation of Economic Reforms

  • The first generation of economic reforms took place soon after Independence.
  • This was based on planning and import substitution. India’s growth accelerated from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s.
  • This was followed by policy sclerosis, resulting in a growth downturn over an equivalent period till the late 1970s.

Second Generation of Economic Reforms

  • The second generation of economic reforms finally began in 1991.
  • India was finally catching up with the prevailing global predominant thinking on development strategy; an open economy market-oriented framework.
  • Fueled by higher savings and investment, the economy ascended to a higher growth path of around 7% annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
  • Industrial and export growth accelerated, along with a comfortable and stable external sector, and poverty reduced significantly.

Current Economic Scenario

  • Once again, the development engine started sputtering from the early 2010s. The slowdown is broad-based across all sectors. India’s economy, thus, needs a major reboot.
  • There has been an inadequate generation of quality employment for the increasing Indian labour force throughout the development process. There seems to have been almost no net generation of jobs over the past 15 years or so.
  • Today’s need is to promote employment-intensive export-oriented manufacturing, which will need continued openness and not increased protection.
  • But the key development failure, right through India’s history, has been inadequate attention to nutrition, health, and education.
  • This is hampering the employability of new entrants to the labour force as new economic activities require an increasing level of educational competence. Thus, the next generation of economic reforms needs a special resolve to deliver efficient public services, particularly nutrition and health services, primary and secondary schooling, a major quality upgrade of tertiary education, water supply and sanitation, other public infrastructure and urban development; all of these require enhanced State expenditure and technical competence and ability to deliver.
  • The absence of these services is hobbling the performance of the private sector. The main organizing principle of the second-generation reforms was freeing the private sector from myriad State controls. This process still needs to be pursued.
  • Consequently, reforms must focus on a similar empowerment of the public sector to deliver growth-enhancing public goods and services.
  • The public sector encompasses all levels of governments, from the local, state to national, and their entities which deliver public goods and services, and includes regulatory and standard-setting authorities. They all need to be strengthened.
  • The last 30 years have seen a private sector supply response to the increased demand for health, education and other services, reflecting the failure of their public provision in both quantity and quality.
  • The way forward is not so much to restrict this private provision, but to improve significantly both the quality of public services, leading to greater trust in the provision of these services, and their scale and quantity, to promote universal accessibility.
  • This would free up money in the hands of the less well-off for enhanced demand for growth. It is the government’s role to deliver public goods and services that only it can provide, and such services cannot and should not be privatized.
  • This cannot take place without a significant enhancement of the government’s technocratic competence and implementation capacity.
  • The availability of economic competence enabled the formulation of reforms at the macro level in 1991, and then their implementation.
  • The first condition for sustained growth is an enhancement of investment levels, both public and private. This would imply an overall increase in fiscal expenditure along with a shift in composition towards higher public investment for the delivery of public goods and services, which, in turn, would crowd in private investment rather than crowd it out.
  • But buoyancy in the tax-GDP ratio does not reflect the sustained growth in GDP of the past three decades. There must be focussed attention on increasing efficiency and compliance in tax revenue collection so that India’s overall tax-GDP ratio rises to levels consistent with comparable international experience, to finance the needed enhanced public expenditures.
  • The key departure from current received wisdom that I am making is to emphasise the role of the State in promoting economic growth.
  • Countries that have been most successful in maintaining high growth have done so by setting up growth-promoting governmental institutions to coordinate public investments, while also incentivizing the private sector
  • to invest for a growing, dynamic economy.
  • NITI Aayog needs to be strengthened to perform such a role.


  • The current government structure is not designed to take India to the next stage of development. The third generation of economic reforms must, therefore, focus on improving the government’s competence, both administrative and technical, at all levels.

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