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The Digital Divide

Author: Prajjwal R T

With the opulent 10% of Indians owning 80.7% of the country’s wealth, the raging pandemic is widening the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The persistent unequal distribution of wealth in India has augmented the employment crisis, with only the affluent ones gaining access to control the entire wealth of the nation. Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) cites a prototype that supports his central thesis that ‘the owners of capital accumulate wealth more quickly than those who provide labor’, an idea that revolves around an aphorism: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”

Nevertheless, the death by suicide of an LSR college(New Delhi) student- Aishwarya Reddy calls for a reckoning.

Aishwarya, in her distressing suicide note, wrote about how she was a burden to her family because of her education and stated that the family struggled to keep up with the digital world. The family had to mortgage their home in Telangana while her sister had to discontinue her studies, even after sending several requests to the college for financial assistance. This incidence, termed to be ‘an institutional murder’, has also sparked off the ‘digital divide’ in India. The 19-year-old who wrote “If I can’t study, I can’t live”, should be a grim reminder to society about the psychological tolls faced by the students amidst the global chaos.

The lack of devices and good internet connection has often drawn a fine line between the haves and the have-nots. The pandemic wave has proved to be a catastrophe for the students to cope-up with online education, be it the learning methods or the workload burdened upon them. While the government promises to bridge the gap by providing students with the necessary gadgets to encourage their studies, it has not yet swayed its hands over the weaker sections of the society, calling for surveillance on the working of its policies. While the privileged ones had a smooth transition, people living in remote areas have a different story to tell. As a student myself, there were various occasions where I encountered issues regarding an unstable internet connection, despite residing in a city claimed to be known as Silicon Valley of India. 

With classrooms and social hubs where one could meet and share their little experiences with their peers being cordoned off, it has not only been tough for the students but, for the faculty and staff members as well. Online classes have become a tool to harass teachers, thus making the advantaged look flagrant, despite having access to all the privileges. Something which we believe to be meager can prove to be dear to others.

Speaking of this topic, I would recommend you all to watch Rora Kennedy’s documentary  ‘Without a Net’ which explores the digital split in America, highlighting how the economically deprived sections tackled it and the measures which were taken to provide parity to one and all. In the wake of the pandemic, the digital divide has brought all underdeveloped areas of society in the field of education to a standstill and in-turn, reducing the opportunities to shape their careers. Even though the Digital India campaign launched by PM Modi in the year 2015 focuses on busting digital inequality, the main motive of the program is still striving hard to cater to the needs of everyone.

change Technology Uncategorised

5G: Boon or Bane

Author: Abhinav Gorantla

When the 5th Generation of mobile communication and networking was introduced in early 2020, it grabbed a lot of attention. With 5G, augmented reality can be made possible in real-time. Remotely operated robotic surgeons can be used for healthcare in areas where good healthcare can’t be provided. Search and rescue missions can be carried out by swarms of drones combing the disaster-prone area. 5G can bring speed of around 10 Gigabits per second to your phone. This is more than 600 times the typical 4G speed. This means that you can download games from Steam in under 20 seconds and a 4K movie in 25 seconds.

But the catch is that 5G networks will have very less network coverage. This is because of the high-frequency waves 5G networks will be using. The lack of range can be considered as a trade-off for the very high download speed the network can offer. 5G networks when brought into the mainstream would require a network tower every 500 meters. In contrast, a 4G GSM tower can provide connectivity to devices in an 80,000-meter radius. The low range of 5G networks can be attributed to the very high-frequency waves 5G uses to provide high-speed internet. Increase in frequency of radio waves also increases the energy irradiated during propagation and dampens the wave. Added to this setback is the fact that 5G frequency is interrupted by physical obstructions such as trees, towers, buildings and walls. The very high download speeds and lower latency are the only positives of replacing 4G with 5G networks. The trade-offs for the aforementioned advantages include lower connectivity range, very high operational costs and health disorders.

There has been speculation about the ill effects 5G can have on human health and the environment in general since it was first introduced. The prime cause for this speculation is the fact that 5G uses millimetre waves which lie in the 30GHz to 300GHz range. As discussed earlier this compels the telecom companies to exponentially increase the number of cell towers. Most of these are low-profile antennas rather than full-blown cell towers. Skin and in particular sweat ducts have the capability of absorbing energy with radio frequencies in the range 6GHz to 100GHz. This has the potential to increase the occurrence of Melanoma (cancer of the skin) in humans. A 2018 study conducted by the researchers associated with the renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy announced that a large-scale lifetime study of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer. A $25 million study of much higher levels of cell phone radio frequency radiation (analogous to 5G radiations), from the US National Toxicology Program, has also reported finding the same unusual form of heart cancer called Schwannoma in male rats. Increase in malignant brain tumours was observed in female rats.

With such long term health consequences which may be fatal eventually, is 5G speed worth the risk? Use of 5G networks must be limited to emergency disaster response and healthcare applications until proper research is done to assess the damage millimetre waves can do to the environment. For areas where wired connections can be used, optical fibre-based broadband internet can replace 5G networks.