Decoding Inequality in a Digital World

Technological changes in education and health are worsening inequities.

Virginia Eubanks’ widely acclaimed book, Automating Inequality, alerted us to the ways that automated decision-making tools exacerbated inequalities, especially by raising the barrier for people to receive services they are entitled to. The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technologies in India, even for essential services such as health and education, where access to them might be poor.

Economic inequality has increased: people whose jobs and salaries are protected, face no economic fallout. The super-rich have even become richer (the net worth of Adani has increased). The bulk of the Indian population, however, is suffering a huge economic setback. Several surveys conducted over the past 12 months suggest widespread job losses and income shocks among those who did not lose jobs.

Worse than the immediate economic setback is that well-recognised channels of economic and social mobility — education and health — are getting rejigged in ways that make access more inequitable in an already unequal society.

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