India’s digital-centric vaccination strategy excludes the most vulnerable
Of the 376 million Covid-19 vaccine doses that India had administered as of July 12, men had received 202 million, while women had received only 175 million. This gender gap in vaccine rollout exceeds the extent to which men outnumber women in the population, and is due to a number of factors, including the methods by which people can access vaccines. India is largely relying on digital tools to allocate vaccines, and men have greater digital access than women. Our analysis of survey data shows that India’s digital divide operates along lines of class as well as gender, putting the poor and women at greater risk.
To this point, any adult must use one of three digital portals – Aarogya Setu, Umang, or Cowin – to register for a vaccination appointment. These are meant to triage potential vaccine recipients, increasing efficiency and providing real-time information both to citizens (on vaccine availability and appointments) and the government (on vaccination progress). Older adults (age 45+) can receive vaccinations through on-site registration, but need a phone number to complete the registration process.
Pre-registration requires access to a smartphone or Internet, and sufficient digital fluency to set up a username and password, navigate through a timed, texted PIN verification process, and upload documents to the portal. Borrowing someone’s smartphone to register is complicated because the app does not allow anyone to register more than four individuals per ID – so larger households will require multiple user IDs.