Research Methodology

Chapter 2


This study explores internet penetration amongst low-income and socially-excluded urban populations and the barriers experienced by them in going online. There is very little information on the extent of digital exclusion amongst marginalised urban communities in India. This chapter presents the methodology adopted to collect the required information through semi-structured interviews, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, reportage and audio-visual documentation.


The study aims to understand internet access among people living in low-income urban settlements and the factors facilitating or inhibiting their access. It is based on the understanding that affordable, high-quality internet access should be viewed as a basic service. The study is expected to provide greater insight into the infrastructural, attitudinal and skill-development aspects of bringing socially-excluded populations online and enabling them to derive the benefits of digital inclusion. It proposes to recommend measures for the digital inclusion of low-income and marginalised urban populations.


Figure 2.1 Pune Urban Agglomeration

Source: Census of India, 2011, Administrative Atlas of Maharashtra, 2011
Map courtesy Dr Binod Kumar Singh, Senior Geographer,
Directorate of Census Operations, Uttar Pradesh

Study location

The city of Pune was chosen for the present study as it is one of the country’s fastest developing metropolises with a large and growing urban population. Much of this population lives in informal settlements or slums1. Slums under the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) were considered (see Figure 2.1). As in most cities, a large percentage of those who live in Pune’s informal settlements belong to socially-excluded communities2 including those from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and religious minorities.

However, they house a fairly wide cross-section of income groups, from the poorest of the poor to upwardly-mobile families who could be better defined as lower-middle class or even middle class. (Respondents of our survey are divided into five wealth quintiles.) Census 2011 also reveals that Pune’s burgeoning slum population is relatively better-off in terms of basic amenities and possession of assets as compared to the rest of urban India and Maharashtra. These communities are therefore in a position to aspire to use new information and communication technologies (ICT) including the internet. The city and study locations are discussed in detail in Chapter 3.

Profile of study sites

As part of the formative study, literature on urban poverty in India, Maharashtra and Pune was reviewed. The relevant official records were studied, including the first Census of India Survey of Housing Stock, Amenities & Assets in Slums (2011), the Census of India (2011) and the Slum Atlas of Pune (2011). The Slum Atlas is based on a survey by the international non-profit CHF International3 in partnership with the Pune-based NGO Maharashtra Social Housing and Action League (MASHAL) and the PMC’s department of urban community development. Other documents studied include maps and reports from MASHAL and from another Pune-based NGO, Shelter Associates. The PMC’s Environment Status Report (2012-13) was also studied. Interviews were conducted with researchers who have been studying poverty and urban planning in Pune. Insights were also gained from interactions with institutions and organisations working on issues related to urban poverty in Pune.

Forty settlements were shortlisted from 477 slums in the PMC documented in the Slum Atlas to include well-established and old settlements as well as relatively recent ones, settlements with diverse ethnic, caste and religious composition, diverse economic strata, and topographical features that might impact internet connectivity and use. Similarly, seven settlements were selected from 72 slums in the PCMC using maps of the area. Field visits helped document the geographical spread of the settlements, topography, legal status (declared/undeclared), availability of basic facilities, occupational structure, and other socioeconomic characteristics including the presence of socially-excluded populations. The communication and ICT infrastructure of different settlements was also studied.

Pilot study

A pilot study was conducted in two low-income settlements, Ramtekdi and Kashewadi, selected on the basis of topographical differences and the presence of diverse socioeconomic groups, castes and communities. Ramtekdi is located on a hill slope and is in the vicinity of an industrial estate. Kashewadi, a relatively older settlement, is in the heart of the old city. It is mainly inhabited by Dalits, Muslims and Christians.

A total of 69 interviews, 34 from one settlement and 35 from the other, were conducted for this phase of the study. Individuals aged 16-70 were interviewed, including school/college students and the working population, for whom the internet is likely to be most important and relevant.Internet users and non-users were interviewed in the proportion of 3:1. One-third of the respondents amongst both users and non-users were women. Questions asked included awareness of the internet, frequency of use, expenditure, points of access, factors affecting use/non-use, and attitudes towards the internet. The pilot study helped prepare and refine the tool for the larger study.


Residents of the low-income settlements, aged 16 to 70 years, formed the universe for our study. Most information was gathered from a well-informed member of the household; information provided by other members of the household was also noted.

The sample was drawn through a multi-stage sampling method. First-level purposive sampling of the settlements was followed by systematic random sampling. Forty-seven settlements were shortlisted: seven in the PCMC and 40 in the PMC. Of these, six were selected for the study: two from the PCMC region and four from the PMC. The six settlements chosen included established settlements with second-and third-generation residents, pucca housing with buildings of one or more storeys and relatively better public amenities, as well as more recent settlements with mostly kutcha housing and very poor living conditions. Some settlements were chosen because of their topography – on hill slopes or near river beds. Settlements were also chosen to include diverse economic and occupational groups, ranging from those employed at industrial estates, wholesale markets and retail outlets to those employed in waste collection and construction labour. All the settlements chosen had large numbers of socially-excluded communities (as recorded in surveys), but some had larger percentages of Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs than others, and some had large percentages of religious minorities. This purposive selection was made in recognition of the fact that apart from cost barriers to internet access, other overlapping factors (gender, education, language, migrant status, topography of settlement, access to public/communication services, and caste) are equally likely to impact these groups’ place on the adoption curve for new communication technologies.

The sites where the survey was carried out were: Anand Nagar and Mahatma Phule Nagar in the PCMC, and Ambedkar Nagar, Janata Vasahat, Laxmi Nagar, and Patil Estate in the PMC. The defining characteristics of the six study locations are detailed in Chapter 3. A little over 10% of households (calculated as per the most recently available data) from each of the six settlements, totalling 1,634 households, were covered in the survey. Settlements were divided into clusters with the help of maps from Slum Atlas 2011, Shelter Associates, and MASHAL. Households were selected through systematic random sampling. The fieldworkers were instructed to go down each lane of a cluster and sample every fifth household. If the selected household happened to be non-responding for any reason – the house was locked, no eligible person was available for an interview at the time of the visit, no member agreed to respond – the next household (that is, the sixth household) was to be approached. If nobody in the sixth household could be interviewed, the fourth household was to be checked.

The fieldworkers conducting the interviews returned with slightly more than the planned number of interviews, as is seen in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 Sample size for each selected settlement

*Slum Atlas (2011)
**Shelter Associates (2000)
***MASHAL Survey (2000, 2002)


Internet access/use: Internet access and internet use have been used interchangeably in this study.

Internet user: A liberal definition of internet user has been adopted for this study, keeping in mind that the study populations are at the beginning of the diffusion curve for internet technologies and have begun to access the internet very recently, over the last two-three years, following the introduction of cheaper mobile phones and data packs. Individuals who have accessed the internet at any location on any platform, by paying for internet access or without paying directly, at home, on a relative’s or friend’s device, at work, at an educational institute or at a public access point in the previous three months have been defined as internet users.

We found that individuals who had last used the internet more than three months earlier had almost no direct exposure to the internet; they had accessed the internet with assistance and so could not respond in any detail to questions related to internet use. On the other hand, had we used a shorter cut-off period than three months, women who might be accessing the internet once in a couple of months may have been excluded. (The International Telecommunication Union also defines an internet user as one who has used the internet from any location in the past three months [ITU 2014]; the Chinese Internet Network Information Centre defines an internet user as someone aged six and above, who has used the internet in the past six months [CNNIC, 2015]. Market research organisations have their own definitions. Internet World Stats defines an ‘internet user’ as anyone currently with the capacity to use the internet, ie anyone with access to an internet connection point and with the basic knowledge required to use web technology [IWS, no date]. Nielsen Online defines ‘active internet users’ as those who have viewed the internet at least once during the past month as against those who have ever accessed the internet [IWS, no date]).

Internet user household or connected household: A household where at least one member is reported as having used the internet any time in the last three months.

Non-user household or non-connected household: A household in which not a single member is reported as having used the internet in the last three months.

Monthly family income: Total of individual incomes of (earning) family members, as reported by the respondent in the household survey.

Wealth index: The wealth index is computed on the basis of housing conditions, house ownership and living environment, as well as ownership of specified household assets. Box 2.1 gives the methodology for computation of the wealth index. The wealth index, thus computed, has been used to group households into five categories – the first quintile is the lowest, representing the poorest among the surveyed households and the fifth quintile is the highest, comprising the richest.


Data for the present study were collected using a mixed method approach, and both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed.

Quantitative surveys

Interview schedule

Semi-structured interviews were conducted in the study locations using a pre-tested interview schedule. The schedule was prepared in English, translated into Marathi and then back-translated to ensure that there were no inconsistencies in translation. The survey tool was refined further after the pilot study.

The interview schedule was divided into two sections to get information on use/non-use of the internet. These were:

  1. Household information; and
  2. Individual information.

In the first part of the survey, information at the household level was gathered: family profile, housing, access to basic services, socioeconomic details, major sources of information, use of various communication media including the internet, and awareness about and access to the internet for family members over 16 years of age. Thus, information pertaining to 5,999 individuals from 1,634 households in the age-group 16-70 years was collected.

Box 2.1 Computation of wealth Index

In the second section, one member (aged 16-70 years) of the household was interviewed. In households with an internet user, the internet user was asked to respond. If there was a male and a female user, preference was given to the woman. Individual interviews explored the reasons for respondents’ use and non-use of the internet, barriers to access, the quality of access, patterns of use and attitudes towards the internet.

An additional child roster listed all children in the household, their schooling, and computer training in school. A total of 1,921 children were enumerated. This enumeration was not done in Anand Nagar.

Qualitative research

The quantitative survey helped understand the end-user perspective – for users and non-users – on barriers to internet access. The qualitative research included infrastructure/service providers, policymakers and state/non-state enablers of digital inclusion. This helped in triangulating the information and supplementing the quantitative findings.

Qualitative research methods including focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and audio visual documentation were used throughout the project period (July 2013 to October 2015) to explore in greater detail the barriers to internet access, patterns of use and attitudes and perceptions about the internet.

The qualitative research consisted of:

  1. In-depth interviews with 20 internet users and six non-users in the study locations.
  2. 11 focus group discussions (FGDs) with students of schools catering to children from low-income localities: two state-run e-learning schools, one government school with a civil society intervention for ICT skills training, three schools run by a trust predominantly for Muslim students, one madrassa and four state-run schools with no specific ICT intervention.
  3. Interviews with teachers at the above government and private schools.
  4. Interviews with three internet service providers, 12 cybercafé owners in the vicinity of the study settlements, 11 cable TV providers, and 23 mobile shop owners/recharge voucher sellers in and around the study locations.
  5. Interviews with government officials from the two municipal corporations, with a focus on those responsible for e-governance and IT services, and common service centre (CSC) staff.
  6. Interviews with representatives of three non-profit organisations conducting computer literacy classes for disadvantaged populations.
  7. Interviews with staff at centres for the Maharashtra State Certificate in Information Technology (MS-CIT) and the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited (MKCL), the nodal agency for promotion of computer literacy in the state.
  8. Interviews with members of marginalised groups including transgenders and the disabled, as well as teachers at institutions for the disabled.

FGDs were conducted with secondary school students (Standards 6-9), within the school premises. Each group consisted of 8-12 students, mostly homogeneous with regards to gender. The questions for the FGDs were about the type of ICT training in the students’ syllabus, the available infrastructure, their awareness of and exposure to the internet, their access to internet devices including at home, and their interaction with family members on awareness and use of ICTs.

Reportage, analysis, photography and short films by CCDS have supplemented the research and are available at Women and transgenders contacted in the course of the fieldwork were encouraged to document their attitudes towards the internet and how they used it, in films that they were trained to shoot themselves. These films record their candid perspectives and are available on Further insights were gathered in the course of conducting internet literacy workshops over the project period in different settlements.

Qualitative research, reportage and audio-visual documentation were not limited to the chosen six settlements. These were also conducted in several different low-income neighbourhoods across the city. Several insights were also gained from another, parallel CCDS project at one of the research locations, Mahatma Phule Nagar in the PCMC, where free Wi-Fi has been enabled all over the basti for an 18-month period, and a full-fledged computer training centre has been set up.


Analysis of the quantitative data has been presented in the form of bivariate tables showing how internet awareness, attitudes and use relate to the socio-demographics of an individual and household. Internet use has been treated as a dichotomous variable: use and non-use. Internet non-use has further been broken down into two categories: ‘heard of internet’ and ‘not heard of internet’. In order to assess the significant effects of various predictor variables on internet use (the outcome variable), binary logistic regression analysis has been done.

Information from in-depth interviews and reportage was used to illustrate or elaborate upon the findings of the quantitative survey and has been presented as narratives in boxes.


The quantitative survey was carried out between March and July 2014.


The research proposal was reviewed by an independent ethicist and ethics clearance obtained. Informed consent was obtained from the respondents after they were told about the purpose of the research and that data from the study would be used to advocate for universal internet access and equal access for all. They were assured that their responses would be kept confidential, and that they had the right to withdraw at any time during the study. The completed forms in the quantitative survey were stripped of identifying details before they were entered into SPSS 21.0 by a professional service.

Permissions for the FGDs were obtained from the local authorities at each school. For municipal schools, additional permissions were sought and obtained from the PMC Education Board. Students were selected for the FGD by the teachers from among children who were willing to participate. The participating children were informed about the purpose of the FGDs, the procedure, and how the information collected would be used. They were informed that their participation was voluntary and that they could leave the focus group at any point if they were uncomfortable. The FGDs were between 45 minutes and one hour in duration. They were audio-recorded after getting consent from the authorities and assent from the children.


  1. Field work had to be conducted during late evenings and on weekly holidays when people would be at home. Many of the user respondents could be interviewed only after getting an appointment.
  2. Early on in the fieldwork communal tensions in the city were stoked following the circulation of objectionable images on social networks. A Muslim IT professional unconnected to this controversy was lynched by members of a Hindu radical outfit. At this time, the fieldwork was being conducted at a settlement with a large number of Muslim residents. The residents were wary of participating in any survey that had to do with the internet.
  3. It was difficult to get non-users to take our survey; they had to be convinced of the relevance of their responses even though they did not use the internet themselves.


The study, conducted in six settlements identified through extensive profiling, attempted to include diverse groups in terms of population composition, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and location. However, the sampling process in the PCMC settlements was based on data from more than a decade earlier. Further, within the households, the respondent was not randomly chosen. Though the study gives a fair understanding of internet access in these areas of Pune, the findings may not be generalised for all low-income settlements of Pune.

Internet penetration, the telecommunications market, and its offerings have been changing rapidly with the availability of cheaper devices and data plans. The study findings therefore hold true for the period of the survey.


1. ‘Slum’, ‘basti’ or ‘informal settlement’ are used interchangeably in this report to refer to housing colonies ‘characterised by lack of durable housing, insufficient living area, lack of access to clean water, inadequate sanitation and insecure tenure’.(

2. The Indian Constitution has provisions for people who belong to certain deprived communities. Dalits or those in the Scheduled Castes, have suffered extreme social, educational and economic deprivation because of their caste. Adivasis or indigenous people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes have no land holdings, and often earn a living as landless labourers or through casual work. Other Backward Classes (OBC) refer to other socially and educationally disadvantaged groups. Those on the government list of SC and ST are entitled to reserved seats in government education, employment and political representation. Reservations may be recommended for those on the list of OBCs. Other categories include Nomadic Tribes (NT) and Denotified Tribes (DNT)

3. Cooperative Housing Foundation International, now known as Global Communities