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Mobile Literacy To Drive The Growth Of Internet

The growth of the Internet will ensure a dramatic transformation on many aspects of life for a segment of users who are currently still offline

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Today, India is the second largest online market in the world, ranked only behind China. By 2022, it is estimated that there will be approximately 511.89 million Internet users in India. According to an IAMAI report in February 2018, urban India witnessed a growth of 9.66 percent from December 2016 and is presently estimated to have around 295 million Internet users, whereas rural India witnessed a growth of 14.11 per cent in 2016 and is presently estimated to have around 186 million Internet users.

The growth of the Internet will ensure a dramatic transformation on many aspects of life for a segment of users who are currently still offline. This will result in people using more voice and video to be online. They will use the Internet for utilities such as ecommerce, digital payments, education, and, of course, for social media and entertainment. And most critically perhaps, people coming together to form communities online around families, friends, interests, and businesses.

In fact, Indian phone sales rose by 48 percent year on year in just Q1. Most of these were feature phones which can access the Internet and run basic apps. These phones are being used not just for social media, but with an estimated 43.8 per cent digital buyer penetration in 2016, online shopping is already a popular online activity of Indian Internet users.  

However, it is important to remember that the majority of India’s Internet users are first-time mobile phone Internet users, who take advantage of cheap alternatives to expensive landline connections that require PCs and infrastructure. The projected growth of the Internet will be directly affected by and affect this demographic.

There is a clear difference between mobile penetration and mobile literacy. Among respondents interviewed by the GSMA, 76 percent of women and 61 percent of men in India said they need help using mobile Internet, and “many were not sure what the Internet could be used for”.

The rise of the Internet moves concurrently with the rise of technology. Technology that can bring more people online. For example, using conversational AI as the primary online interface for new users could enable new BoP users to avoid technical challenges which currently limit mobile literacy and adoption. Conversational user interfaces on new smartphones would lower barriers to access by enabling local language voice transcription, search and review. It can help in banking for unbanked rural consumers and even facilitate interactive education opportunities for students. Internet and technology will ultimately help increase mobile usage, education and commerce at the BoP.

And this is what will determine the future of the Internet – how technological advancements are used individually, by companies and by industries which are now connected in this global community.

All companies need to focus on how to ensure that this global community stays safe and secure while being connected and technologically advanced. To do this, we have to ensure that we develop the social infrastructure for this community — to support and inform us, while including us all. This is where the challenge lies.

Technological advancements and an ever-involving Internet should not fracture the community. Bringing us all together as a global community is a project bigger than any one organisation or company. We, as companies, need to use these technological advancements to help people build an informed and inclusive community that exposes us to new ideas while cutting across geographies and cultures. That is what will be the true test of the future of the Internet.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 28 April 2018 mobile internet

Sandeep Bhushan

The author is Director, Facebook South Asia

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