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Rural India to dominate next set of internet users

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MUMBAI: India, with over 300 million internet users, is the second largest mobile market of the world, only after China. But, 300 million out of 1.2 billion population, surely leaves a lot of room for improvement. Urban India dominates 33 per cent of India’s total population, which means the next set of internet users will majorly come from the rural part, where people mostly communicate in their regional language.

The recently launched ‘Internet Saathi’ initiative by Google India in association with Tata Trusts and Intel promises to bridge the language gap. Speaking to Indiantelevision.com Google south east Asia and India VP and managing director Rajan Anandan said, “Google will introduce more and more regional languages with more technical upgradations. Also, the voice search feature will be strengthened to make the use of internet easier for the rural part of the country.”

As per analysis, in the first six months of 2015, India is estimated to have added 52 million internet users of which 50 per cent (26 million) have come from rural India. For the first time India is going to witness equal growth rate.

But the discrimination of internet is not only limited to rural and urban, but very much evident in male and female also. A large part of rural India considers internet as a tool for male counterpart. Only 12 per cent women from rural India uses internet and it is highly important to change this mindset, do away with the fear and make women from rural India active part of internet explosion.

“We are working with various partners to help spread awareness about the benefits of being online amongst women. While we have now started the ‘Internet Saathi’ initiative, in association with Tata Trusts and Intel, earlier we had launched a new film to inspire young digital natives to bring their mothers online. There are a large number of educated women in India with internet access in their households, but they still do not use it. We are targeting them with our initiative,” informed Google country marketing director India Sandeep Menon.

India now has over 100 million online shoppers, 200 million plus wireless internet users, 140 million smartphones, over 85 million 3G users out of which 9.3 million were added in past three months. But when Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks about ‘Digital India’, he dreams of 1.2 billion people benefiting from digital. But to achieve that, the rural-urban, male-female barrier needs to be tarnished as soon as possible with various initiatives.

When it comes to frequency of internet usage, reports signify that a good 61 per cent of users are daily users. About 18 per cent access internet several times a day, 10 per cent users at least use it once a day and 33 per cent access it on all seven days of the week.

If we take the example of mobile phones, the multiplications happened only once the device was made affordable in the rural and sub urban part of the country. India is a mass country with aspiration in every eyes and internet, if used adequately, can be a tool to achieve dreams in rural part where hi-tech education is yet to reach.

Also, e-commerce can grow at a double speed if rural India starts shopping online. While infrastructure and pricing of wireless data puts India on the back foot, Initiatives like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Internet Saathi’ enthralls optimism. It remains to be seen how Modi, Google, Tata, Ambani, Mittal strategises to take internet to rural India.  

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