Lack of Local Content Stunting Internet Growth

by Muntazir Abbas    Nov 07, 2008

Think of the Internet and you connectivity and availability come foremost to the mind. But with the expansion of broadband services, hand-in-hand with e-Governance initiatives of government, Web accessibility may go up manifold.

Research suggests that 90 % of the Internet users are under an age group of 18 to 45 years. In addition, B-grade cities and small towns are showing 100% Internet usage growth as compared to last year. However, availability of content in regional languages has still not caught up. Though this might not be a major problem in cities, it is hampering the adoption of Internet in rural areas. If India is serious about its target of 20 million plus Internet users, then this is an area that needs to be addressed immediately.

With a large non-English speaking population, the content in regional language is the apparent barrier and it has become a major challenge for the acceptance of technology, and the usage of Web-based applications. “According to the last IMRB survey there were 1 million Internet users in rural India. I feel that the factors that may drive growth include national e-Governance program and Internet on mobile,” says Subho Ray, president of the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

India is among the fastest growing economies in the world. The power of a billion plus people, all connected via the Internet, will definitely redefine the system of e-Governence. According to Naresh Ajwani, president (Consumer Infrastructure and Operations) of Sify India, there are more than 180,000 cyber cafes with an average of six PCs in the country.

“Although Internet has gone local, however it is shallow. It simply means that Internet should expand its reach and would empower users by offering them access to local services through specialized search engines with local content,” says Vivek Bhargava, CEO with Communicate2. “As per Indian telecom industry, the total number of mobile users till Sept 2008 remains at more than 300 million. India shows a growth rate of 91% per annum since 2001.”

An India Online survey indicates that more than half of Indian people do not like content in English language when it comes to Internet. “The utility of broadband will be enhanced only when India-centric or local language content becomes meaningfully available,” he added.

According to Bhargava, major challenges in rural areas are accessibility, technology deployment and less awareness among the people about the Internet. The impact of the current global economic recession would be comparatively less on Indian telecom sector and the Internet service providers due to the inherent strength and faster anticipated growth in this sector.

Related links:
Broadband Boosts Internet Usage in APAC