Local Content To Boost India's Internet User Base

by CXOtoday News Desk    Aug 05, 2015


Until now English was the dominant language of the Web. However, in recent times content Local content is finding a significant place in India’s internet landscape. Experts believe internet penetration will continue to get a huge boost with the proliferation of local language content in the country, with people from rural areas are now keen on experiencing the web. 

A report published by IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India) in conjunction with IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau), said that 127 million of India’s 269 million internet users consume content in local (non-English) languages. “Of these 127 million, 81 million are based in rural parts of the country. With local language content, Internet base will rise 39%, according to estimates, of which 75% growth will come from rural areas and 16% from urban regions,” the report states and that’s indeed a huge number! 

The local language potential is huge in India, given that 88% of its 1.32 billion citizens do not speak English and Hindi is the most widely-spoken language in the country. Indians already prefer their newspapers, magazines, television shows and movies in local languages. It is obvious that they would not switch to English just for the Internet. Local-language content will propel India’s Internet usage growth for years to come, the report said, with most of the growth coming from rural regions.

Getting the local flavor

Companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft are already make the Internet more accessible to India’s non-English speaking population, while boosting their ad spends in local language.

On a visit to India last year, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Connectivity is a human right and we want to build an internet that works for all.” Facebook has been emphasizing on local content, as experts believe the lack of relevant local language content is why most Indians don’t use internet and the social networking major is working extensively in rural India to enhance connectivity.

Read on: Role Of ICT in E-Governance and Rural Development

As part of Microsoft’s efforts to provide digital infrastructure in India, CEO Nadella, already announced it will commission three “hyper-scale” data centers in India before 2015 end. He also stated that the company’s newly-developed White-Fi technology, which uses the unused spectrum in frequencies utilized for broadcasting of television signals, can provide free Wi-Fi connectivity to tackle the problem of last mile broadband connectivity in India. 

 In order to outdo its other two rivals, Google very recently said it will make the Internet more accessible to India’s non-English speaking population through the Indian Language Internet Alliance (ILIA) that includes some of leading media and publishing houses and the government-run Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

“Practically, all of the country’s English-speaking population of 198 million is already online. The remaining new users are not proficient in English, for which we are partnering with all these companies to make the Internet more accessible for these people. It is important to contribute more content, so India does not miss the boat,” says Rajan Anandan, vice-president and managing director of Google India.

Handset makers like Samsung, Micromax are also upbeat on content and apps in local languages, and some even translate English content to local languages.

Overcoming challenges

Despite large global organizations keen on driving local language content, this is an area that still lags far behind and offers immense opportunity to startups and innovative SMEs to explore the space in order to bridge the global-local divide. 

Based on a recent report, a Quartz article gives an interesting example on the poor quality of information on the web. “The big problem is that many websites and apps that do offer regional language content only do so partially and some even suffer from seriously awkward translations. For instance, according to the IAMAI, in the phrase ‘Camera 16MP’, the ‘MP’ is often translated to saansad in Hindi, meaning member of parliament,” says the report.

IAMAI has called for an increase in websites and apps in all content in local languages for better access to the masses, and recommended that corporates should rollout holistic local language solutions, including website, digital media, call centers, analytics, logistics and outbound communications, aimed at local language users.

Moreover, online advertising in India mostly relies on English, with only 5% of digital ad spends dedicated to local languages. This will however change as the industry body predicts that the next couple of years will see higher spend on creating local language content and local language advertisements, taking it to 30% in 2020; which shall result in opening up of newer and exciting consumer market segments.