Meet the Mobile Technology Helping to Connect India

Meet the Mobile Technology Helping to Connect India


The Indian smartphone market has consistently been growing over the last five years. Notably, budget smartphones are considered more favourable in the region. These economical devices are proving stiff competition to rivals smartphone leaders like Apple, Sony and Samsung.

The average selling price for a smartphone in India was Rs.10,7000 ($160) in 2015 compared to Rs.13,000 ($200) in 2013, according to Cyber Media Research (CMR).

The CMR report concluded that the 37% increase in smartphone sales were largely driven by entry-level or mid-range devices as feature-phone sales decreased by 17%.

The divide in wealth and vast rural regions of the country have led to smartphone manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Vivo, Lava and Micromax to produce low-cost devices, while still offering the basic features of their high-end counterparts.

While smartphone penetration in India is only at 33%, it’s impressive tech industry and developments in mobile connectivity has enabled mobile technology to slowly stimulate its economy by connecting people with cost-effective mobile devices.

Penetrating linguistic diversity

India has more than twenty ‘official’ languages with dialects in the hundreds, and while many affluent citizens are able to learn more than one language, having a commercial device with an operating system in various languages that can be used across the country has proven difficult.

The Indus OS is one of the first commercial operating systems to cater to regional languages. By tweaking the Android platform to the reflect the demands and culture of the Indian market, the Indus OS allows the user to convert the core functions of the device in the language of the user’s choice.

Apple iOS and traditional Android devices are only able to support some local languages at keyboard level, however, Indus is able to provide full OS support in 12 local languages. Languages include Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Odia, Assamese, Punjabi, Kannada, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Marathi.

Local language settings extended beyond the home screen and provide a localised photo gallery, settings menu, contacts and telephone keypad.

Unlike traditional Android devices, the Indus OS offers free messaging between users and doesn’t require a Gmail account or credit card to set up.

One of the most impressive features is its keyboard functionality which allows a user to translate into different local languages in a single swipe. Coupled with an app store with over 33,000 apps – including localised versions of Facebook and Whatsapp – Indus has already solidified itself as an OS contender in the mobile market.

Rural India

Indian Industry leaders and the Indian government are determined to connect rural India using mobile technology to create a better framework for a ‘digital India’.

The benefits of this will mean populations in rural and poorer areas gain better access education, finance and healthcare services without the need to travel.

Motech, a modular software platform, is used by medical practitioners to help collect information from patients in remote areas and communicate with them via text message and automated voice calls.

Launched by the Grameen Foundation, the open-sourced platform is flexible enough to fit the needs of most medical services and business using smartphones or tablet devices.

The great advantage of this platform is its adaptability for the medical industry. The platform has been used to provide extend care to HIV and TB patients, advice to pregnant women, connect with other healthcare systems and even train medical staff.

Access to finance and development of local businesses in remote areas is a key focus for the Indian government.

Projects aimed at providing aid to rural businesses have been widely introduced to increase productivity of the local jobs market and help overall economic growth in India.

Project Concern International in collaboration with Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative developed the Connecting India to Disconnect Poverty project. The aim: to provide remote female entrepreneurs with access to small loans via to microfinance institutes (MFIs) and market information by simply using an app on their smartphone devices.

The MicroLekah app provides as seamless loan application process, allows customers to manage their accounts online and gives loan officers access to applicants credit history in real-time.

These developments in mobile tech in remote areas allow communities to slowly develop local economic wealth, which over time can leverage mobile device penetration in the area.

Education

We’re all aware of the concept of e-learning via desktop, tablet and mobile in the Western culture, however, numerous Indian government initiatives have been created to promote e-learning.

The National Program on Technology Enhancement Learning (NPTEL) was set up and funded by the Ministry of Human Resources Development to devise web courses and curriculum-based video lectures to improve the quality of engineering education in India.

NPTEL offer over 1121 courses (419 web-based and 502 video courses) across Engineering, Sciences, Technology, Management and Humanities. The courses have been a great success and have triggered numerous other public and private funded projects.

As mobile traffic increases with the popularity of affordable smartphones, a demand for mobile learning (m-learning) has also seen an increase – especially in schools and rural areas.

Where desktop computers are few or unavailable, many Indian schools are utilising the power of preloaded tablet devices alongside traditional textbook-based learning.

The introduction of VIDGET (Vibgyor Integrated Digital and Global Educational Tool) to 4 schools in Mumbai has allowed over 400 students to engage in digital curriculum alongside traditional textbook learning. The self-curated tablets feature seven subjects and have interactive tools including videos, audio, animation, web-links and maps.

Other schools across the country are introducing tablet learning to their classrooms as a form of assessment. Teachers set assignments according to each student’s ability and are able to share the best answers to the classroom via Bluetooth as a form of group learning.

Flipped classroom courses are also becoming common practice, with many students learning subjects offline with downloaded video tutorials and taking in-class assessments.

M-learning will never take over traditional textbook learning, but striking up the correct balance between technology and traditional learning has allowed India to leverage themselves against other countries that are way ahead in terms of technology in education.

India is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the world overtaking china in 2016. Connecting urban and rural population through mobile tech seems to a play key factor in stimulating local economic growth.

If Western businesses wish to develop in the region, it would be wise to take note of its unique relationship with mobile technology.

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