4G auction by end of 2012, language users shouldn’t be at a disadvantage: Minister Sachin Pilot

I recently attended the conference on “Mobile Web Initiative in India – Indic in Digital Universe” conducted by IAMAI and W3C India. I rarely come across events which have a focus on Indian languages on the internet, I was excited to see such a niche topic – Indian languages on mobile web!  An intro about the event is mentioned below,

With 100 mn+ users already in the country, and the numbers expected to grow phenomenally within the next few years (300 mn+ by 2015) India is set to achieve new heights in the Mobile proliferation. There is a story here – The mobile revolution has been tremendous- from a measly 2% penetration in the early 2000’s. Today the mobile phone is the single most important device in the lives of over 900 mn Indians, with the numbers rising at a mind boggling 2~3 million mobiles per month. The crucial aspect of the success of the mobile has been due to the fact that people use their own language to communicate over the mobile. Had the mobile been a language specific technology, one wonders if it would be as successful.

Inclusive growth, rural empowerment and proliferation of Internet over mobile will remain just so many phrases unless key issues are addressed urgently. Today, data in Indic is the key to mobile and Internet adoption.

IAMAI, along with W3C India, is holding this daylong event to address some of the issues and challenges being faced by the Digital Industry with regard to Content in Indian Languages being deployed over Mobile Web.

Sachin Pilot at Indic on Mobile Web Conference in New Delhi

Sachin Pilot at Indic on Mobile Web Conference in New Delhi

The inaugural session was attended by Minister of State for Information Technology Sachin Pilot. I have seen him several times on TV on various debates, never seen him before in person. He is a great speaker, had come well prepared for his talk, all points were related only to Indic, mobile web (very rare for a politician). An attendee mentioned to me that if even 20% of what he said gets implemented it would be good enough. Few points mentioned by him,

  • A proud moment for India to have so many mobile users. Next 500 million internet users will be from a mobile handset.
  • Tangible change in daily life needed, mobile web could bring that change.
  • India has the 3rd largest internet user base. India may be a little behind in technology, but our volumes and not tech should determine the standards (referring to India should be determining W3C Indic standards). Views of India and China needed in governance of internet.
  • Tele-density: 1995 (1%), 2011 (77%, rural 35%), 2020 (rural will be at 100%). Teledensity has improved because of wireless devices (mobiles).
  • 5 billion will be using the internet by 2030.
  • Today mobile internet is still for English speaking, non-English community shouldn’t be at a disadvantage.
  • India doesn’t have relevant local content in local language. Rural would be interested in news, entertainment and not B2B.
  • Bring out good mobile apps, if not free at least keep it cheap.
  • Very soon semi-smartphones will be the default handset.
  • Rs 20,000 crore to be spent in linking panchayats over broadband. (I do hope this gets implemented unlike Obama’s forgotten broadband plan)
  • By end of 2012 4G auction is expected to take place.

Census 2011 (Housing Index) reports 53% households have mobile phones, a whopping 50% of rural households have a mobile phone. Majority of these can’t read English. Everyone agreed a common framework in India was needed (Unicode) and it is the industry which needs to push for these standards, consumers cannot.

Few Things Sachin Pilot Should Do

Few suggestions for Sachin Pilot who is a young (age) minister and holding a geeky portfolio

  • Should be active on twitter.
  • Should have his own site http://sachinpilot.com instead of forwarding it to http://www.sachinpilot.gov.in/
  • If he does get his site up, make sure it is bi-lingual (at a minimum).


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