Asia: The Wired Continent – India

Welcome to part three of the five-part series on Asia, “The Wired Continent.” In this edition, JustAskGemalto explores digital life in India.

In India, connecting and communicating are the two biggest priorities for digital life. As a result, use of social media and mobile phones are two of the most popular technology trends in the country.


Social Media on the Rise

Social media applications like Facebook make it easy for the citizens of India to connect and keep in touch. As a result, the use of Facebook in India is rising rapidly. It is actually the second fastest growing user of Facebook in the world, after Indonesia. Twelve million Facebook users in India are uploading more than 53 million photos in a month and mobile usage has increased nine-fold in the past year. India is unique in that a lot of its population does not have access to broadband Internet, so many are using Facebook on their mobile phones, and through wireless connections with data cards and other services.

Recently, Facebook made two important announcements. The first is an office in India. This move shows that Facebook recognizes the potential for growth in the area. The office, in southern India in Hyderabad, will have operations and online sales teams to help users with their questions and advertisers with online advertising.

The second announcement is Facebook’s localization into six major Indian languages – Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Telegu, Tamil and Malayalam. This is a big step for Facebook, and will certainly appeal to the combined 770 million speakers of those languages.


3G is Coming

Bidding on nationwide 3G spectrum in India, the world’s second most populous market, ended in May 2010. This means that metros and bigger cities of India should see the launch of 3G by the end of 2010, while most other parts of the country will gain access in 2011. Overall, India will have 150 million 3G connections by 2014, according to a forecast from Wireless Intelligence, a service of trade group GSMA Ltd.

What does this mean for mobile subscribers? They should expect to see many more music, movies, books, sporting events, mobile TV, mobile learning, mobile games and mobile commerce applications. And all of these services like music-on-demand, video streaming and mobile games will be a lot faster. To put it simply, the coming of 3G in India means faster and more convenient applications and services on mobile phones – allowing India’s population to connect and communicate in more ways than ever.


Technology in Politics

India is a great example of how the ideas behind social media can be applied to politics. The Internet, social media and mobile phones played a huge role in the elections in India in Spring 2009. According to Yahoo!, the majority of the 60 million Internet users in India are of voting age and use the Web to get political information. The party also used digital solutions providers to introduce customized political messages into social networking sites such as Facebook, Orkut and MySpace.

To attempt to win the support of India’s 600 million mobile phone users, political parties also offered free ring tones, text messages and wallpapers. The newspaper The Times of India even offered special election mobile phone packages that customers could subscribe to for as little as 30 rupees (US$0.60) a month. With the subscription, subscribers received details of candidates, party meetings, election rallies, voting dates and poll data – both before and after the elections.


Mobile Banking to Serve Underbanked

An interesting statistic: India has a population of 1.1 billion people, but only 200 million of the 600 million working population have bank accounts. However, almost 600 million have a mobile phone. The industry term for those areas where citizens do not have bank accounts are called “unbanked” or “underbanked” regions. In these areas with low numbers of bank accounts and high numbers of mobile phones, mobile banking is increasingly adopted.

This type of banking gives Indian citizens access to their finances securely on their mobile phone, as well as conduct transactions. For those with bank accounts, they can manage their finances easily and securely anywhere in the world, transfer funds and purchase items. For unbanked mobile phone users, they can turn the handset into a mobile wallet of sorts, adding cash to the mobile phone that can be transferred wirelessly, or used to make payments.

The Indian government sees mobile banking as a key area for the country’s development and actively encourages banks and mobile operators to develop services to both people with bank accounts and mobile phone users without them. An example of a recent of launch of such services: Monitise, a provider of mobile financial services, has just launched a joint venture in India with Visa to accelerate the delivery of mobile financial services such as banking, bill payments, mass transit ticketing, mobile top-up and other services to Indian consumers.


To Sum Up:

• The use of the social media application Facebook is rising rapidly in India, because it makes it easier for citizens to connect, keep in touch and share photos

• With 3G coming to India, its mobile phone users will enjoy faster and more convenient mobile applications and services

• Social media helps Indian citizens stay connected to politics, learn about candidates and stay up to date on news

• Citizens without bank accounts can now utilize mobile banking, turning their mobile phones into convenient and easy-to-use “mobile wallets”


Coming Up Next:

Next, JustAskGemalto presents the next part of the five-part series, Asia, “The Wired Continent.” Part 4 is coming soon, stay tuned!