Mobile application development has surely done wonders for the digital economy of India over the last three years. Business enterprises and customers have gained from the revolution in mobile applications technology. The surge in urbanization, a growing middle class with a healthy purchasing power, improvements in IT infrastructure and government initiatives to attract more investment in telecom and internet services coupled with social mobility have all contributed to the this phenomenal movement. The Indian consumer residing in cities is beginning to embrace business transactions on the internet and the value generated by online purchases and sales. This trend notwithstanding, there remain some bleak facts about rural India. Is the consumer of rural India moving as fast as the urban counterparts? While empirical evidence suggests that there are some roadblocks, we later in this article take a look at some economically feasible solutions to those challenges.
Some Reflections on the Internet Economy in the World and India
Current estimates indicate that 4.2 billion people across the world will not have internet connectivity even in the year 2017. The compounded annual growth rate of internet users has climbed down from 14 percent in 2006-07 to 10 percent now. Aided by factors such as rising income levels and low technology costs, the internet economy could see an addition of another 500-700 million users by the year 2017. While these are statistical accounts of the scenario there are factors underlying this sorry state in developing countries like India. Data collected by World Bank on the digital divide says the following:
- 64% of offline people live in rural areas
- 18% of offline people have an age of 55 years or above
- 28% of these people are illiterate
- 52% of offline people are women
- 15% market penetration of internet in countries like Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, etc.
The World Bank study suggests that millions of people do not go online because they believe that it is against widely accepted social and cultural norms. People retired from their professions do not find computers for use. There is also a perceived threat to information and privacy from internet use. While governments and businesses have been making big strides in urban areas for economic growth and internet connectivity, the rural households are still left out. Millions of people consider the sage of computers to be rocket science and hence avoid it. The stark truth is that as long as internet connectivity in rural offline communities remains absent, there will be a drag on their lives.
Mobile Apps Can Drive out the Entitlement Failure
While the above data and its analysis clarify the existence of the digital divide, there is hope in the form of mobile applications development. Mobile development services can reach the for-profit enterprises and their offerings to the bottom of the pyramid markets. While computer purchase and usage may be unaffordable and technically complex, using a smart phone is child’s play. Plus, the smart phone is a personalized device. The portability of the device and real-time information that mobile apps offer, present an opportunity to stay rooted in the local culture and yet modernize. While banks, retail enterprises, insurance companies and micro-finance institutions may find it economically impractical to set up brick and mortar models of business, mobile application developers can connect the dots. Web solutions providers will have to design and deliver mobile application development services in an efficient way to create a viable business model. Rural markets offer a tremendous window for lifestyle applications development, entertainment applications development and games applications development even in emerging economies. Provided that language, user friendliness and distribution of apps are dealt with smartly, business enterprises can look forward to exploring untapped markets in rural areas. The understanding of ground realities of rural markets, focus on rural business models and organizational collaboration with client companies is crucial in this regard. Android business solutions and Windows business software solutions crafted with business intelligence can make a real difference to the lives of offline people and drive out the entitlement failure. The internet is for everyone and mobile development service enterprises with an eye on local context specific innovation are the enablers of this proposition.