The wait for having your email address in an Indian language might well be over soon. Major tech players, Microsoft and Google along with indigenous service provider Rediff, may soon allow its users to sign up in their Indian language. In a meeting last month, the Indian Government urged the top tech behemoths including Microsoft and Google to provide the email addresses in Indian Languages as well.
A commendable move?
As a matter of fact, just 20% of Indian population can speak English, i.e. just 260 million people in a country of 1.3 billion. On top of that, Internet penetration is deepening inside the country as a report by IAMAI highlights that a whopping 462 million people in India would have access to the Internet by June 2016. The population that has access to the web is sizeable when compared to the English speaking population in the country. Thus, the availability of emails in Indian language may well prove to be a boon for Indians.
Rajiv Bansal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT revealed in the meeting that, under the Bharat Net project, a substantial 250,000 Gram panchayats would be connected through the high-speed internet in the next five years. He also emphasized the importance of email in the meeting and said that in the era of Internet, email id is the first step to embracing the digital world. But, he then questioned that how many Indians “can actually type in or read English?”
The rollout of email in local language may start soon as both the tech giants, Microsoft and Google revealed that the technologies are available for such transition. The only requisite thing is that ‘all stakeholders must be on the same platform since backend systems of all operators will have to support such IDs.’ Earlier the Latin scripts were only supported, but now the International Email Framework have made the task easy as it enables support for local scripts, including Greek, Russian, Chinese, and Hindi.
Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO of Rediff appeared quite enthralled by the developments. But he lamented that the government must also look into ways to bring down the cost of Internet access to cater the masses. He also highlighted that the consumption of online content in local language has increased.
Firstly, as mentioned earlier a sizeable population in the country is non-English spoken thus email in local language might well prove to be a boon for those people. The move is likely to bring many new users on the internet.
Secondly, the top Silicon Valley honchos are betting their fortunes in India. Google with its Project Loon is vying to connect the remote areas of India through the free wireless internet with the help of balloons. Indians are curious, but they need free Internet access. The free WiFi initiative that was started by Google in partnership with Railtel to provide free internet across many Railway Stations in India has attracted a whopping 2 million users lately.
Thirdly, the availability of cheap smartphones has enticed the smartphone adoption rate in the country especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Some smartphone manufacturers even provide regional language support for their users. Thus, it’s not mandatory now to know the English language and therefore local language email may well complete the cycle.