There is no doubt the mobile telephony has been growing rapidly in India. Yet the divide between rural and urban mobile penetration is still as wide as 41%. The major reason for this divide is the lack of awareness and user-friendly devices. Though the rural mobile penetration has seen an increase in the recent past due to various government initiatives like affordability and accessibility, there is a long way to go before India reaches complete mobility.
The rural market for mobile phones is expected to see manifold increase by 2020 as mobile phone seems to be the simpler answer to connect with the otherwise disconnected rural populace. What is needed is better technology, innovative products, efficient business systems, and an understanding of the need of the people. With more and more international mobile phone brands competing in the handset market, we have been successful in addressing the issue of affordability and have hence moved a step ahead.
There still is a large untapped market mostly which is rural India. One of the major reasons for Rural India to lag behind in terms of mobility is due to the gap in the literacy rate. A mobile phone is the first personal device for this audience. It is essential that these devices are easy and simple to use so the same can be used by people of any strata, literacy rate and age group.
With the homegrown brands accelerating the pace in terms of innovation, a more accessible era of phones is being established. These brands understand their audience’s needs and preferences also keep the affordability factor in mind. Affordable phones with Easy-to-use interface will help in deeper penetration of telephony in India and it will also help in bridging the digital divide between the rural and urban India. After having addressed the issue of affordability, we are now moving towards designing handsets that can be used by all to add the accessibility factor.
Another issue that must be addressed is the gender divide when it comes to ownership and usage of mobile. According to a recent study “Connected Women – The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2018 by GSMA”, women in low- and middle-income countries are, on average, 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translates into 184 million fewer women owning mobile phones and even when women own mobile phones, there is a significant gender gap in usage, particularly for more transformational services, such as mobile internet. The study further reveals that over 1.2 billion women in low and middle-income countries do not use mobile internet. Women are also, on average, 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men. Even among mobile owners, women are 18% less likely than men to use mobile internet. The gender gap is wider in certain parts of the world. For example, women in South Asia are 26% less likely to own a mobile than men and 70% less likely to use mobile internet. One wholly concurs with the study’s observation that unequal access to mobile technology threatens to exacerbate the inequalities women already experience.
One is optimistic that once the untapped market which is using a phone for the first time is comfortable with the device they use, we can aim to move towards achieving 360-degree mobility in India.