Rural Internet Users/State of Vernacular Content in India

As of March 2008, there were 3.3 million active rural Internet users in India. Given the high levels of literacy in rural India and very low levels of English speaking population, the survey (conducted jointly by IMRB and IAMAI) made a clear case of content and applications in local languages in order to ensure higher and faster adoption of internet in rural India.

Internet and Current state of Vernacular Content in India

There are 22 constitutionally approved languages spoken in India and over 1600 regional dialects. Out of the total literate population in India, 37% are English literate in urban areas and 17% in rural. The remaining (i.e. 63% in urban areas and 83% in rural) are not familiar with English.

Hindi (ranked 3rd) and Bengali (ranked 8th) are among the top 10 language spoken across the world- but, no Indian language is in the top 10 languages used in the Internet.

Although most of the Internet users in India are familiar with more than one language, it is only that users in smaller cities are avid users of applications and services offered in local language.

Number of Local Language Sites in India stands at 1249!

Reasons/Barriers for local language adoption

  • The PC literate population is only 62 Mn which is 26% of the entire urban population.
    Top 4 metros – 21%, Next 4 metros – 21%, Non Metros – 23%, 5-10L population – 16%, <5L population towns – 4%
  • The discomfort cycle, i.e. non-familiarity with English distances individuals from learning to operate computers.
  • Extent of localisationChina, Japan and Korea are the most matured markets in terms of localisation. These countries have been very active in their efforts towards standardized localisation. The result of this is that most of the software is already localized in these languages
    and now these countries are moving towards localizing cutting edge technology applications such as OCR and Text to Speech.

    Extent of Localisation
  • Low awareness level for availability of content in local language
    As per I-Cube 2007 data, almost 35% of the Internet users are not aware of the availability of content in the Indian
    languages online. This number increases to 53% for Internet users in Non-Metros
  • Lack of supporting hardware
    For example, for inputs related to text in vernacular language the user has to type the phonetically
    similar English alphabets so as to get the right word in vernacular language. So it is more of a trial and error rather than
    systematic input of text through supporting hardware.
  • Lack of websites offering interface along with content in Indian language
    The most popular technology used by various websites providing content in Indian language is transliteration. It requires
    user to type Indian text in English language, which is then converted in the desired Indian language – so essentially, you need to know english.
  • Limited revenues from advertising

While this report (download) doesn’t have any path breaking findings, its a good summary of the state of vernacular content in India.

What’s your opinion?

[Click on the images for higher resolution version.]

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