What part could apps in Indian languages play in the humongous task of digitizing India? Apps in Indian Languages: What Role Can it Play in a Growing Digital India?
I remember reading a story about a linchpin once. It was in those Tinkle Digest comics we had as kids. My memory is fuzzy so I can’t remember what the story actually was. But one thing I do remember is being introduced to a linchpin.
A linchpin “is a pin inserted through the end of an axletree to keep the wheel on” (Dictionary.com).
What makes this unprepossessing tiny metal fixture so important? It actually holds the wheel in place.
Without the linchpin, the wheels fall off.
If the wheels fall off, then you can guess what happens to the wagon.
The linchpin is only a tiny part of a relatively enormous wagon. But it plays a vital role for the wagon.
You may be wondering what this has to do with digital India. It’s quite simple. The wagon is digital India and the linchpin are apps in Indian languages.
India’s exponential digital growth story
It’s no surprise that mobile apps play a vital role in the digitization of India. Thanks to the rise in smartphone adoption between 2014-2019 mobile apps are a major vehicle for modernization in India.
India is expected to hold 15% of the world’s 5G market share. A significant number that positions India as a digital leader. And we’re already the second largest internet market in the world.
“India is very lucky”, says Scott Rigby, chief technology advisor and principle product manager for enterprise solutions at JAPAC, “You’ve got a deep pool of technical talent to be able to execute on that and realize that”. Rigby was of course commending India’s growing digital infrastructure.
You can see how big of a wagon we have in the form of digital India. To cement the idea of our nation’s advanced digitization, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishhankar regaled an audience with an interesting anecdote about his trip to America.
Jaishankar and his son were at a restaurant in the US where they were required to produce their COVID vaccination certificates. Our External Affairs Minister promptly presented his certificate on his phone. His son, however, being a US citizen, took a folded piece of paper from his wallet to show the restaurant staff. At that point, Jaishankar highlighted how far ahead India is digitally compared to others, which received rapturous applause.
This is so fun – and so illustrative of the new world!
Dr S Jaishankar, Min of External Affairs India 🇮🇳 went to a Restaurant with his son in the US and what happened next is hilarious 😂
— Erik Solheim (@ErikSolheim) August 16, 2022
But for all the great strides we’ve made in smartphone penetration and digitization there still seems to be a lack. Putting aside the still low penetration of the internet in rural India, there seems to be another barrier that we face.
And that is the lack of knowledge or digital literacy.
The Wagon and the Linchpin: How it relates to apps in Indian languages
Remember the analogy we mentioned earlier? If you have a huge digital India wagon but remove the digital literacy linchpins what you have left is a wagon stuck in its tracks.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the top reason for non-usage of the internet is “difficulty to understand the internet”.
Source: IAMAI KANTAR “Internet in India”
This fundamental lack of digital literacy has resulted in 762 million Indians yet to adopt the internet, of which 63% are from rural India.
Another study published in the International Journal of Advanced Research (IJAR) highlighted how “illiteracy in general and digital illiteracy in particular” in rural areas inhibits digital growth in India.
All this goes to show that no matter how good of an infrastructure you make, it’s not useful if we don’t know how to use it.
This is dismal information for app developers and even users, especially those in rural areas. A lack of internet adoption means developers are cut off from that user base and furthermore a lack of understanding renders a developer’s product unsuitable for use.
But there is a way to get the wagon rolling. And that’s by, you guessed it, having apps in Indian languages.
The more apps in Indian languages the merrier
What if we had a way to get the “difficult to understand the internet” people to understand it? What is the way to inform and educate them?
The answer is communicating in a language that they understand.
It’s no secret that a significant percentage of content available online is in English, as opposed to the many other languages that exist in India and around the world. Having this content localized for those users who prefer their own mother tongues is the way to get them to understand the internet and further India’s digital footprint.
Again, the statistics point to a need for such content. According to Phrase, 76% of online users prefer reading online product information in their own language and 40% of users will not buy products from websites that are not in their mother tongue.
Even demographical data supports this. Less than 10% of India’s population speak English as their second or third language. That’s 10% of a 1.4 billion population.
Which language do you think these people would prefer reading their online content in?
Therefore, communicating in one’s preferred language is pertinent. In other words, localizing apps in Indian languages. App localization, or localization in general, is “simply adapting anything to make it suitable for a user who is from a particular geography or locale,” according to Anand Singh, head of Developer Relations & Localization at Indus OS.
The government’s role
At present, the government is involved in certain initiatives, like Bhashini, to bridge this language gap. Parallelly, private organizations are also involved in similar practices to get more content translated into regional languages.
What if we had more? What if we had not just government-related apps that are localized but say, for example, we had something like an Indian YouTube that taught rural users — in whatever their preferred language is — how to use and understand the internet? Or private firms worked in tandem with the government to bring awareness of the internet’s benefit to those who lack it?
The possibilities are many but what remains central to this effort is apps in Indian languages.
Conclusion: an Indus OS view of apps in Indian languages
How can a tiny linchpin be so instrumental? That question is now moot given all that we just read.
It’s easy for us — as a company that’s directly involved in the localization and distribution of apps through Indus App Bazaar, our alternative app store — to understand the importance of apps in Indian languages for the modernization of India and the potential betterment of her people.
From our vantage point, we know more can be done. Having more apps in finance, education, podcasts, and books translated into regional languages could push us further as a nation and build each individual up to a higher plane of thought and action. Not only does it benefit individual users but also app developers both big and small.
Let’s put the linchpin on the wagon wheel. Let’s have more apps in Indian languages.
About Indus App Bazaar: Indus App Bazaar is India’s largest indigenous Android app store, with a user base of 200 million+. We assist your app in reaching the far corners of India with our translation services into 12 regional languages. Publish your app for free today on Indus App Bazaar.
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