Mobile internet awareness and digital skills are intrinsically linked

Mobile has the power to transform society in India. It’s a key part of everyday life, amplified by the government’s Digital India campaign, launched in July 2015.

However, while there will be 690 million smartphones in India by 2020, the GSMA estimates that there will be far fewer active data subscribers. Currently, only 412 million people in India, or 31.2% of the population, subscribe to the Internet through their mobile phones.

This gap represents an opportunity to educate millions of Indian citizens on how they can use their mobile phones to improve education, job opportunities, and access to financial services and healthcare information. But for everyone to reap the full benefits of mobile internet and be part of the digital revolution, the digital literacy barrier needs to be tackled immediately.

Mobile internet awareness and digital skills are intrinsically linked. When a country’s citizens have the skills and understanding to take advantage of digital technologies, they can achieve significant social, cultural and economic results.

The potential for nationwide digital literacy is so profound that the Indian government has launched the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM), as part of the Digital India campaign, to help tackle the digital skills gap in India. The NDLM is expected to provide ICT training to 1 million people, in its first phase, and provide essential digital skills training to at least one person in every household by 2020.

To achieve this, there must be a change in the understanding and approach of mobile technology by the Indian people. If Indian citizens don’t understand the fundamental benefits that mobile internet can bring, whether it’s looking for a job or health information, or just watching a music video, they won’t be motivated to learn. to use it.

Recognize Challenges

Many Indians still face a number of barriers to owning and using mobile phones including cost, network quality and coverage.

Additionally, many people worry about having their cell phones stolen, being harassed by strangers, or simply not having the technical knowledge and confidence to use them to their full potential. Social norms and gender disparities in education and income often mean that women face these barriers more acutely than men.

However, having met a number of people across India, listening to the experiences and challenges they face every day only highlights the barriers that prevent citizens from enjoying the benefits of mobile internet.

A good example is Manoj, a 22-year-old who owns a phone but currently only uses it for calls and texts with his family. The broader benefits of mobile internet are unknown to him. Manoj is an entrepreneur who works to support his family. He works hard and long hours to provide his young daughter with an education and the means to improve herself. To this end, he runs two businesses; a store selling women’s clothing and solving cable network problems for its customers and it also delivers newspapers.

Manoj is aware of the benefits of connectivity. He calculated that he earns an additional 20 rupees from the voice calls he receives from cable customers. Yet his business and his family could benefit even more from the Internet, if he were only aware of its potential. These entrenched barriers to advancement are symptomatic of the broader Indian problem surrounding digital skills.

There are logistical efficiencies to be achieved by Manoj. For example, every other day, he spends two hours browsing the markets at lunchtime, buying new stock for his store. This activity could be conducted on a mobile phone, which would save him time and money. In turn, Manoj could then reinvest in his family and businesses, helping him in his goal of sending his daughter to school.

Access opportunities

The digital skills gap needs to be addressed urgently for a number of important socio-economic reasons. Mobile phones improve life and allow Indian citizens to feel more empowered and connected. These devices also provide access to education, employment opportunities, financial services and health care information.

As the case of Manoj proves, the solution is not simply to increase the number of mobile phones; it relies on collaboration between governments, mobile operators and third parties to educate the population.

It is only when every citizen is empowered to use the mobile internet in a way that directly benefits their own lives and those of their communities that the whole of India can participate equitably in the booming global economy. Knowledge.

The huge potential for digital inclusiveness means bold steps need to be taken. While the steps taken by the government are certainly a step in the right direction, the mobile industry, policy makers and other key stakeholders need to work together, so that everyone can reap the benefits of mobile services.

To this end, in collaboration with Idea Cellular, Telenor, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), 2CV Research Ltd and Point of View, the GSMA is taking positive steps to reduce the digital skills barrier in India through the launch of the mobile internet skills. Toolbox (MISTT). The toolkit has been developed for MNOs, NGOs, development organizations and governments who wish to provide training to improve people’s basic knowledge and understanding of how mobile internet can directly benefit them. .

The toolkit provides an introduction to using mobile internet on an entry-level smartphone via three services: WhatsApp, YouTube and Google, with important security and cost information also included.

Due to the potential impact, clear market needs and government buy-in, the GSMA and partners are piloting the toolkit in Maharashtra, ensuring communities are equipped with the skills to harvest the benefits of a digital economy.

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