As per 2001 census of the Government of India, 769 million people speak the top ten local languages in the country. Print and audio-visual media have always produced content in regional languages to cater to the regional audience.
Despite immense opportunity and growth, internet penetration has remained low in the country. It is primarily available in English; the penetration of working knowledge of English is also low in the country. Is this the reason internet is not spreading at the rate it is supposed to?
According to the Vernacular Report 2012 by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB, there are 122 million active internet users in India and only 45 million of them access online content in local languages as of December 2012. What is stopping people to use internet? Along with poor infrastructure, prevalent concept about internet and lack of awareness, a significant number of people reported that less availability of local language content is a reason for them for not using internet.
The report reveals that 64% of the Rural Internet users have accessed internet in local languages. In case of Urban Internet users, this figure is just 25%. That is a significant difference. Why more people in rural India are using internet in local languages?
The reason is there are many online services which specifically target the rural people and are available in local languages. Government services, Land Record Services etc. are some of the examples. Private initiatives like e-Choupals, Project Shakti are also available in vernacular language so that rural India finds it easy to use.
According to the report, email is the most popular application used in local languages; other popular services are News, Matrimonial, Online Banking etc.
Do you get a hint? Small markets are growing in the country; larger agencies are partnering with smaller and local agencies. To reach there digitally, service providers and advertisers need to make sure that people will lesser working knowledge of English find it easy to access content online.