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730 million people will be online in India by 2020

India has been hitting the headlines a lot recently because of how quickly its digital communities are growing. Much of America, Europe and Eastern Asia has now reached PC and smartphone saturation point, leaving manufacturers looking for new regions to sell devices to. India is a country of over one billion people, the majority of whom are not yet connected.
There are currently 350 million smartphone users in India. According to a new report from NASSCOM and Akamai, that number could swell dramatically in the coming years to the end of the decade. The research firms predict over 730 million people will be using the Internet in India by 2020, 702 million of whom will be accessing the web from a smartphone.
Smartphones have attracted the attention of Indian consumers in a way PCs never managed to achieve. Most other countries went through a desktop and laptop PC revolution before the rise of smartphones. The high cost of devices in India made computers an unaffordable luxury for most people, however. They never really gained mass support, leaving consumers isolated from the Internet for longer than those in other countries.
The arrival of affordable, no-frills Android handsets over the past couple of years has dramatically transformed India’s internet outlook. Smartphones have made the web accessible to millions of people who previously had no way of connecting. In a nation without a widespread broadband network, mobile plans on 3G and 4G services are the standard way to get online.
The growth of the Internet is also benefitting India’s economy. Its impacts on sectors ranging from commerce to travel has allowed startup businesses to get established in a way they couldn’t just a few years ago. 70 percent of e-commerce transactions are made from mobile phones, boosting businesses that were previously confined to desktop PCs.
India has already surpassed the US to become the world’s second largest internet user base, behind only China. It is expected to retain its position for the foreseeable future. It is also the world’s fastest growing market, exceeding every other nation in its race to get more people online. This is opening new possibilities for consumers and businesses within the country, empowering people who previously lived in remote, isolated areas.
“India’s Internet consumption has already exceeded USA to become No. 2 globally. Keeping into consideration the massive impact that the Internet is creating across sectors, it has become the greatest disruptor of our age by changing the way we work, interact socially and live life in general,” said Mr. R. Chandrashekhar, President of NASSCOM. “By 2020, the Internet is expected to penetrate deeper in the hinterlands of the country, helping to create more opportunities for everyone.”
There are still some issues that need to be overcome. Most notably, 75 percent of new Indian internet users expect to be able to consume content in their local language, most commonly Hindi. Hindi content is rare online, however. This week, Google told the Times of India (TOI) that it is seeing a five times increase in demand for Hindi-language webpages every year but only 0.1 percent of content on the web is written in the language. This could alienate new users who are just coming online.
The country is also in need of heavily improved infrastructure. Across the nation, poor connectivity and slow networks are common. 2G connections will still be the only option for one-third of users by 2020, Google told TOI earlier this week.
Aside from sluggish performance, these aging standards aren’t capable of supporting the millions of users expected to come online over the next few years. Companies including Google are already working on rolling out new networks but it is proving hard to keep up with the phenomenal growth rate of internet usage.

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