Get set to surf more in Marathi, Telugu or other regional languages. With 860 million wireless connections in place, India’s telephony revolution is ready for the next big thing: the mobile web is set to speak in many regional tongues.
“There are many people who are not comfortable with English or Hindi but still wish to experience the Internet and for them regional languages are a booming trend and opportunity,” said Sachin Pilot, Union minister of state for communications and IT while addressing the mBillionth South Asia Awards function for 2011 on Saturday.
The awards are given for innovations in telecoms, mobile content and IT applications for the masses.
A study by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market researcher IMRB International confirms an emerging demand for regional language content.
The study says rural or poorer citizens accessed the Internet through handsets to “to generate more income for their livelihood along with services including healthcare and education.”
Innovators are jumping in to address the needs.
Bhasha, a Sri Lanka-based technogy service firm, has developed a browser that enables Sinhala and Tamil content on the exploding Android mobile platform.
“A person who uses the Internet to access basic services such as government jobs, forms and other e-governance features should not miss the opportunity due to language hurdles,” said Dhanika Perera, CEO, Bhasha.
Ventures like Mpustak from Hazel Media tackle technical challenges in boosting regional language applications, enabling them to be accessed on less expensive handsets and tablet computers.
Global labels such as Yahoo and Nokia have joined homegrown portals like OneIndia.in in offering local language content. But making money with such content is still a big question.
“Advertisers in vernacular languages are sparse,” said Mehul Gupta, associate vice-president, IAMAI.