Five years ago, I had to move home and found myself for two weeks without Internet. By the end of the two weeks, just as I was to be declared clinically insane, an Internet connection was provided and I was saved. Since then I grew only to be more dependent on the Internet for everything. I got rid of my TV, switched to e-books, and got practically addicted to Twitter. This December, when I found myself moving home again, the broadband company proved as ineffectual as ever, and two weeks later I still don’t have broadband. But this time around, I did not go insane. That is mainly because these five years have given me a smartphone and a tablet computer with 3G cellular capabilities.
Being a gadget freak, I had a number of mobile devices even an year or two ago and would have been fine without broadband even then. But for many Indians, 2012 is the year when they truly adopted mobile devices and used those mobile devices to access the Internet. For many more Indians who have been till now intimidated by personal computers, it is the year when they found the usefulness and the charm of the world wide web for the first time because of the cheap availability and ease of use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers.
This legacy of 2012 as the year when mobile web came into its own has been confirmed by the now iconic, yearly Internet Trends report from Mary Meeker. The report found out that in 2012, there were 2.4 billion global Internet users whose number increased by about 8 per cent since the last year. In India, this year-on-year growth is much higher than the global growth at 26 per cent. Since 2008, some 88 million Indians jumped on to the Internet bandwagon and are part of the 137 million Indians who are connected to the world wide web today. India gets special mention in the report because in May, mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop Internet usage for the first time ever in the world.
This incredible statistic points to the fact that Internet connectivity to the masses is coming from the smartphones and tablet computers. While some would credit Steve Jobs with kick-starting the smartphone and tablet revolutions, for Indians the real hero of this propagation of mobile web is Android. But this Android is not the Android of the high end Galaxy S3s, and of Galaxy Tab tablets. This Android is the one that ships with cheaper, accessible mobile phones and tablet computers that are made for the Indian markets. While Apples and Samsungs of the world can be ruling the world markets, the Indian market and consequently the Indian Internet user is being benefitted by Indian companies like Micromax, Lava and HCL that are innovating with their limited means and are coming up with products that are custom-made for the Indian consumer.
Despite all the advancements we made in 2012, only 11 per cent of Indians are connected to the Internet. But 2012 has enabled your local auto rickshaw driver to get a `3,000 smart phone and connected him to the wide world for the first time. And if this is the starting point for every Indian to be connected, then a big hurrah for that and a big hurrah for 2012, the year of the mobile web.
The writer is a tech geek.