India – the world’s IT hub, has lesser developers than USA – a country that is 1/3rd of our size
India has just 2.75 million developers versus 3.5 million in the USA. (Source : ComputerWorld) Viewed in context of the population base, this is a miniscule figure, especially for a country that functions as an IT hub for the world. Though the number is obviously set to grow, it needs to grow meaningfully, in order to contribute to the digital transformation that we all look forward to.
Why is it important to have more developers? (And in the Indian context, let’s look specially at mobile app developers) Because they create a vibrant mobile ecosystem with homegrown apps, that are real answer to local needs of the population.
For example, take a look at China, which has nearly 600 million mobile internet users. In China, there are 200 app stores other than Google Play, including Tencent’s My App and Baidu’s Mobile Assistant. Local apps are the top 10 apps on the App Stores (such as Alipay, WeChat, and QQ). The locally developed apps like WeChat are not just clones of their Western counterparts but are adapted to local needs. For example, using WeChat, you can pay government bill, book a cab and much more. It is even a distribution channel to promote new apps. This type of thinking is culturally reflective of the unique way that Chinese use chat apps and the mobile internet and it could never have come from any foreign market.
So app development is definitely something we want to #MakeInIndia. But hang on, that’s not enough. I propose that we should swell the ranks of developers, by introducing a never before functionality – coding in your mother tongue. Incidentally, this is possible in China.
Local language content is a key initiative to grow India’s mobile internet base
Have you ever wondered, why every Indian aspires to own a TV set and cable subscription, but not a smartphone? Mobile phone subscriptions have crossed 1 billion in 2016. More than 70% of Indian households have television sets and nearly 68% have a cable or DTH subscription. Yet, barely 300 million Indians are online – a paltry 25% of the population. A data connection is definitely not unaffordable to someone who anyway pays for voice, and subscribes to TV channels.
The real answer? The average Indian is not online, because they do not see a relevance for internet in their lives. And a large part of the reason that internet is not relevant, is because there is not enough vernacular content.
India has the highest daily TV viewing time in Asia Pacific, at 3 hours 16 minutes (as compared to the Asia Pac average of 2 hours, 32 minutes). Also, India has more than 826 channels across various genres, covering all parts of India. There is enough content, for everyone, in every language. So almost every Indian household invests in a TV set once they can afford it, despite the heavy down payment and running cost of a cable subscription.
When there is more user-relevant content, more people will come online. That’s been the story in China, Korea, Japan – every Asian market, except India.
Silent but constant, the Language Divide in online content excludes more than 1 billion Indians from being part of Digital India.
Language in Coding (LICO) as a means to break the Language Divide
LICO (Languages in Coding) is a first-of-its kind initiative that allows anyone to code a mobile app, in their native vernacular language. No formal knowledge of coding is required, nor is it a prerequisite to understand English.
LICO uses a platform developed by Anant Computing that simplifies the task of app creation. Use readymade templates, and simply drag and drop to create the app that you wish! All instructions and commands are available in Hindi, to aid non-English users, and will eventually be available in all 21 official Indian languages.
LICO puts content creation and app creation in the hands of the very people who today are not part of the mobile revolution. And it puts in their hands, the power to bring in millions of more people who are similarly excluded.
You would have heard of initiatives like Make in India and Skill India movement which are intended to give a boost to local economy. LICO naturally meshes with these initiatives, as a tangible step that helps to take them forward.
We do not see LICO as a product, we see it as a movement. To cr
eate India’s first vernacular coding platform is only the first step. To get more people to use it, and create
apps, requires collaboration. Hence we invite partners to join us, and build this initiative together.
You can participate in many ways – you can teach or train aspiring developers on how to conceptualise and design apps and market them, or you can even set up your own training center, and we will give access to our platform and training materials.
If you share my vision of a vernacular Digital India, then please drop a line and get in touch. Let’s make the Digital Revolution happen together!
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world ” : Desmond Tutu