Mobile communication is revolutionizing economic and social life in rural India, spawning a wave of local entrepreneurs and creating greater access to social services according to a new study by The Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) commissioned by Nokia. The research identifies seven major service sectors including transport, finance and healthcare that could be radically transformed through mobile technologies.
Mobile phone ownership in India is growing rapidly, six million new mobile subscriptions are added each month and one in five Indian’s will own a phone by the end of 2007. By the end of 2008, three quarters of India’s population will be covered by a mobile network. Many of these new “mobile citizens” live in poorer and more rural areas with scarce infrastructure and facilities, high illiteracy levels, low PC and internet penetration. The study looks at how their new mobility could be used to bridge the growing economic and social digital divide between rural and urban areas.
The research is based on detailed ethnography and participant observation among communities living in three rural areas of India – Badaun in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Satara in the state of Maharashtra and Chittradurga in the state of Karnataka – as well as one urban area, Bangalore. Researchers meet with small business owners, farmers, home owners and others to understand how mobile communication has already transformed their daily lives and the further potential of mobile communications to enhance livelihoods.
The study encourages national and international governments, the mobile industry and NGOs to work together to support the development of these services by increasing access to, and use of, mobile communications in rural communities.