In 2000, internet was a rich man’s tool—technology of the West. In 2013, emerging markets are the medium’s growth drivers. Recent initiatives by Facebook and Google to bring new users online from developing countries, such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, are a pointer to this. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has announced an ambitious partnership, internet.org, with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people. Google, the Mountain View, California-based company expects 500 million new users from emerging markets to come online, compared to only 15 million new users from the US.
“India will play a very significant role in bringing the next billion customers online,” says Lalitesh Katragadda, country head, products, Google India. “Traditionally, India has been an under-penetrated market which has meant a vast scope and opportunity to grow here. There are many trends which point towards this growth. Indian users are evolving and so is the Google platform to cater to them. Our aim is to bring the usage in India from the current 100-120 million to 200 million and we believe that the trends in the country are highly favourable for this development.” he adds.
What happens when a billion new people come online? Both the internet biggies profess that one of the first things they will do is use the Web to express their entrepreneurial spirit, grow their businesses and share their culture. Also, the Web is a big enabler for small and medium businesses, hence a win-win for both the parties; the internet companies as well as the consumer.
Globally, there are 2.7 billion people internet users. The number of mobile phone subscriptions has also mushroomed to reach the five billion mark this year. At 73.9 million home and work internet users, the Indian online population currently ranks as the 3rd largest in the world after China and the US, says comScore. With 75% of its internet users under the age of 35, India has the youngest skewing online population among BRIC countries.
Back to the Facebook-led initiative. The social networking firm will be working with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, to develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilise industry and governments to bring the world online. “Today we connect more than 1.15 billion people each month, but as we started thinking about connecting the next 5 billion, we realised something important: the vast majority of people in the world