Chief Operating Officer, Quest Alliance
Young people across the world see mobile and by extension the app ecosystem, as a symbol of progress, upward mobility and status. In India, Quest Alliance, a not-for-profit, has witnessed the rise of smart phone adoption among large cross sections of youth-from school dropouts enrolled in a short term vocational course to thousands in the Industrial Training ecosystem studying to become welders, draughtsman and computer operators.
Through our research and practice over the past five years, three primary areas keep cropping up among youth as far as the mobile ecosystem goes: Access, Affordability and Awareness. While there has been a significant drop in smart phone prices in recent years along with cheap data plans to complement them, there is still a massive gulf as far as women and girls are concerned.
Our pan India field experience at Quest tells us that approximately 3 out of 10 girls have access to a mobile phone and data plan in comparison with 8 out of 10 for boys. Hitherto, under-privileged girls are being further marginalised from the digital revolution. Access then, is not just a function of cost and data penetration but also about social mores and age-old discriminatory practices.
Surprisingly, the issue of awareness continues to be a challenging one. While majorities of youth are savvy as far as social media goes and are adept at accessing the mobile ecosystem to seek entertainment, there is not enough awareness about digital avenues one can leverage to further seek job opportunities or career related information and connect with peers to further livelihood aspects.
The “regional” internet in vernacular languages is still not strong enough in several parts of India. With mostcontent being served in English, people sometimes find it daunting to explore the app ecosystem and the Internet to self-learn new skills or access livelihood opportunities. The challenge for drivers of mobile revolution is to break down the barriers of ‘Access and Awareness’ so as to lead to better adoption and participation by the youth.