Creating a social media savvy India A slow, but steady process

Every second in India, three people experience the Internet for the first time, according to data from Google. To people in developed countries, the idea that there are still people in the world who have never used the Internet is mind-blowing, let alone social media.

As more and more people get access to the Internet every day, their eyes are opened to the world of social media. I take a look at how social media is currently being used in India and what the future holds.

Just 10 per cent of India’s population are active social media users, and only 27 per cent use the Internet, according to the latest report from global digital agency We Are Social.

Despite these somewhat dismal figures, the country has experienced rapid growth in all things digital. In the last year alone, the number of social media users increased by 26%, and internet users increased by 44 per cent, putting India in the top five countries in the world for growth rates in internet penetration.

In July 2015, the Indian Government launched their Digital India initiative with the goal of connecting every single person to high-speed Internet by 2020. The three core components of the programme include creating high-speed digital infrastructure that extends into rural areas, delivering services digitally, and educating and empowering the country on the uses and benefits of this technology.

Just last month, Google jumped on board by pledging to provide its expertise and set up free high-speed public Wi-Fi networks, by partnering with universities, shopping malls, and other public places. However, with 70 per cent of Indians living in rural areas, and nearly 40 per cent of the population identifying as illiterate, the road to a social media-savvy India is a long one.

Madhumita Mandal, assistant professor at Amity University, explains that in India, people are still not aware of the benefits of the internet and social media.

“India has a very diverse population. We have people who are literate and we have a large portion of the population who are illiterate.”

“People in India, they are not that educated relating to social media. The majority of population don’t know what the exact use of social media is, why it was invented, why it was launched. They just use it as a way of talking to people. But abroad, I know they use it actually as a part of the media, as a way of reaching the masses.”

For these reasons, Professor Mandal believes that education should take priority.

“Before the WiFi coming in to the picture, the rural people need to get educated regarding social media. If you go in the rural villages…I am sure 80 per cent of them do not have any knowledge related to Instagram, or LinkedIn, or any other such new media sites. The majority of them are not literate. So working towards educating them should be the first thing in mind.”

“After that, telling them the advantages, the good things they will get about social media, to reach the masses...that is another thing they need to know. Once they come to know this, obviously they will start using social media."

On the other side of the coin, many university students are successfully connecting to social media and quickly learning to reap the rewards. One third of India’s active social media users are university students, according to a 2015 survey by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Saurav Chatterjee, 19, is a student of journalism and mass communication at Amity University, Mumbai. He has a Facebook account and uses it quite regularly, but says that the messaging service WhatsApp is more popular among his friends and others in his age group.

“We have Facebook, but to message in Facebook is quite rare. And Instagram is not so popular in India; I rarely use it. WhatsApp is very popular here - everything happens in WhatsApp. We even have our college and student groups on WhatsApp.”

Kiran Bathija, 21, is a food blogger in Mumbai. She also studied a Bachelor of Commerce and is about to pursue a Masters of Business Administration, majoring in Human Resources. As a food blogger, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the ever-changing social media world.

“WhatsApp is very common. I love Instagram, but it’s definitely for the younger people. My mum uses it at times, but my Dad is still not even familiar with the term Instagram. When it comes to food, people mostly rely either on Zomato, or on Instagram."

Overall, for those who are connected to social media across the country, Facebook is the network of choice. Fifty-three per cent of social media users who logged in in the last month are on Facebook, the study from We Are Social recorded.

Professor Mandal echoes these sentiments: “Many new people are creating Facebook accounts every day. Yes, we have Instagram and we have Twitter, but Facebook is on the top of the list.”

Created By
Sophie Wright
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Most images taken by Sophie Wright. Third image supplied by Kate Sheehan.

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