Mobiles revolutionised India like no other innovation

Tags: News

It changed the way democracy functions, says author Robin Jeffery

Two decades ago we would have laughed at the idea of a communication device effecting social reform. It would have been considered presumptuous and illogical, yet another tall claim made by geeky nerds. But, over the last ten years we have unknowingly witnessed social change brought about by cell phones.

More than easing communication hurdles, mobile phones have broken family, business, social and political barriers alike, says Dr Robin Jeffery, author of the book Cell Phone Nation – How mobile phones have revolutionized business, politics and ordinary life in India.

Dramatically stating that mobile telephony is the most significant innovation that has hit mankind since the arrival of shoes, Jeffrey observes that in India mobile telephony even changed the way democracy functions, empowering people to better information about the events around them. If you want to limit someone’s mobility and take away their dignity, you deprive them of shoes. Today owning a phone brings a strong sense of status, even dignity, he adds.

The professor describes the mobile phone as a device that has brought fisher folk in Kerala, boatmen in Banaras, great capitalists in Mumbai and power-wielding politicians and bureaucrats in New Delhi on the same platform, ensuring a democractic equality in communication. For example, armed with minimal 2G equipment fisher folk in Kerala could determine better prices for their catch. Mobile signal is available till about 20km into the sea and the fishermen determine which market (Kochi or Allepey) gives them a better price and go there to sell.

Equipped with inexpensive handsets and knowledge, they improved theirbusinesses, which otherwise would have been impossible.

“Until about 10 years ago, phones in India were meant for important people with important work to do. Not for the ‘aam aadmi’ or ‘aam aurat’. Affordable mobile phones have made conditions faster, more efficient and — here is what I think that is so important for India — more democratic,” he said.

Mobile telephony has been the fastest growing industry in India over the last 10 years. It has had the deepest penetration into rural areas compared to all other consumer goods. The difference between urban and rural teledensity has been almost halved. The latter stands at about40 per cent and is the current growth trigger for telcos.

shyamalaseetharaman

@mydigitalfc.com

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