In late July of this year, it will be the 26th anniversary of the first mobile phone call made in India. The first call was made in July 1995, when the West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu in Kolkata spoke to the Union Telecom Minister Sukh Ram in New Dehli.
Although this event was accompanied by a reasonable degree of fanfare at the time, in one sense the media coverage it received could not really fully appreciate the historic moment this event marked. And although the last two decades have been marked by a wave of technological changes, there are perhaps few that have affected Indian society as profoundly as the proliferation of mobile phones has.
Nowadays, mobile phones are used for everything from paying utilities and other person to person payments, to looking up online betting bonus codes when you are relaxing after a hard days’ work. IN fact, there are few aspects of daily life in Indian society we can think of that haven’t been impact by the rise of the mobile phone!
To give you a sense of how profound these changes have been, India is currently the world’s second largest smart phone market. Trailing just slightly behind China, as of 2019 India saw a staggering 158 million shipments of smartphones. Other data seems to support this enthusiastic adoption of mobile technology. And according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute’s ‘Digital India’, between 2014 to 2018 the number of smartphones per 100 people in India rose from 5.4 to 26.2.
Usage statistics also seem to indicate the growing presence of mobile technology in the average Indian’s life. And according to the McKinsey report, between 2014 and 2018, monthly data consumption amongst Indians grew from 86 megabytes to 8,320 megabytes. India is also one of the most active markets for mobile app downloads, with 12.3 billion mobile apps downloaded in 2018—second once again only to China.
Recently published data has indicated that there were 1.10 billion unique mobile connections made in India in January 2021, with this representing a 2.1% increase from the previous year. This was equivalent to around 79.0% of the population. And although this figure does not necessarily correlate directly with the population, as it only registers connections made by mobile devices, it nevertheless gives a general sense of usage trends.
Although you would be hard pressed to find an area of life where mobile apps are not used by Indians, it is perhaps our social lives where the proliferation of mobile technology is the most notable.
This is confirmed by the recent usage statistics released by Ravi Shankar Prasad during a press conference announcing new social media rules. During the conference, Prasad revealed that WhatsApp is the most popular app, with around 53 crores users. This is followed by YouTube which has over 44.8 crores users, with Facebook and Instagram having 41 crores and 21 crores users respectively.
What is perhaps the most interesting about these figures, is that social media still has so much room to grow. Recent data suggests that there are around 448 million social media users in India as of January 2021, with this accounting for around 32.3% of the total population.
With all that said, it is clear that mobile phones have profoundly impacted the lives of Indians. Exactly what the future holds, however, remains to be seen!