Educating India’s New Internet Users Better Through Language Localisation



The Indian internet is growing at a rapid pace, spurred on by slashed data rates and cheaper handsets. Tens of millions of Indians are coming online for the first time ever. According to a Google-KPMG study, 90% of these new users will use the internet in an Indian language localisation, and not in English. What this means is that the vast majority of Indian language internet users, in addition, to not using the internet in English, are not familiar with platforms. Much has been said about how the Indian internet is still neither Indian language friendly not Indian language internet user-friendly, with content in these languages not given the importance it deserves, and access to tools like typing not always present.

However, in addition to these numerous usability and content availability issues, this growth has much wider implications. These new users face another set of issues, issues related to user security. New users by definition are uncertain how to use a certain platform, but it must be kept in mind that digital platforms require user data in order to function, user data that needs to be safeguarded.

New Users & Data Security

New users are often not aware of just how important safeguarding their personal data can be since they are still new to digital platforms and unsure of the consequences of data being misused. These users tend to be a lot less careful when it comes to situations where data can potentially be compromised.

In other words, these new internet users are at significantly higher risk of having their personal data attacked, through a wide range of means, like OTP fraud. They are more susceptible to having their confidential details accessed without their consent. When you take the numbers into account, it gets a lot more alarming – this basically means hundreds of millions of Indian internet users will likely have a shaky grasp on their own data. You can only imagine the amount of data that can potentially be compromised out there, and its possible collective economic impact.

Let’s take a look at why these users are at higher risk, and what can be done about this.

Building Secure Platforms For The Indian Internet’s Masses

To begin with, the reasons lie with how digital platforms are generally tailored to English language users, in terms of both language as well as UI/UX. Security communications are often English only (something that is thankfully changing), but these messages are not enough. Remember that platforms optimize for their English speaking, mature users, and do not take into account the difficulties their newer, Indian language speaking users face.

With these users, platforms must take more active initiative when it comes to user education, to ensure that it reaches as many users as possible.

Platforms need to keep in mind that new Indian language users are overwhelmingly Indian language internet users, and these new users need user education material on how to use platforms securely (in addition to using their features with ease). This material must be in Indian language to ensure it can actually reach 90% of these new users, as opposed to English only material which can only be read and comprehended by 10% of them.

This can take the form of campaigns with detailed instructions on spotting issues and what to do if you encounter them.

Examples Of User Education Campaigns Done Right

A good example of this is how Facebook instructs its users on sharing fake news, especially in Indian languages. The logic behind this is that users in emerging markets find content shared on social media credible even if they do not know of its source, and are more trusting of it. Facebook has actively educated its users on how to spot fake news in an effort to combat this menace.

Similarly, Google has run educational campaigns in Indian languages that teach users how to safeguard their data better. These campaigns feature video and image content to ensure poor Indian language support on devices doesn’t compromise their message.

More Inclusive User Education For Better Security

One thing is clear. Better user security, and by extension better data security for both platforms and users, can only come from active outreach with new Indian internet users, who number in the tens of millions and primarily use Indian languages online. Messaging should be in their language without which it can make an impact on them, and platforms should be aware of and sensitive to these vulnerabilities and the users they could potentially affect the most.

As always, language’s key role in facilitating communication cannot be understated, since making something as critically important as user education cannot be in English alone. In addition, it must be kept in mind that user behavior across user segments also shows different levels of comfort and familiarity with platforms and their safety norms.