Jan 16, 2018
3 min read
Smartphones have made our lives so much easier. They’ve expanded what you can do with technology, by tapping into the near limitless power of the internet.
Typing is a key part of this user-device equation – it’s how you feed your device with requests and commands and get it to do what you want. It’s what makes your smartphone so much more than a device that just lets you make and receive phone calls.
Now, imagine that important link to this source of information and functionality permanently frayed and weak, its ability to tap into the internet’s potential compromised.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is reality for hundreds of millions of Indians, nationwide.
When smartphones spread across the world, they were localised in different local languages, including languages that do not share the Latin script with English.
In India however, these phones were marketed to and designed for the small, upper middle class section of the population that could use English. Localisation was ignored, because the assumption was that there was no market for tech in Indian languages, and that Indian language users would not be able to afford smartphones and tech.
This had real implications for people who were not as comfortable using English. It meant that the range of technology available to them, and the things they could do online, were severely limited by language.
The tide, however, has turned.
Over the years, more and more Indian language users started coming online. In fact, there are already more Indian language users than English language users – 234 million people vs 175 million people as of 2016, according to a Google-KPMG study. 90% of new internet users coming online in the next 5 years will do so in an Indian language. Reflecting this new reality is a greater need to make Indian languages.
Our own research shows us that most Indian language users stick to apps across low friction verticals, like messaging, social media, entertainment, and news. Basically verticals that require very little from the user, but a trend that also indicates a voracious appetite for Indic language content.
Typing something on your phone in English is as simple as physically writing something. Even easier, really. For most Indian language users, it’s still something of a hassle to use their own language digitally.
In fact, 70% of Indian language internet users in a recent study reported facing challenges in using English language keyboards. Which of course, forms a barrier to using the internet.
It’s time something was done about that. It’s time something was done about the inability of hundreds of millions of Indians to type with ease in their own language, limiting their access to the internet and cutting them off from the vast stores of knowledge it holds.
Knowledge, and education, should not, and cannot be the preserve of an English speaking elite. The Indian internet must be democratized. And we can all play our own small part in making this happen. Digital inclusiveness isn’t just a buzzword, it needs to be a larger, more relevant theme.
That’s why we developed Swalekh.
Swalekh And Indic Typing
Swalekh is an app for Android and iOS that lets Indian language users type in their own language with ease. Its ergonomic layout and multiple input modes (native character mode and transliteration mode) are designed with the Indian language user in mind, allowing them to quickly start typing in their own language.
The Role Of Education & Awareness
Developing tech solutions is just one part of the solution. Education and awareness, come next. It isn’t enough that tools are developed. The average Indian needs to be made aware that they can use these solutions to solve their problems, and they need to be taught how to use them.
As Republic Day approaches, we at Reverie are taking up the initiative of teaching Indian language users around us to type in their own language, empowering them. It’s our responsibility, as citizens, to share this knowledge.
Here are some examples of our own attempts at teaching Indian language users to type in their own language.
We at Reverie #PledgeToTeach #IndicTyping to our fellow citizens this #RepublicDay. Join hands with us and be a part of our mission to create language equality on the internet!
To join us in our quest, share a photo of you teaching someone around you to type in their own language, tag it with #PledgeToTeach and #IndicTyping, and share it with us on social media and tag us in your post.
Let’s all do our part in spreading the word!