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The Mystery of the Internet

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Last Sunday, an aged relative who lives in a remote area in Delhi called out of the blue.

While I was pleasantly surprised to hear his voice, he called with a request that was both amusing and appalling.

He said that he had asked his granddaughter to pay his electricity bill for the month ‘on mobile‘, and now had no proof or confirmation on whether it had actually reached the correct authority or not. He was very unsure that something he has been doing by trotting down to Electricity office, stand in the queue and spend half a day doing that can be done in minutes from a phone.

He requested me to ‘check on the internet‘, if his bill had been paid or not.

He had no information about the transaction except his house address. He did not even know the name of his electricity provider.

After I was done chuckling over our dialogue, I searched Google for the service provider for the area he lived in, found out the customer service number and shared it with my uncle for future reference, I was saddened to see how ‘the internet’ was still such a mysterious untrustworthy entity for some – that too in Delhi!

It made me realize how important the task at hand is, and how we’ve not even begun to scratch the surface.

While we take pride in localizing a million mobile devices a month, providing the best keyboards and fonts in 22 Indian Languages, or having translated over two billion words for e-businesses,  the very state we function in has a sizeable population that still does not understand the internet, and the convenience it brings to everyday living.

I am fortunate to have been contacted by my uncle to help him out, but there are so many others who are still to be introduced to the magical world of the internet, Google, Facebook and the millions of apps that keep us glued to our phone screens.

Like the ‘Each One Teach One’ campaign being run by the Education Ministry of India, there is a strong need to start an ‘Each One Teach One’ initiative for internet and mobile device education as well.

Close to 200 million Indians have a smartphone in their pocket, yet a significant percentage carries a small red book with handwritten names and phone numbers. Basic functionalities that we take for granted are still a mystery for them. A magical world awaits to be discovered!

So why don’t we do a good deed and educate someone on one new feature on their smart phone. Not only will we have enabled someone, we will start a chain reaction, where we teach one person, who then teaches two others and so the learning spreads.

Just imagine how wonderful that would be – spreading the virtual network through the human network.

Vidushi Kapoor