From Fielding the Calls to Calling the Shots? - OZY | A Modern Media Company

From Fielding the Calls to Calling the Shots?

From Fielding the Calls to Calling the Shots?

By Sanjena Sathian



Because when 1.2 billion people say to “jump” you might just want to say “how high?”

By Sanjena Sathian

They’re not all on the other side of a call center line anymore.

This particular prediction bell is ringing not for money but for Internet usage — though who can tell the difference between the two these days? The global face of the Internet is changing. The latest news? The Indians — and their $4.8 trillion economy — are coming, yaar!

243 million … of 1.2 billion

Number of Indian citizens with internet access

India has already overtaken Japan as the third-largest Internet user in the world — and this year, with 243 million of its 1.2 billion residents online, it’s expected to become the second largest when it pushes past the United States, putting it behind only China. And while usage is still dominated by the college-educated, English-speaking crowd, about 42 percent of Indians will surf in their regional dialect — speaking to a whole other kind of boom in local content production.


Which serves to remind us of just how much the Internet has changed in less than two decades. In 1995, 60 percent of Internet users called North America home. In 2012, that number dropped to 12 percent — and by the end of 2014, the U.S. could dip below 10 percent of Internet users. A different story emerges from the East: In 1995 China and India weren’t even in the top five nations using the Internet. It took India 10 years to reach 10 million users — but only 3 years to double in size from 100 million to 200 million users. And as mobile grows worldwide, rural India is no exception; even in villages where the nearest net-cafe will take you miles through the fields, you can count on 7 out of 10 people (19 of those 243 million web-savvy people across the country) having smartphones in their pockets.

Given that immigrants and outsourcing from the billion-and-booming countries seem to have powered Silicon Valley and the tech expansion of the last two decades, the news isn’t all that surprising. But what may surprise you is that they’re just getting started. Internet penetration in North America is fairly high — roughly 78 percent — but Asia? They’re only at about 28 percent … which means the information superhighway is about to get a whole lot more congested.

Maybe Siri can help navigate — assuming, of course, she learns to master the accent.

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