Today’s smartphones have greater computing power than the Cray supercomputers of yesteryear -which could not be imported into India because of strict export controls by the US government. They also have sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes which are more accurate than the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in the nuclear warheads of the 1960s and high-definition cameras of better quality than what Universal Studios had in the 1990s. These are going to make amazing new technology developments possible and will help transform India’s infrastructure and industries.
Indian adults will be glued to these devices just as young Americans are. Meeker noted in her report that 87% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 who own smartphones say they never separate from these: “my smartphone never leaves my side, night or day .“ Four-out-of-five say that the first thing they do upon waking “is reach for my smart phone“. And three-out-of-five believe that in the next five years “everything will be done on mobile devices“. Tomorrows smartphones will be our assistants, guides, and medical advisors.
In the business world, the rise of mobile platforms is dramatically transforming many industries all over the world. Consumers everywhere now have access to functionality on their smartphones that makes traditional taxis, bank branches and cameras redundant. This is rapidly changing the competitive landscape in plenty of markets and creating huge headaches for companies that can’t keep up with technology advances. The same will happen in India -even to newspapers.
What Indian software developers have to do is to start thinking about new solutions to old problems using all of the features of these new devices. They have to learn how to use sensors, analyse large streams of data with artificial intelligence, and build appli cations with intuitive user interfaces in regional languages. They need to take advantage of the unique properties of smartphones and tablets, such as the ability to gather data via sensors and lightweight user inputs, and hyper-personalisation of content and operation.
Uber is an example of an authentically mobile consumer app that they can create. As Indian software developers and entrepreneurs master the smartphone, they will be able to export their solutions to the rest of the world.
This will make possible a new technology revolution that is greater than what created India’s IT industry in the 1980s and 1990s.We can expect the rapid transformation of India when a billion people become connected and have equal access to information and services.
(Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at Stanford Law School and a director of research at Duke University)