When I talk about the global New Renaissance and how virtually everyone on the planet will soon be able to access our ebooks I know many struggle to take the idea seriously.
After all, we were brought up in another era. An era when internet access involved buying an expensive computer powered by expensive electricity, that needed an expensive desk to sit it on and an expensive telephone cable connection only available in big cities, and an expensive subscription to an ISP, just in order to dial-up a connection that would slowly unfold a static webpage.
Nowadays we in the rich west take for granted the idea of a handheld, cable-free smartphone that we can read books on, watch films on, message people all over the world on, and, oh yeah, make telephone calls on. And conference calls. And video calls. And…
Ten years ago much of this seemed like science fiction. Even five years ago, when ereaders were just becoming popular, the idea of reading books on a phone seemed a fad that would never catch on in the real world.
But change just keeps on coming, and it gets faster and faster.
IT is no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich west. It’s not even the preserve of the rich few in the rest of the world. The rest of the world has simply skipped all that pain and gone straight from nowhere to 4G.
We’re fast approaching the point where everyone on the planet will have internet access and a handheld device on which to engage with said internet.
There are already over two billion smartphones out there. There are over three billion people with some sort of broadband connection.
And while of course the focus is on the larger cities and densely-populated regions of the world, that doesn’t mean the rural areas are missing out.
Projects like Google’s Loon internet balloons and Facebook’s Aquila internet drones will soon be bringing the internet to even the most remote parts of the inhabited world. For example, Google has recently announced a deal with the Sri Lankan government for Google Loon to provide internet access to the entire island.
Meantime, down on the ground, Facebook’s internet.org initiative is bringing free internet access to the poorest of the poor.
And now Google’s “Internet Saathi” project is literally wheeling out the web across rural India. By bicycle.
Over the next eighteen months five million women in 45,000 Indian villages will be getting lessons in how to use their smartphones to connect to the internet. (LINK)
Google this past week tweeted that the first rural woman student, Jayant, had successfully used her smartphone to look up information about the cattle she rears to support her family.
The internet is a wonderful thing.
But it won’t just change Jayant’s life in practical terms like providing information about her cattle. It will also open up a world of entertainment and social engagement previously totally off-limits to her.
How long before Jayant and the other five million women this project will reach will discover ebooks? Maybe one of yours?
Google ‘s South Asia VP Rajan Anandan says that while the English language has dominated the growth of the internet in India so far, “the next 100 million Internet users will not be fluent in English”.
That’s one hundred million reasons to start thinking about translations into India’s myriad local languages.
I am. Are you?
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.