The Memes 2018

India 2: Included

“I now have a bank account and an Aadhaar card linked to it - it gives me a sense of security. I also have an ATM card and have learnt to use it to withdraw money. My monthly salary gets transferred online, directly to my bank account by most of my employers. I feel much more assured now that no one else can touch this money in my account. Having an Aadhaar also helps me to avail government benefits more easily.”

- Ruby, 34 years, works as a cook in multiple Mumbai homes

India’s billion plus people can broadly be defined by three segments. India-1, known as themore affluent consuming class, those with access to domestic help. This group consists of people who are most deeply embedded in the arena of consumption,with incomes that make thememinently bankable. India-2 can be referred to, respectfully, as the serving class, or those primarily involved in work that serves the needs of India-1.They form the backbone of Indian society, and tend to be the serving class that provides products and services to India-1. Theymake a living by addressing the needs of India-1 and work for them as domestic helpers, drivers, shop floor workers, couriers, odd job workers and so on.Meanwhile India-3 are India’s most deprived, the struggling class - classified as those struggling to get two square meals per day.

While India- 1 is increasingly been identified to ensure that they come under the ambit of tax collection, establishing identity has been much more difficult for India-2 and India-3. Yet a fool-proof way to establish identity is critical for India-2 and India-3, for them to access government employment and welfare schemes. These groups have been identified as the key audiences for targeted delivery and utilization of state benefits, financial inclusion,and improved governance. Through Aadhar, the government is creating a biometric identity system and tracing the lives of the billion plus population in India-2 and 3. As a result, today they increasingly have access and an identity that opens doors for them in to the formal economy.

In conjunction with the growing penetration of smartphones, and ever-increasing access to the Internet, a digital identity allows India-2 to access loans from financial institutions at fair rates of interest, open bank accounts, receive aid from government schemes directly, and transfer money at the press of a button.

As India- 2 enters the mainstream a fresh memetic wave of aspirations will be unleashed. The combination of affordable phones, low cost data plans, and intuitive apps that don't require the ability to read–has the potential to revolutionize the lives of India’s next billion (at present about 450 million of India’s 1.3 billion strong population has access to the Internet). Byconnecting millions of Indians – often uneducated and illiterate, and thus far off the radar – to the mainstream economy, new voices and demands will be added to India’s story, as new aspirations find utterance and traction.

This next billion will engage with the consumption ecosystem and the Internet uniquely. They will learn, evolve and engage so as to ensure a fit for their needs and skills. Not only will manufacturers and service providers have to adapt to their requirements (as already evidenced in Google’s efforts to makes internet services more accessible to lower-income populations in developing countries), but they will also leapfrog generations of physical and technological consumption. Those who never had a landline will be proud owners of multiple mobile phones, even smart phones. Many will perhaps leapfrog high street retail and find themselves in malls and hypermarkets.

The internet will change rapidly as well. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal predicted that ‘for them it’s about SWIPING not typing, using VOICE search, not keypads, and exploring the world through VIDEO rather than words on ascreen.’The combination of voice and video is allowing India- 2 to overcome the previously insurmountable barriers of low-literacy and low-visibility, and empowering them with access and identity in the online world.Greater awareness will also perhaps drive greater anxiety around privacy and a surveillance state. These concerns will have to be addressed in due course.

With India’s next billion now connected and identified, India tomorrow is likely to live in new and unique ways that cannot entirely be anticipated. Our aspirations and anxieties will change and so will the societal fabric.

India will go from a data-poor country to a data-rich one in three years. India has a unique digital infrastructure, a set of serendipitously developed public APIs such as eSign, Unified Payments Interface, Bharat Interface for Money, the Goods and Services Tax Network and eKYC developed as public goods. India is the only country in the world that can empower every resident with her own data, thanks to the technology infrastructure for inversion of data available due to Aadhaar and IndiaStack. We need to think about how this data wealth will translate into real wealth for users.
- Nandan Nilekani