India may be the worlds fastest growing smartphone market, but millions of people in the country face difficulties in operating these handsets because of a big language barrier. But those problems could soon be behind them.
Indias ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) has given its nod (PDF) for a proposal that requires all phone companies to support at least one additional language in addition to English and Hindi. This additional language could be any one from nearly two dozen regional languages that people in India speak.
The ministry said the new standard will be mandated with effect from July 1, 2017. The ministry panel has held several rounds of discussions on this matter with concerned parties including manufacturers, it said. The phone manufacturers have previously expressed concerns over implementation of an additional language, noting their phones are largely planned globally.
There are over 700 million mobile phone users in India, of whom 450 million use a feature phone, while the rest 250 million users have a smartphone. According to rough estimates, about 90 percent people in India don’t speak English, and many are also not fluent in Hindi.
The move further crystallizes Indian governments attempts to get more people online and persuade them to make use of existing technologies. At the same time, the government also focuses on making products by international brands more relevant to Indians by suggesting changes.
Earlier this year, the Indian government made it mandatory for all phone makers to add a panic button and have GPS functionality on all new smartphones to be sold starting 2017. These features would provide emergency assistance to women, the government said.
Last month, the Indian government met Google, Microsoft and smartphone brands to consider including its homegrown authentication feature on all of their smartphones.