India now leads the world in smartphone growth. It saw a 55-percent increase in the number of smartphones, to 140 million, in 2014. The number of Web users increased by 37 percent, to 232 million.
Smartphones were the source of 65 percent of its Internet traffic and 41 percent of its e-commerce, according to a report by Mary Meeker, titled "Internet Trends 2015."
So it is official that India's Internet boom has started. Within three to four years, almost every adult in India will own a smartphone. Unlike the West, which transitioned from mainframe computers to PCs to tablets and then to smartphones, India is making a leap directly into mobile. It did the same a few years ago when a billion people started using cellphones. But smartphones are going to have an even more profound impact on India.
The capability of these devices will keep increasing as prices drop. Indians will benefit from the same developments in technology as the West -- with smart watches and fitness-tracking wristbands and smart glasses and connected contact lenses.
Smartphones will be used to order goods, read news, monitor crop growth, access government services, report corruption and crime and manage smart cities and health. Mobile computing will be everywhere.
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 U.S. government.
They also have sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes that 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 percent 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 smartphone."
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 start thinking about new solutions to old problems using all the features of these new devices. They have to learn how to use sensors, analyze large streams of data with artificial intelligence and build applications 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 hyperpersonalisation 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.
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