Shirky shows in his book “Here Comes Everybody” the potential of the Web 2.0 and its participatory character. The everybody is limited to people with an Internet access, though. By looking on India, it is important to stress the digital divide is a major threat. The digital divide is the limitation of the access and accessibility of ICTs and therefore to the Internet as well. This excludes many people, who could participate and become active media producers and profit of the new media revolution of “participatory media”, which Shirky stresses in his book.
Narrowing the digital divide, by improving the access and accessibility to ICTs and the Internet, could be beneficial for the Indian society and help to make use of the participatory character of the Web 2.0.
The statistics used by Pick and Sarkar (2015, pp.155-156) show how the digital divide translates into numbers. For example, in Mumbai there are only 2.5 Internet subscribers per 100 inhabitants. This is a fairly low number compared to 61 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and shows that the mobile phone as a gatekeeper to the Internet would be a possible solution with increasing smartphone adoption.
While there is a huge digital divide in India, India is also the second biggest market for mobile phones in general, looking on the total numbers of mobile phone subscriptions. This means more and more people can potentially participate in the Web 2.0, when utilising a mobile device, which is able to connect to the Internet. Shirky’s point is still important for the Indian context and potentially helpful for development, if the participatory character can be used by more and more people, with a narrowing digital divide. The Internet offers not only room for collaboration, but also participation in the world largest democracy, while ICT literacy and accessibility remain one of the major threats (Pick & Sarkar, 2015, p.155).
Shrike’s theory of “Here Comes Everybody” is, of course, a little Eurocentric, as everybody does not include everybody across the Indian society, yet.
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Very interesting article about popularity of mobile phones in India. It reminds me of a case study about mobile phones and fishermen in Kerala, India. Mobile phones not only enabled fish workers to find out prices in distant markets , participate in them, reduce a wastage by estimating more accurately demand at the destination (Sreekumar , 2011). Mobile phones can be seen a lifesaving device. Besides the danger of weather conditions creating high risks to lives at sea , fish workers also face problems with arrests by Sri Lankan coastal police , due to nonrecognition of territorial limits. Communities figured out their own way of how to ICT devices in the most suitable manner to them. Thus mobile phone emerges as a ‘collectivistic machine’.
Sreekumar (2011) Mobile Phones and Cultural Ecology of Fishing in Kerala, India. The Information Society 27 (3)