Empowerment of a different kind
By Adarsh Matham
03rd March 2013 12:00 AM
Every morning outside my house, a slightly built man called Ranga sets up shop. Under a small tree he sets up his push cart on which he irons clothes from around a 100 houses and flats around my locality. Whenever he comes to my house to pick up clothes, I see him taking notes of the number of clothes on torn cigarette packets with a chewed up pen. Even before he finishes
counting clothes at my home, his mobile rings and he is summoned to yet another home where the same routine of counting different pieces of clothes and writing them down on torn cigarette packets is played out. Since on a typical day he irons between 100 and 150 different pieces of clothes, a part of his push cart is always filled with cigarette packets.
His life would be made very simple, his productivity would increase and he would make more money only if he knew how to use and had the means to use a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets on computers are problematic for someone like Ranga. He would need a place to set it up, he can not carry it around, and anyway he would need a lot of training just to use one. And this is not the story of just Ranga. Look around you and you will see many people who could make great use of a easy-to-use computer. Dhobis, roadside fruit sellers, small stall holders, the list is endless in India. The most obvious alternative for these people is a smartphone. They are powerful computers that are highly mobile and can be used in almost all circumstances by almost everyone with little or no training. The problem for someone like Ranga is that the cheapest smartphone costs upwards of Rs 5,000 which is a lot of money if you are standing in the sun and ironing clothes whole day.
Even as we are obsessed with the likes of iPhone 5, and Galaxy S3, mobile phone companies are waking up to the fact that the next stage of smartphone market expansion is in the budget phones category. When mobile phone companies came together to flaunt their wares at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, one of the most prominent changes this year was the realisation that it is time to take smartphones to the masses in countries like Africa, Latin America and in India. Of course, this is nothing new for Indian companies like Micromax which are doing a stellar job of producing good quality phones at affordable prices. What is interesting and new now is the likes of Samsung and Nokia getting into the fray. Samsung with its REX line of smartphones and Nokia with its cheaper versions of the Lumia line are getting into the budget smartphone market and are giving or are planning to give the likes of Micromax and Lava a run for their money. And MWC showed that things are going to get more exciting with the likes of Mozilla and Ubuntu getting into the smartphone game with the express intent of making budget smartphones running their free Firefox and Ubuntu Linux operating systems.
Even though one could argue that with prices starting somewhere around the Rs 4,000-mark, these smartphones are a long way from being affordable to people like Ranga, this is a welcome starting point as companies with deep pockets and big R&D departments will push the prices down. Hopefully, one day soon Ranga will get his own smartphone. That day we can talk about empowerment through technology.
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