Lav-less Indians can't get enough of their mobiles
Indoor toilets are a luxury for many, not so their phones
India’s rapid technological ascent in the 21st century appears to have left the nation wanting in a few basic areas after the country’s newly released 2011 Census revealed that more households own a mobile phone than an indoor toilet.
The stats show that 46.9 per cent of Indian households have latrine facilities inside and less than 12 per cent of these are of the “piped sewer system” familiar to western toilet-goers.
On the other hand, some 53.2 per cent said they had a mobile, with the figure rising to a whopping 64 per cent in urban areas.
However, those with a computer or laptop dropped to a lowly 9.4 per cent and the figure fell yet further to 3.1 per cent for internet-connected machines.
The stats highlight the perplexing contradictions that exist in the world’s ninth largest economy, where around a third of households are still lit by kerosene lamps and nearly half have mud floors.
In many ways, the mobile stats should be no surprise given that India is known to have the second largest market in the world after China, with around 900m users, while it’s thought to have pipped Japan to third place globally in the table of top internet-connected countries with 121m users online.
Although the 2011 Census stats didn’t break down the percentage of mobile households owning internet-connected devices, the disparity between the 121m said to be internet connected and the low number owning web-enabled laptops or PCs is pretty telling.
It’s obvious that in India, like China and parts of Africa, many users are growing up in a world where the mobile internet is the online way they access the web. ®
A mobile phone is more affordable than an indoor toilet; you can buy a phone for 10 pounds, and all the infrastructure is provided for you on a pay-as-you-go basis.
I flushing toilet is more expensive and requires connection to infrastructure that, in many places in the world, doesn't exist.
It seems bizarre that, in the 21st century, many people lack basic facilities but advanced technology is cheap enough to be ubiquitous.
The problem is a massive logistical one. The biggest cause of inequitable population densities in Urban India is because of migration of low-wage, daily-labor workers into the big cities.
I would guess that 80-90% of the population in Asia's largest ghetto (Dharavi in Mumbai) is comprised of that. The process of providing proper "facilities" to such a dynamic and large population is highly complex.
I would also venture to guess that in rural India, the population density is not that great and what the governments should be doing is developing these areas (and I am certain efforts are underway toward that end). The mass exodus of rural citizens into urban centers is what needs to be looked at. What kind of incentives can be provided to them, how can they be empowered to live in the rural areas (associated viable livelihood, etc)...
As far as technology goes...yeah mobile technology is definitely more pervasive in India than other forms and as some one pointed out, the price point is reasonably affordable by most individuals. With the advent of smart phones and cheap tablets, their "connectedness" will also increase. I give it another 5 years.
There are already private projects underway to provide "e-banking, e-credit" facilities to remote parts of rural India. Once these take off, suddenly the financial abilities of the "lav-less indian" will increase. Who knows, he might even be able to "brownload" and "download" simultaneously.
BTW, being an Indian Citizen, I find this article (and certain comments) in bad taste. The sense of incredulity is typical of spoilt brats who taken things for granted and have a false sense of entitlement. Instead of looking at how this technology might be helping the poor stay connected and try and improve their lot in life, we get snide commentary on their "lav-less-ness"!
This isn't really surprising, the infrastructure for a proper loo is massive and the recipient gain something they're used to doing without.
The infrastructure for cheap mobile 'phones piggy-backs on the infrastructure for expensive mobile 'phones* and provides something completely new and useful in a number of ways that we're incapable of appreciating in the west.
*Rich people tend to travel - it's no good just putting mobile 'phone infrastructure in wealthy areas.