An interesting story popped onto my radar this morning. It deals with how India should be ranked as the third largest Internet market in the world by the end of 2011, if not sooner, behind China (number 1) and the USA (number 2). But there's something even more interesting in these numbers than immediately meets the eye...
The story in question is from the India Times Website called The Economic Times, and it's entitled "India to be ranked 3rd largest Internet market after China and the US." What's hidden in these numbers from such a teeming country, with a population second only to that of China, is that they come from only a 10% penetration of Internet access among its populace. Currently, the Internet and Mobile Association of India estimates the country's on-line population at 121 million, with another 9 million to be added on or before year's end.
Another interesting observation is that "...there are more Internet users in towns with a population of less than 5 lakh [500,000] than in the top eight metros put together." The authors go on to observe that Internet access is catching on in "smalltown India and among the less affluent." Other interesting observations include the make-up of India's Internet user base, where more than 20 percent of users are schoolchildren, and more than 10 percent come from the lowest rung on that country's socioeconomic ladder. This shows a satisfyingly bottom-up nature to the Indian Internet phenomenon, and augurs for greater growth and penetration in the decades ahead, when those schoolkids have children of their own.
This makes India a white-hot market for technology offerings, and possibly presages the kind of dotcom (or perhaps, dotin) boom that the US enjoyed at the turn of the millenium. I also have to think that it presages an equal boom in technical certification for IT and other business professionals, albeit in a market where prices must be kept as low as possible and where profit margins are razor thin (thus, for example, while my Dummies books come with cover prices of $24.95 in the USA, those same titles go for the equivalent of $5 in rupees in India).
It's going to be interesting to see how vendor-sponsored and vendor-neutral certification programs can be made to work successfully in an environment where costs have to be kept down, down, down. This is unavoidable even though keeping up the quality is important not only because of India's global market impact, but also because so much of the West's technical support needs are now being serviced in English-speaking countries like India.
This looming statistic provides not only interesting food for thought, but a good reason to reinvent modern certification models, and to start taking online certification testing (and proctoring technologies like those from Kryterion) more seriously. India (and also China) should not only up overall Internet populations and use, but should also force the development of radically new business models and IT certification delivery and recertification mechanisms to go along with them.