Dec 29, 2016: According to An Indian startup, it has found the tool to make it easier for more people to have email accounts, but it may have partially solved the big puzzle.
Two months ago, a start-up based in Jaipur called Data XGen Technologies introduced DataMail, an email service which provides email addresses in several Indian languages. The service, paid at the time, is targeted at the vast majority of Indians who are not so comfortable in writing or speaking in English.
It has now paired up with state-run BSNL to provide email addresses in regional languages like Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, and Marathi for free.
“It’s now possible in every part of India to have an email address in their own language and communicate in preferred language”, said Anupam Shrivastav, Managing Director of BSNL, in a press statement.
Internet users in India are around 350 million, which accounts for less than 30 percent of the country’s population. BSNL and Data XGen are focusing on the rest of the population with their new service. As noble as their mission is, it doesn’t seem the two companies analysed the pros and cons thoroughly.
There’s certainly an appeal in DataMail. The app has been tested many times; a few email addresses in Hindi language were created as well. Everything is uncomplicated, straightforward and creating an email address is a breeze.
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Several popular email services such as Gmail offer support for Hindi and other Indian regional languages. Users can draft and send emails in Hindi or any other language if they intend to. However, DataMail is the first service to offer email addresses in local Indian languages.
Though there is no trouble using the app and creating email addresses in local languages, it soon becomes clear why email addresses and Indian languages don’t get along. There’s a big barrier between users who can type in Hindi (or other local languages) and those who can’t. DataMail fails to point out the issue.
Arvind Pani, Co-founder and CEO at Reverie Language Technologies, a company offering multiple solutions for communications in Indian regional languages, said users who are able to read in Hindi, for instance, can be assumed to be literate enough to write in Hindi, for instance. Reverie’s services are powering DataMail app.
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And this problem quadruples while using DataMail. It’s very difficult for users who cannot write in Hindi or other supported languages to connect with users who have an email address in a non-English language.
Email is a communication medium that has been around for decades on a simple consensus — any two or more parties can communicate as long as they have an agreement over bare minimum protocols on how they will send and receive emails. If someone, regardless of their location, isn’t able to type your email address, that renders the service useless.
While all popular Smartphone operating systems — Windows Phone, Android, and iOS — offer Indic keyboard and also support third-party keyboards that come with similar facilities, the key question is how does one send an email another whose email address is in a language that they do not understand?
It’s a limitation that could decrease the relevance and fruitfulness of DataMail among users, especially if there is no fallback mechanism (alias addresses in English or the user’s mobile phone number, or something of that sort, maybe?) for everyone else to be able to send emails to DataMail users.
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This brings us to the most crucial point — whether or not email is still relevant as a communication tool for mobile-first internet users who have never had email addresses or felt the need for it.
Most services now a days don’t necessarily require an email addresses to create an account — a mobile phone number does the job easily. Even India’s newly launched Unified Payment Interface, which has been implemented by over 30 banks in the country, uses mobile phone numbers to create virtual addresses to which anyone can transfer money. Indian users are already transferring money to mobile phone numbers as the use of mobile wallets keeps gaining popularity.
In mobile-first and increasingly mobile-only India there needs to be a better substitute of emails and localizing email addresses just does not fit the deal.
– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang