Need and Relevance of Mobile Based Information Services in Emerging Markets - India


Gnanapriya C (, Principal Architect,

Communication Service Provider Practice

Puneet Gupta (, Research area leader – Convergence Lab, SetLABS

Infosys Technologies Ltd, Bangalore




Internet and Mobile data services have been instrumental in the rapid growth of information technology. As a technological phenomenon, Internet has helped in the penetration of IT based services to the core of Indian business and society at large. And mobile and wireless technologies are helping in extending the value proposition of IT based services Anywhere, Anytime and in a way that includes the power of “context”

Data from Wireless World Forum’s “Indian Mobile Market 2006” statistical handbook reveals that mobile ownership will pass 100 million in 2007 as ‘the largest middle class in the world’ takes up ownership. With 124.6 million forecasted mobile owners in 2007, India ranks 3rd in the world behind only China and the USA.

Internet Revolution


Internet has really taken computational and information technology to a new stage – computers communicate with each other. This has helped in variety of areas including communication, knowledge sharing, handling transactions (e-commerce) etc. The impact of internet revolution has already been felt on the economic growth across the world and increasing so in emerging economies where Internet is emerging as a very effective tool for enabling a level playing ground.


A quick look at the big picture would be useful to begin understanding the potential impact (and challenges!) of Internet and mobile internet on a country like India.


q      Population --1,080,264,388 (around 70% lives in rural area)

q      Area -- 3,287,590 sq km (more than 600,000+ villages)

q      Political subdivisions-- 28 states,7 union territories

q      Literacy--55.2 %

q      Per-capita income-- 0.4 $ per day


Source: Dipankaj G Medhi, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand


While internet has been instrumental to the sort of IT revolution we are witnessing in India, it also is playing am important role in bridging the so called digital divide in India. The table below provides examples of how Internet is being leveraged for different kind of rural enablement initiatives. As should be reasonably evident from these examples, the fundamental nature of internet as a technology/infrastructure makes it a very effective tool to deal with the digital divide.




Name of the Project


Future planes


Making a district E-literate, limited employment generation.

Delivery of multiple service at Akshaya centers and expand it to other districts


Issue of Land title at 177 Bhoomi kiosks and through privately owned kiosks

Expand rural kiosk network


Creating a network of privately owned kiosks for e access to info, government and service commercial

Expand Network to cover new kiosk


The prime target is farmer. Farmers get information about seeds’ price, etc

Scale to more users


Multipurpose Internet kiosks based on WILL

Expand for commercial utilization


Connecting rural cyber café catering the everyday needs of the masses.

Extend for global Internet

(Ref: Dipankaj G Medhi, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand)


While Internet presents itself as a powerful technological phenomenon to achieve this, there are still challenges with respect to the access mechanisms. Internet access still suffers from issues such as the quality of electricity supply, availability of fixed line telephony infrastructure, the cost of the basic computer/connectivity set-up as well as issues related to end user education and comfort with use of the technology.


Better reach out with Mobile technologies


Internet usage is more in urban areas where literacy is more, supported by better local connectivity infrastructures. But for a wider reach, especially to rural India, there is a demand for other technologies that are more accessible and at suitable price points. Mobile penetration has been successful from this perspective and has not only been used for networking & communication, but has gained a significant place in doing business and to stay in touch with latest information.

With monthly subscriptions inching towards six million additions per month - 5.9 million of them - are new mobile subscriptions, making India’s net addition the highest in the world, overtaking that of China – though the penetration levels may be lower. India today offers the lowest telecom tariffs as compared to rest of the world with local mobile call rates at less than 2 US cents a minute. The combination of the above two facts makes mobile based information access an extremely practical and attractive value proposition for a country like India. The number of cellular subscribers in the country is expected to treble to 300 million in the next three to five years

Every cell phone can technically be used as a data access device. One can use GSM data bearers to get circuit switched data connections at 9.6 Kbps or so, the cost and complexity in this access mechanism doesn’t make it a very practical option for most application. GPRS based packet data access, is the practical alternative offering decent internet access capability and in a cost effective manner. Issue, how ever is GPRS support in handsets and availability of service. As, Chirasrota Jena points out in the article titled, “mobile connectivity- opportunities galore”, operators have been offering GPRS services since 2003 and the effective coverage and the quality of coverage has been expanding over the years. Today speeds are being offered that compared favorably with basic rate ISDN. CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) providers offered speeds as high as 128 Kbps. Further the paper mentions that “by early 2005, it had become common place for users to utilize their mobile phones for accessing the Net, especially notebook users. Even where Wi-Fi is available at hotels and other transit points, users find it more convenient to use their existing GPRS or CDMA services rather than struggle with configuring to use the local Wi-Fi network. Dialup connectivity’s biggest bugbear has been the pulse charges and in 2004, almost all cellular phone service providers introduced flat tariffs where you pay extra only if you exceed a bandwidth limit, usually 500 MB or 1 GB”

Wireless connectivity technologies


The foundation of the wireless LAN, Wi-Fi is usually implemented through the 802.11b or 802.11g protocols. 'b' has a bandwidth of 11 Mbps, 'g' five times that. Work is afoot on 'n' which will offer Fast Ethernet equivalent or better speeds.

Wi-Fi network coverage is limited to within offices and campuses and scattered hotspots at this point of time.


802.16 is the protocol family with fixed (802.11d) and nomadic (802.11e) variants. WiMAX operates in the frequency band 3.3-3.4 GHz.

WiMax is starting to move out of the pilot stage and into deployment as telecom majors BSNL, MTNL, Bharti Televentures, Reliance, Sify, and VSNL have all acquired licenses in the 3.3-3.4 GHz spectrum. WiMAX could revolutionize backhaul.


General Packet Radio Service is also known as 2.5G. This technology used to be the only option for packet data on GSM networks. It has now been superseded by EDGE but the fact that more handsets support GPRS than EDGE ensures its continued relevance for a year or two longer.

GPRS is widely available with every GSM operator offering it as a value-added service.


An acronym for Enhanced Data GSM Environment it is faster than GPRS delivering data at rates of  up to 384 Kbps

Handset support is picking up as GSM service providers offer EDGE. It will, however, be side-lined in the next year or two as 3G picks up.


3G refers to third generation wireless technology in mobile communications. Its capabilities include enhanced multimedia, and upwards of 2 Mbps throughput.

3G will be deployed by Indian telcos in 2007

Different wireless connectivity options [Ref: Mobile Connectivity, Express Computer]

As the table points out, a variety of wireless access options are beginning to emerge making data access over mobile wireless devices more effective and more practical than ever.

Mobile value proposition


In India, the primary drivers for mobility are accessibility and less dependence on the fundamental last mile infrastructure. And given the near ubiquity of coverage, mobile access has become/is becoming powerful access medium for internet access as well


Also beyond the value that mobile technologies bring in terms of easy and ubiquitous access, mobile technologies comes with their inherent advantages not available with traditional Internet access. These include


  • Location Identification
  • Higher levels/relevance of presence awareness
  • Context awareness
  • Anywhere, Anytime access


Often the value proposition of technology or phenomenon like mobile internet is different from an end user’s perspective compared to an enterprise. Though in many cases there is a linkage between the two. While mobile internet can be an easy and effective channel for an enterprise to expand the reach of its services, at the same time it can turn out to be an effective access mechanism for the end user to consume those services.


At a broad level, the mobile Value proposition to an enterprise can be looked at as


        A new channel to reach out to customers and employees alike

        Another self service channel: As end users start getting used to experience a wide range of mobile voice and data services using mobilizes, an implicit demand to be able to reach out to your business is emerging- Self service via mobile channel can be a killer App

        Employee enablement. Providing the right data, applications and mobile tools to your field service can substantially enhance productivity and effectiveness, factors that have direct impact on day to operations and real customer service

        Expanding to far-out and less accessible rural areas where having a physical presence may not make sense. Very cost effective in virtually extending your enterprises to wherever your customers are, also acquisition of new clients


The next section provides a tabular overview of applicability of mobile based information access technologies across different verticals.


Usage of Mobile technologies for data services in various segments in India


Sl. No.

Industry segment

Segment details

Access / Information requirement

Applicability for Mobile Internet



executive, legislative and general government, justice, public

order and safety, public finance, taxation, monetary policy, administration of HR, environmental

quality, housing, economic programs, national security and international affairs, and all other

Central, international and local government.

Enable mobility to e-Governance(National e-Governance plan)

Update status, alerts, notification via SMS based on which users can get into the e-Governance portal for more details



Harvesting, Marketing, pest control, crop rotation

Online advice, transactions, information retrieval

Alerts, Advice, transactions can be handled by SMS based applications or via thin client mobile browser based interfaces


Health Care

Hospitals, clinics, doctors, nursing, dentists, medical and dental laboratories,

And other health services.

Data sharing, Expert advice, registration for public health service, appointment, alerts, notification

SMS based applications for information/alerts and transactions based on

WiFi / GPRS connectivity at home and hospitals for real time heavy data uploads / downloads


Financial Services


Banking, securities, insurance (other than health) and health

Insurance (the payer).

Mobile Banking, Financial transactions, Micro finance, Micro Insurance

Information retrieval (account, loan inquiry, status check), Banking transactions, payments, requests (DD, Cheque book etc)

SMS / WAP based applications. Thin client mobile browser based interfaces. J2ME based thick client apps for providing online/offline information access


Retail Trade, Trading

General retailers, specialty retailers, grocery, restaurants and hotels.

Interactive communication / Financial transactions / M-commerce

Online store can leverage the mobile channel to deliver instant information to users, assisting them to make informed buying decisions, while helping the retailers to understand and evaluate consumers' preferences.

Auctions is another attractive application area

SMS / WAP based applications. Thin client mobile browser based interfaces. J2ME based thick client apps for providing online/offline information access



Electric, gas, oil, nuclear power and sanitary services

Real time Meter reading updates

Bill payments

Real time info sharing

SMS based applications

WiFi / GPRS for heavy data uploads



Wire line, Wireless, Cable, Television, Radio broadcasting

Mobile Content Delivery

News, Alerts, Content (Music, Video clips), Gaming

SMS based applications, Streaming with GPRS / 3G / 4G network services (XoIP, IPTV etc)



automotive, industrial, electrical and commercial equipment,

medical equipment and supplies, computer and high-technology, electronics, transportation

Equipment and all other discrete manufacturing.

Mobile Field Force , real time updates, low cost supply chain management – info access

SMS based applications as well thick client based models for storing information for offline access. Real time data updates with WiFi and GPRS networks.



water, rail and air transportation, urban passenger transit, motor freight

Transit, pipelines, warehousing, couriers, and transportation support services.

Fleet Management (real time updates), M Ticketing, Schedule updates

SMS based applications for updates, m ticketing, schedule updates, status check



IT service providers, software publishers, professional, scientific and technical services, real estate, and business and consumer services.

Real time data access, mobile Content delivery, m-trading, m-bookings

SMS based applications, Streaming with GPRS / 3G / 4G network services (XoIP, IPTV etc)



Challenges with state of art technologies


While the fundamental value proposition of mobile access to information and mobile transactions is clear, it is important that one realizes the key complexities associated with mobility and find out ways to effectively deal with those challenges. Some of the key challenges are listed below.


q     Managing Device Diversity. There are several hundreds of mobile devices out there each with different form factors and underlying technology platforms. Building solutions that scale across these device types is a challenge

q     Context sensitivity: Dealing with user contexts, device contexts, network contexts and application contexts which keep changing and hence the application needs to evolve its behavior as the underlying context changes

q     Planning for but “not assuming” any-where, any-time connectivity. While a solution should leverage the almost ubiquitous connectivity that is available, the solution must take into account the fact that connectivity can just disappear in the most unexpected of ways

q     Right approach to Security: Application architectures assuming low network level security and not depending on how secure individual apps are written to be

q     Minimizing the cost and complexity involved with mobilizing apps

q     Immature standards in content rendering technologies. Multiple forums and bodies (wireless technologies, internet). Non availability of e2e Interoperability standards

q     Aligning to the right set of technologies for the business needs. There have been several instances where mobile technologies have been very enthusiastically applied in different scenarios only to be met with disappointment as very often a combination of wrong applications and wrong technologies is chosen.


Infosys has been looking into these challenges and our effort have been aligned towards development of technology platforms as well as solutions that aim to bring the best value from application of mobile technologies in specific areas, while dealing with the unique challenges such as those articulated above. Some of our solutions and platforms are described next, to give the reader a feeling of the kind of technology as well as applications specific efforts that need to be put to make mobile information access a practical and relevant access mechanism.


Infosys mobility solutions with a strong Indian context


1.     Insurance for Rural India


One of the more significant challenges that organizations face, including those in the insurance sectors, is the ability to serve the client base in small towns and in rural areas where it is not practical to extend the company’s presence by setting up physical infrastructures. Many of these places are not well served even from an internet connectivity perspective. Surprisingly even the remotest of these areas are today being served by mobile networks. We have been working on creating technology platforms that enable creation of solutions that leverage a low cost mobile device that a local, employed by the company as its representative, can use to provide several services which were hitherto possible only when a customer were to visit the nearest office in one of the towns. The field representative can use her/his mobile phone to access services like getting customer information, receiving alerts related to due dates for renewals and updation of premium payments received, just to give a few examples. Thus by using a low cost mobile device, the field agent can provide all critical services even in areas where setting up of basic internet infrastructure can be a challenge. Advanced synchronization techniques supporting both SMS and wireless data technologies offered by GPRS as well as CDMA networks, ensure that the cost per transaction can be kept extremely low.



2.     Microfinance

MicroFinance is a solution provides a finance company providing micro-loans to help their field agents to track their customers, their credit limits, loans and payments. The situation involves a credit company providing “micro” loans where the loan amounts are very small. Therefore the cost of transaction per loan sanctioned or payment made should be extremely low. With the MicroFinance application, data is available with the finance company’s agent to monitor his clients’ loans and their payments. Transactions are offline and data is synchronized with backend server at a later time or when connectivity is available.


The key attributes of the solution is the way the technology solution deals with factors like:

       Non-availability of network connection

       Cost of network connectivity (air-time) to access data

       Security of confidential data transmitted/received over the air

       Speed of transactions

       Data loss and recovery



3.     Application of mobile real time data for dairy professionals


Based on TruSync, Infosys mobile synchronization platform, this solution is aimed at enabling field force of a dairy organization to enable us of mobile device like PDAs to provide nutrition, animal diet and wellness services as well as vaccination services to farmers who have no other effective mechanism to scientifically deal with animal care to increase net yields. The solution strength lays in the ability of underlying technology platform to deal with the complexities of the wireless connectivity infrastructure. The technology enables the application to work in offline situations when connectivity is not available or when the cost of connectivity is high. The technology involves opportunistic pre-fetching of data and by masking the disconnectedness from the end application by fetching the data from the local database, masking the actual state of connectedness from the end application. The solution is also aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of such mobile solutions both from technology and cost perspectives.


Infosys mobility platforms


1.     Infosys m-Connect platform


m-Connect is Infosys context aware mobile transactions platform that enables extension of any web based application to be made available for access from any web enabled mobile device in  manner that is optimized for each device. The platform takes into account factors such as Screen real estate, Input, Cost of Connectivity, Heterogeneity, Application Deployment, and Available Bandwidth


The platform is a web server side middleware that detects device type and in real time renders a transaction interface suited for a mobile device. One of the critical aspects of the platform is the way existing back end infrastructure is leverages meaning that an existing application can be mobile enabled in incredibly short time frames.



2.     True Sync


TruSync is an Infosys platform for building mobile synchronization based mobile solutions. By harnessing the power of “Context” TruSync ensures that optimized mobility is realized and the solution understands and appropriately reacts to evolving environment conditions without end-user disruption


Essentially Trusysnc offers one time architectural foundation doing away with the need of dependency on the individual mobile applications to deal with issues such as network connectivity aberrations, security and transaction prioritization. 


Key Architectural foundations:


  •  Masking the occasional disconnectedness from the application and hence the end user
  •  Ability to differentiate between application contexts
  • Removing dependence on both the network level security as well as the end application security architecture
  • Also manages transaction prioritization