“Finally, an app that lets rural Indians browse the Amazon — I mean the internet”

To access the 930m Indian consumers who don’t use the internet, Amazon rolled out an Internet app -- using a quieter version of the ‘global connectivity’ approach.

April 23, 2018

Amazon silently released an app called “Internet” to help Indian consumers stay “up-to-date with news, cricket and entertainment” using a “lite” browser (2MB vs. 21MB).

Much like Facebook’s “Internet.org,” Amazon’s “Internet” app promises to improve rural users’ access to the web — while expanding Amazon’s access to rural users.

Rural India is a huge, untapped — and competitive — market

Amazon and Walmart are fighting a tug-of-war battle to acquire Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company. But while India’s 391m web-surfers are the most numerous than any country but China — they still make up less than 30% of the population.

So Amazon’s plans to increase the percentage of Indians online may help old guys watch cricket — but mostly they’ll help Amazon sell more yoga mats and toasters than Walmart.

Internet altruism — a classic way to colonize a market

India’s huge, upwardly mobile population is a classic “emerging market” — AKA, the first stop on the global tour for big companies that have squeezed all the data and dollars out of their home markets.

But, while growing companies in any industry can barge into emerging markets to poach new customers, big tech companies (whose products are built around internet access) are among the few that can claim that they’re accomplishing a social mission by doing so.

The price of global connectivity? A lil’ conflict of interest

Let’s be clear — bringing the internet to people who don’t have it is a good thing. But when internet is distributed, monitored, and branded by a single for-profit private company, there is both a conflict of interest and a violation of net neutrality.

But hey, what’s a violation compared to global connectivity? Google operates space balloons to “extend connectivity to… rural areas worldwide.” Facebook’s Internet.org brings “connectivity to the portion of the world that doesn’t have [it]” — in 63 countries.

One country where Internet.org internet is not available? India — where telecom regulators decided it didn’t meet standards for “non-discriminatory access.”

But where Facebook’s loud Internet.org failed, Amazon’s quiet Internet app might have a shot…

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