The speed at which information and communication technologies are evolving is mesmerising! We are all always connected; be it for work or for leisure. Availability of cost-effective mobile devices has further accelerated this revolution. We start our day by “catching up” on news (media apps) or stories (social apps) or gossip (messaging apps) that happened when we were asleep. So widespread is the “consumption” of content that it wouldn’t be wrong if we called it “addiction”.
While we all might agree to the fact that technology has significantly altered human life, the consumption of (time spent on) different apps has not been uniform. There is a huge socio-economic bias in what a person consumes and that tells a lot about the future of technology.
For a country like India with a population of over 1.2 billion, the analysis becomes even more interesting. While people with different demographics consume different types of content, the segment where they all overlap is messaging. Be it a teenager or an early 30s high-flying investment banker or a 40-something homemaker or a 75+ senior citizen, they all want to stay “connected” with their respective circles and messaging is what none of them would want to ignore. WhatsApp is a clear leader in this segment with over 10 crore active users in India. If WhatsApp is declared a state of India, it would be the fourth largest one in terms of population! That is the scale that WhatsApp has achieved in less than 7 yrs.
Can WhatsApp be used for more than just “staying connected”? We strongly believe it can be used for a number of applications from healthcare to education to news to commerce to governance and so on and so forth. WhatsApp could be the new Google. People can ask WhatsApp for answers, use WhatsApp for products purchase, leverage on WhatsApp to make governments more accountable and much more. For all this and much more to happen, WhatsApp needs to support 1) structured messaging; and 2) let other (external) systems connect to it. Though Facebook has been actively supporting both these on Facebook messenger, WhatsApp has not yet followed suit. While WhatsApp was found with the aim to democratise communication and to uphold freedom of speech, it also needs to accommodate the need to democratise availability of content.
Communication has always been an integral part of development of human civilisations and WhatsApp has revolutionised it. From (human) messengers riding on horse backs to messengers on every smart phone, we have indeed come a long way forward! It is time now for the messenger to provide for much more! Is WhatsApp ready for this?