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Past Issue • Oct-Dec 2013

Mental Kartha Hai: Indian Urban Slums and Unmasking the Mobile Internet

For teenagers at the bottom of the pyramid, adopting and persisting with the Internet is the result of innovations to manage needs within means by staggering costs, scheduling time and sharing know-how. In this article, Professor Rangaswamy shares the fi ndings of her study on mobile Internet usage among teenagers from the slums of India and reveals the motivations behind, and the revolutionary impacts of, growing Internet uptake and access.*

“Mental kartha hai … when I am online, I am, like, blown away … I want to experience and download as much as I can before my prepaid times-out.” This quote from a teenager living in a Hyderabad slum, from an interview conducted three years ago, was about his Aircel micro prepay mobile Internet that lasted for three days with a download cap of 2 GB! Fast forward to the present, and Aircel’s monopoly on prepaid mobile Internet is the site of intense competition among all the major telecommunications companies (telcos) in India, each vying for a fair piece of its huge market share. This essay is not the story of telcos but of teenagers living in Indian urban slums, hungry for the Internet and its many splendoured affordances.


  • Nimmi_Urur_large

    Nimmi Rangaswamy

    Nimmi Rangaswamy is Adjunct Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad.
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