Via The New York Times
The next chapter of the World Wide Web will not be written in English alone. Asia already has twice as many Internet users as North America, and by 2012 it will have three times as many.
The globalization of the Web has inspired entrepreneurs like Ram Prakash Hanumanthappa, an engineer from outside Bangalore, India. Mr. Ram Prakash learned English as a teenager, but he still prefers to express himself to friends and family members in his native Kannada. But using Kannada on the Web involves computer keyboard maps that even Mr. Ram Prakash finds challenging to learn.
In the last two years, Yahoo and Google have introduced more than a dozen services to encourage India’s Web users to search, blog, chat and learn in their mother tongues. Microsoft has built its Windows Live bundle of online consumer services in seven Indian languages. Facebook has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to translate its social networking site into Hindi and other regional languages, and Wikipedia now has more entries in Indian local languages than in Korean.
“If you want to reach a billion people, or even half a billion people, and you want to bond with them, then you have no choice but to do multiple languages,” she said.
Even among the largely English-speaking base of around 50 million Web users in India today, nearly three-quarters prefer to read in a local language, according to a survey by JuxtConsult, an Indian market research company. Many cannot find the content they are seeking. “There is a huge shortage of local language content,” said Sanjay Tiwari, the chief executive of JuxtConsult.
“People want to look forward, and they want to learn English. That is all right, but English is not enough for all their needs.”
Read more examples here
The article, "The Rural Internet Users and State of Vernacular Content in India" states the following:
Although most of the Internet users in India are familiar with more than one language, it is only that users in smaller cities are avid users of applications and services offered in local language.
From the report:
The growth of PC and Internet penetration in India has been impressive in the past few years. However, the bulk of thisgrowth has mostly been in urban India thereby widening the gap between rural and urban India in terms of adoption ofInformation and Communication Technologies (ICT). Considering this divide, the report examines aspects of localisation and regional content provided over the Internet.
The characteristics and orientation of Indian populace towards consuming print, audio and visual communication is regional and localized in nature. They seem to be more amenable to communicate in the language they are more familiar with. English seems to be their less preferred choice of language.
For the digital localisation or vernacular industry to take-off in a big way, there is a need for digital content that is designed to serve daily and important informational needs of rural as well as urban population.
Read the detailed report (with graphs, statistics and examples) here.