Inclusive, Not Exclusive: Understanding India’s Way

Inclusive, Not Exclusive: Understanding India’s Way

One area where India is doing really well is in making technology that everyone can use, no matter their age, where they live, their community's values, their education, and their cultural background, demographic, status. A great example is UPI. It shows that when technology is made for everyone, it can really make a difference in people’s lives.

Making sure that everyone is included, not left out, is the best way to go forward.

The middle class in India (Bharat), defined by an annual household income between Rs 5–30 lakh, has seen significant growth, expanding from 14% of the population in 2004–05 to 31% in the previous year. This trend is anticipated to accelerate, with projections suggesting an increase to 63% by 2047, according to findings from PRICE (People Research on India’s Consumer Economy).

Middle Class in India

Building Technology for Everyone

The move towards inclusivity while buidling platforms represents a strategic pivot from exclusively targeting well-defined customer segments to embracing a broader, more holistic view that seeks to accommodate the diverse needs of a wider audience.

This doesn’t imply that businesses must abandon the insights gained from segmentation but rather that they should use this knowledge to inform a more inclusive approach.

Understanding user segmentation properly doesn’t lead to exclusion but rather enhances inclusivity.

Instead, when done thoughtfully, segmentation can be a powerful tool to enhance inclusivity.

Being Inclusive Examples

  • Cash on Delivery — Flipkart started offering COD in 2010. COD allows customers to shop online without worrying about limited payment options.
  • UPI — UPI has helped millions of unbanked and underbanked people join the formal banking system. It has also empowered the unbanked by giving them the opportunity to participate in the formal financial system and improve their economic well-being
  • Local Language Support on Digital Platforms like ShareChat, Alexa, Google Map etc. This breaks down language barriers and makes digital content more accessible to non-English speakers, promoting digital inclusivity.
  • Aadhaar in India is a digital ID system that provides a unique identity number to residents (literally everyone, inclusive of New Borns i.e Blue Aadhaar, NRIs)
  • Assistive Technologies for People with Disabilities — Microsoft’s Seeing AI app uses AI to describe people, text, and objects to visually impaired users.
  • Digital Public Infrastrcuture — DPI is similar to roads, which are a physical network that connects people and provides access to goods and services.

Pillars of Being Inclusive

The pillars of being inclusive involve:

  1. Accessibility: Ensuring everyone has equal access to resources, services, and opportunities regardless of their abilities or circumstances.
  2. Diversity: Valuing and incorporating a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives.
  3. Equity: Providing fair treatment, opportunities, and advancement for all people while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.
  4. Representation: Ensuring all groups are visible and their voices are heard and considered in decision-making processes.
  5. Empathy: Understanding and being open to learning about the experiences and needs of others to foster a supportive and respectful environment.

Pillars of Being Inclusive

The Bedrock of Inclusive Technology

Designing inclusive interfaces

Applying universal design principles to platforms.

For example In context with e-commerce — creating interfaces, navigation, and transaction processes that are intuitive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability, tech-savviness, or familiarity with online shopping.

Designing inclusive interfaces involves creating user interfaces (UI) that are intuitive and easy to navigate for all users, including those who may not be tech-savvy or might have disabilities. This includes:

  • Simplicity: Use clear, straightforward language and avoid technical jargon. Layouts should be clean and logical, making it easy for users to find what they need without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Accessibility: Follow web accessibility guidelines (such as WCAG) to ensure that websites and applications are usable by people with disabilities, including those who use screen readers, have limited mobility, or have other accessibility needs.
  • Visual Design: Use large, readable fonts and ensure high contrast between text and background to help users with visual impairments. Also, consider offering a dark mode to reduce eye strain.

Beyond this, the principle of inclusive design teaches us that products and environments should be usable by all, without the need for adaptation. This demands flexible user interfaces and multi-modal interaction, catering to the diverse preferences and needs of a global audience.

Desingning User Services

When developing services, inclusivity means ensuring that the service is accessible and equitable for all potential users. This can be achieved by:

  • Affordability: Offering tiered pricing, including free or subsidized options for those who cannot afford premium services, ensures broader access.
  • Diverse Testing: Include a diverse group of users in the testing phase to identify and address potential barriers that different people may face.
  • Open API Architecture: Embrace open APIs to allow third-party developers to create complementary services, thereby increasing the utility and reach of your offerings.
  • Scaling Needs: Design services with scalability in mind, ensuring they can handle growing numbers of users and diverse usage patterns without compromising performance or inclusivity.
  • Diverse Metrics Monitoring: Establish metrics specifically to monitor and manage inclusivity, ensuring ongoing improvement and responsiveness to user needs.
  • Localization: Services should be localized to cater to the linguistic and cultural preferences of various user groups, including offering multi-language support.

Designing Communication & Prompts

Effective communication is key to inclusivity, involving clear, concise, and accessible information dissemination:

  • Multilingual Support: Provide information and support in multiple languages to cater to non-English speakers or those who prefer their native language.
  • Visual Aids: Use images, videos, and infographics to complement text, making information easier to understand for those who may struggle with literacy.
  • Multiple Channels: Utilize various communication channels (e.g., SMS, email, social media) to reach users where they are most comfortable and active.
  • User Guidance: Offer step-by-step guidance and explanations for actions users need to take, ensuring they understand the implications of their choices.
  • Customization : Allow users to customize the frequency and types of prompts they receive to avoid overwhelming them and to ensure relevance.

Personalization with Privacy

Providing personalized experiences that respect user privacy and offer value without overwhelming users with irrelevant choices.

By leveraging AI and machine learning ethically, platforms can suggest products, services, and content that cater to the broad needs of their audience while ensuring these recommendations are based on secure, anonymized data.

Digital Literacy and Education

Bridging digital literacy gaps with technology.

Initiatives focused on enhancing digital skills, particularly among traditionally underserved populations, are essential.

By providing educational resources in varied formats and emphasizing the importance of digital fluency, we can democratize access to technology, opening doors to opportunities that were previously out of reach for many.

Connectivity and Digital Inclusion

Connectivity as a right, not a privilege.

In a world where access to information is a key driver of opportunity, ensuring universal connectivity is fundamental to inclusivity.

Developing solutions that cater to low-bandwidth environments and offering offline functionalities can bridge the digital divide, ensuring that geographical location and economic status do not dictate access to digital resources.

Privacy and Security for all

Protecting user privacy and ensuring robust security are essential to fostering an inclusive digital environment.

By empowering users with control over their data and developing security practices that protect even the least tech-savvy, technology can become a safe and trusted space for everyone.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Technology

Toward a Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Future. Inclusivity extends to considering the environmental impact of technology.

Embracing energy-efficient designs and sustainable materials ensures that the digital world we build today remains accessible to future generations, highlighting the interconnectedness of inclusivity and sustainability.

Algorithmic Fairness For Equitable Decision Making

The rise of AI and algorithmic decision-making brings with it the responsibility to ensure these technologies are developed and deployed ethically.

Addressing biases in data and algorithms, and striving for transparency in AI systems, are crucial steps toward ensuring that technology makes fair and equitable decisions for all users, fostering an environment of trust and inclusivity.

Implementing Inclusivity

Inclusivity in technology is not just about the end product but also about the processes that create it. This includes:

  • Diverse Teams: Building diverse teams that can bring different perspectives to the design and development process.
  • Continuous Feedback: Establishing mechanisms for continuous feedback from a broad user base to iteratively improve products and services.
  • Education and Awareness: Providing education and training for developers, designers, and decision-makers on the importance of inclusivity and how to achieve it.

Unified Vision for Inclusive Technology

For technology, India shows that when you make things easy to use for everyone, more people will use it, and it can change lives.

In the end, making sure that everyone is included, not left out, is the best way to go forward.

The journey toward truly inclusive technology is ongoing and multifaceted. It requires a concerted effort from developers, designers, policymakers, and users to ensure that digital tools and services are designed with the needs of all in mind.

From the way we interact with devices to how we access information, learn new skills, and protect our digital identities, every aspect of technology must be scrutinized and shaped by the principles of inclusivity.

By embedding inclusivity into the DNA of technology, we can build a future where digital tools are not just ubiquitous but universally empowering, facilitating a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive in the digital age.

About Author: Sanjay Kumar , Currently Head technology at Loylty Rewardz (A BillDesk Company).

Special thanks to Pramod Varma for enlightening me about inclusivity..

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