What is the point of owning a fantastic car if one does not know how to drive?
Aasan Internet, a personal internet trainer app that helps first-timers to navigate their way through the internet, answers that specific question, along with numerous others.
The free, simple, one-on-one learning experience uses audiovisual aids to teach new users, who can select a language of their choice. Telenor has been delivering this personal internet tutor with all of their new budget smart phones.
Aasan Internet— or Easy Internet— was developed with a basic ‘mental model’ of the Internet in mind: how it behaves, and how users react. The tutorials help users recognise these similarities and patterns, enabling them to use more than just one website. Think of Aasan Internet as the driving simulator that your futuristic smart car runs to get you familiarised with its controls before plunging into the real world of driving.
Why create a tutorial app?
Under the supervision of entrepreneur Hassan Baig, the Pakistan-based start-up ClubInternet decided to look past the technical infrastructure and marketing mumbo-jumbo that most tech giants focus on. Their approach, research and trial experiments led them to ask very basic, smart questions: What is the internet? How do people use it? Most importantly, why do they use it anyway?
SmartInternet realised most people in fact, never make use of the Internet. Those of us who spend a significant part of our days online and plan our lives through our smart phones often assume that everyone else too, can do the same.
But increasingly, older generations are relying on technologically-savvy younger generations to help them install WhatsApp on their phones or to set up e-mail accounts. In reality, most internet-based devices are unfriendly to first-timers, especially to the elderly.
According to the Global Internet Report 2015, for each internet user, there are two people who do not use it at all. This means that 60 per cent of the world’s population has never been online. For tech companies, that translates to a wide base of untapped customers.
Most cell phones now come with Internet access in order to help reduce this gap. However, although many mobile phone users have Internet available on their handsets, not all are using them. Here, ClubInternet saw opportunity for a solution: with a little encouragement, they narrowed down their purpose, and decided to develop and embarrassment-free one-on-one internet training.
The next billion?
Technology companies are trying to seduce people to get online through any means they can think up of; Nokia has been pushing hard with its Asha series; Facebook’s attempt through Free Basics has been caught in a controversy due to its lack of net neutrality; Google’s Project Loon planned to bring a billion people online, but the initiative fizzled out with time, and their Android One is only famous among users who already understand why they should opt for an Android one as a budget smart phone.
When Aasan Internet (then called Internet Tutorial) launched, the discovery rippled through the tech world. CNN’s interview with Hassan Baig was followed by attention from other international tech authorities, including the likes of TechCrunch and TechinAsia. FireFox approached ClubInternet shortly after, and within Pakistan, the product won awards at several noted app competitions.
If technology giants, who are pushing for devices and services that cannot function without the Internet, have not been successful in getting people to line up for Internet access, perhaps something is missing. SmartInternet’s strategy of approaching the problem through a completely new lens could prove to be the solution.
Connecting the next billion internet users is essentially a worldwide race, and with ClubInternet’s efforts, Pakistan may have a golden opportunity to be a prominent stakeholder in this revolutionary event.
Simple internet browsers available on most budget phones cannot cover all the goodies the Internet offers. Keeping this in mind, ClubInternet is developing specific, smart tutors for useful online apps such as Skype and Whatsapp.
Reaching out to the 'unconnected' smart phone user, however, remains a challenge. SmartInternet’s solution to this is to have the app pre-installed in smart phones released by Pakistani brands, Telenor being their leading example.
However, ClubInternet should now begin focusing on creating original content, rather than the material available through their app. They have the potential to connect with older users, and with mobile users living in villages. Localising their videos to serve various demographics and placing these tutorials beyond apps— such as on their website and social networking channels— could prove to be a game-changer for the company’s progress.
The author is a graphic designer and freelance writer with a focus on tech.
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