Andaman gets high-speed Internet. What Changes?

Hello there, I am Umang and these are my thoughts on what changes in Andaman & Nicobar Islands with high-speed internet connectivity.

The high-speed internet link has been a long-standing demand of the islanders, and finally, it was great to see it actualized when the honorable PM inaugurated the project on 9th Aug 2020.

PS: The connectivity is still not fully live. There are segments of users who are still not receiving augmented speeds. Hopefully, this should get resolved in the coming days.

Being someone who likes observing people behaviour, and also someone who has lived in the islands for more than 15 years and has seen life with both good & bad connectivity, I felt like documenting my thoughts and predictions around what is likely to change in the islands with the improved connectivity:

This list is primarily for people living in islands to know what’s in for them. If you are not from the islands and are still reading; this piece will give you some insights on how the island worked all these years and what opportunities exist over there.

We’ll start with the obvious:

  1. Lots of video calls with families and friends: That’s the first thing you do when you are connected. You video call – everyone you know and are excited to see.
  2. An explosion in sale of mobile phones/ laptops devices: Locals in Andaman have a sizable discretionary income that has been getting spent on cars & bikes, however it’s going to shift to mobile phones next.
  3. Rise in Video Content Consumption: Indians on average spent 5-6 hours watching videos every day in April – May 2020. I believe Andamans will consume a lot more; as they have lesser things to do in a usual course of day, due to the current state of the world – no one’s going to office, parents don’t have to drop their kids to tuition centers/schools right now and not to forget Andaman has a lot of catching-up on web series and content to do! More people are likely to pay for content in the islands than national average. This is my guesstimate.
  4. Cashless Economy: Andaman Islands still has not been able to become cashless primarily due to connectivity issues. This will finally change. Digital Payments will soon become the norm everywhere. All of a sudden you’ll see businesses, offices, payment kiosks all accepting touch-less QR codes – PayTM, Google Pay, PhonePe, etc.
  5. Online Shopping – Amazon/ Flipkart: Andamans has been a place where you have always had limited choices with anything you wanted to buy. Apparel, electronics, furniture, books, toys, you name it. Ever since e-commerce companies started delivering to Andamans, this changed. With high-speed mobile internet, this facility reaches every single citizen & every household. Everyone now gets access to more choices & more value. This will also force local retailers to think of creating more value for the customers than online companies; else they’ll lose their market.
  6. Swiggy/ Zomato: Yes, I see them coming. These companies have been seeing a huge growth in Tier 2/3 cities and it makes sense for them to enter the market here post-COVID. Andaman middle-income & rich population always has had limited avenues to spend on, thus food delivery apps launching here make sense.
  7. Uber/ Ola: This one, I am not sure – I feel it will take a long time before they enter the market here. Local commute has been something that is already figured out for most residents. Yes, there are some possible use cases here and there, but is the market big enough for them to setup operations here, I am not sure.
  8. Ordering your Kirana/ Grocery on mobile: Your local kirana shop or supermarket will take WhatsApp orders now or some tech-savvy ones will even launch their mobile apps.
  9. Online Learning is a huge opportunity here: People in the islands spend a lot of money on their kids education. They don’t just get their kids educated in good schools but they are also ready to buy expensive seats for their kids in good colleges across the country. Students from Andamans were finding it frustrating to not be able to attend classes all this while. That changes now. Also, post-COVID online learning is there to stay as students like it, sometimes even more than their classroom environment. I sincerely hope that the students in the islands take up more subjects beyond their syllabus too. Insight: There is a huge opportunity for online learning apps to build presence in the market here. People will pay anything to ensure quality education for their kids.
  10. Coaching/ Tuition-centres: Andamans is crazy about sending their kids to tuition-centres – before-school , after-school, till late in the night. With internet coming in and competition heating up for them, these centres will quickly adapt to digital learning tools by partnering with existing online companies. This will be great for students as they will get the best of both worlds – online learning platforms will provide better content & local tutor will provide them with hand-holding and guidance.
  11. Up-skilling opportunities & Newer Job Avenues : Unemployment has been an issue in Andamans and at the same time there seems to be a shortage of employable population. Meaning need to up-skill. Need to become employable. Internet opens up an opportunity to change both. More and more educated & unemployed youth can start taking skill-development courses and start finding work-from-home opportunities for themselves – with internships, online freelancing opportunities and even remote jobs. So far, students in the islands could not intern online or do any online classes. This changes.
  12. Online Medicine: Andamans is >1,000 miles away from mainland India, which means to see the best of doctors, you need to travel quite a bit to visit mainland India. Tele-medicines facilities have already existed to some extent in specific centres in Port Blair, but with high-speed connectivity tele-medicine will reach every single home. Not just in Port Blair, but all the other islands which are at a 2-12 hours travel distance from Port Blair. Internet will enable people to access best doctors/specialist across the country right from their homes over mobile apps such as Practo, 1mg, medlife, etc.
  13. Online Pharma: Online Pharma Delivery apps will make medicines more accessible & affordable for residents. Procuring medicines has been hard in the islands – limited pharmacies, limited drugs & medicines, limited stock. For anything that was not a common drug, you had to place an order and the pharmacy could take weeks to procure item from Chennai/ Kolkata and supply them. Many residents have already been placing online orders for medicines for years over slower internet too, but with everyone having high-speed mobile connectivity, this is going to be big.
  14. e-Governance: We’ll see a huge push towards e-governance initiatives by the local administration. More and more service are going to be pushed online to make it easy for citizens to access local services. Some of the services already online are: Islander Card ServicesVarious Certifications by DM OfficeLand & Revenue ServicesPort Blair Municipal Council ServiceseProcurement UT Portal

Now some very Andaman specific changes:

  1. Real Time News Access: You’ll receive national news faster digitally over apps & news websites. Living in Andamans you have been used to receiving national newspapers by late evenings since they’d arrive by flights from Chennai and then get distributed in Port Blair. If you live in other islands you’re used to receiving news a day or 2 days late too!
  2. Sharp Rise in Citizen Journalism; Private Journalism: Every one with a mobile phone is a media person. In Andamans, the most popular newspaper is a government newspaper, which is more of a bulletin-board of local administration. We have a few private news outlets in the islands, who are quite credible in the local circles. With every citizen having the ability to report something, private news outlets will be able to provide better, more credible, on-ground reporting to the islands.
  3. Self Booking Flight Tickets: Flights are the most preferred way of travel for everyone living in the islands. As a large population of Andamans has essentially settled from mainland India – they do make trips to their natives back in the mainland every year. So far, air-ticketing agencies have been a big business in the island, but this will change very soon. Moment people realise they can check flight fares by themselves in a few clicks and are comfortable making UPI payment; they’ll stop using agencies to book their tickets.
  4. Classifieds move Online: If you live in the islands, you know the value of ‘The Daily Telegrams’ – our local newspaper to check classifieds everyday – to find jobs, house/land/shops to rent or to buy, vehicles to rent or buy, or just about anything. You want to rent/sell something, you go to Daily Telegrams. Now, you also go to OLX & Quikr and slowly you’ll stop going to Daily Telegrams altogether.
  5. Reduction in Exposure Gap: Internet will shorten the exposure-gap students from the islands have been facing when going to mainland for further studies or job opportunities. This happens primarily due to not knowing enough and always feeling that you don’t know as much as a person from the mainland. I believe internet opens up knowledge and learning opportunities which will very likely reduce this gap students from the islands feel when they compare themselves with students who have grown up in the mainland.

I have only been able to document certain use-cases and I’d love to add more to this. If you are able to think of more behavioral changes I would love to include them in the post.

Also, if you agree or disagree with something I have written, drop in your comment below or contact me directly. The comment section is left open for this post.

I am also planning to write another similar document for impact of internet on businesses & tourism in the Andaman Islands. If you’d like to receive that post, you can subscribe to the blog.

Thank you for reading.

Survival Strategies

I shifted back to Port Blair in May’13 & have been living and looking after my family owned restaurant since. Andamans is beautiful. It’s amazing. Paradise for many, but, the Internet here (and I hate to say this) SUCKS!!

For a person like me, who lives on the net, this place seemed impossible to live in. It took me a while but I came up with a few survival strategies. These are a few tools that helped make my life easier:

  • Evernote (note taking app) – This is installed on all my devices (mac, iPhone and iPad) plus my work windows PC. Anything remotely interesting on the web is instantaneously sent to Evernote by either copy-paste’ing or using web clipper. The newly released iOS apps are so compelling to use that you just want to capture your notes right there and thats where this tool helps me do. I have been using Evernote for a long time now & highly recommend it to everyone. This can be your digital scrapbook in the truest sense.
  • Dropbox (file storage)– There are a few basic steps that one must follow when they use Dropbox: –
    1. Put a file in dropbox
    2. Forget about it
    3. Trust it’s safe

    This tool has become my data hub. I put all the files I remotely find important in the Dropbox folder & leave the computer open to sync over night. Its Slow, but it syncs (Thankfully) & works for me.

  • Things (to-do app) Wunderlist (group to-do list) – Again, installed on all my devices. Handling a restaurant means multitasking. I have a lot of things to remember at any point of time. Thanks to Things, I don’t have to remember them, It remembers them for me. I just punch anything that needs my attention on any device(laptop, phone or tablet) closest to me & it’s synced everywhere else. Same with Wunderlist. I have created accounts for all my managers so they can share relevant lists .They can see the work they need to get done and they can punch in things I need to get done. Every task can be assigned to a certain person and one knows who is responsible for what. Best part about Wunderlist is that it is available for all platforms (windows, mac, iPhone, android, web). Since both these tools require very little data transfer to quickly sync across devices, they work like a charm for me.
  • 1Password (password keeper) – I haven’t come across a better tool than this to store all my passwords. The app is available for all platforms – Windows, Mac & iOS. I have my secure passwords stored on all devices syncing through dropbox. I believe, there are obviously more important things to remember than a ‘strong password’.

Apart from these I have tried a few other hacks as well –

  • I Got myself multiple broadband connections and a load balancer (yet to fix it). I know it’s expensive but just to make sure that I have some amount of connectivity all the time, I have got myself 3 connections. Having 3 connections is still a lot cheaper than getting myself a VSAT connection.
  • Using many apps on my mobile & tablet, instead of the actual websites where ever possible. Incredible, how much bandwidth & time this saves me.
  • Storing as much information possible offline. I hate to do this, but I have to! Bought myself a NAS recently.

To all my friends out there who are facing what I am, I hope this helps!

Quick TODO Checklist – Andamans Trip (June’12)

  • Road Trip – 700 kms (from Port Blair to Diglipur and back) – I plan to shoot a lot of pictures, write a lot & shoot a few videos too on the way. This is my stint into travel writing & I hope to continue it.
  • Quick Dive –  I shall from now on call a single scuba dive as a quick dive. For me, scuba diving is more than just an adventure sport. It’s an activity which relaxes me, soothes me & rejuvenates me. Hence, a much needed Quick Dive.
  • Food Photography – Oh! I can’t tell you how excited I’m about this. Finally, I shall be clicking food pictures at my own restaurant & posting them on it’s website soon.
  • And finally I wish to do something in this trip that will put “Andaman’s Trip” on a repeat mode for me.