Why don’t Indians blog more?

Andy Nelson/ Christian Science Monitor Does culture explain why Indians don’t blog more? Earlier this year, I read an article in the Jan. 22 edition of Red Herring magazine about the dearth of Indian bloggers. At one point the article says: Blogger Shard Sharma believes blogging has not taken off in India because of cultural inhibitors. He says ...

602185_070502_bloggers_05.jpg
602185_070502_bloggers_05.jpg

Andy Nelson/
Christian Science Monitor

Does culture explain why Indians don't blog more? Earlier this year, I read an article in the Jan. 22 edition of Red Herring magazine about the dearth of Indian bloggers. At one point the article says:

Blogger Shard Sharma believes blogging has not taken off in India because of cultural inhibitors. He says Indians grow up to be reticent adults because all their school lives they are told to keep their opinions to themselves.

Andy Nelson/
Christian Science Monitor

Does culture explain why Indians don’t blog more? Earlier this year, I read an article in the Jan. 22 edition of Red Herring magazine about the dearth of Indian bloggers. At one point the article says:

Blogger Shard Sharma believes blogging has not taken off in India because of cultural inhibitors. He says Indians grow up to be reticent adults because all their school lives they are told to keep their opinions to themselves.

I disagreed. I couldn’t help but think of Amartya Sen’s book, The Argumentative Indian. But the theory that culture can influence a country’s blogging patterns is intriguing, so I decided to do some research about why Indians don’t blog more. 

I contacted experts in India and read as much as I could on blogging in the subcontinent. Four reasons emerged that accounted for why Indians weren’t expressing themselves online more.

1. Lack of computers and broadband access. Obviously, if people don’t have computers and high-quality Internet access, they can’t blog.

2. Illiteracy. Obviously, if people can’t read and write, they can’t blog.

3. Freedom of speech. Compared to China, Indians have more freedom of speech. In China, the Internet may be one of the few places where people can genuinely express themselves. Indians, on the other hand, have many other alternatives.

4. Cultural inhibitors. I’m sensitive to the fact that it’s very taboo to blame anything on culture. However, an executive at Ibibo, an Indian blog-hosting company that is offering cash prizes to get Indians to blog more, said there is a perception in India that blogging is for people with “superior writing skills.” VeerChand Bothra, who’s with Indian blog portal BlogStreet.com, said that Indians prefer not to discuss their private lives, but they enjoy talking about politics, cricket, the economy, films, religion, society, and globalization.

So, perhaps, just perhaps, culture could be part of the explanation. I posited the “superior writing skills” hypothesis in the latest edition of FP, and I’ve appreciated the attention my short piece has received. (More after the jump)

Bruce Einhorn at BusinessWeek leans toward the lack-of-Internet-access explanation. How then does he account for the fact that there are 30 million Chinese bloggers in a country with about 126 million Internet users (a 1:4 ratio), while there are only 1.2 million Indian bloggers (source: JuxtConsult’s “India Online 2006” report) in a country with 42 million Internet users (a much lower ratio)? He says Indians just need more time to get used to the Net. A good point indeed. The Indians I questioned also said the type of connectivity (broadband vs. dial-up) and type of computer access (owning your own vs. going to an Internet café) makes a difference too.

A post by Niti Bhan tickled me because in disagreeing with me, Bhan actually validates one of my points! Bhan devotes a paragraph to explaining that there are lots of “well written,” “insightful,” “deep,” and “thoughtful” blogs written by Indians. Hmmm … maybe it’s precisely those blogs that are creating the perception that one needs “superior writing skills” to blog!

Like Einhorn, Bhan also leans toward the lack-of-Internet-access explanation. But fear no more, the Indian government is coming to the rescue! The Government of India is planning to grant everyone in the country free broadband access by 2009. So when will it be handing out the free computers?

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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