As the COVID lockdown enters its 5th week, nearly 2.5 crore Indian users of smartphones, feature phones, and mobile devices such as tablets and laptops are now facing the crisis of having to work without a functioning device, finds ICEA.
A statement released by the association body points that on average, approx 2.5 crore new mobile phones are sold every month. The active population of mobile phones is 85 crore currently. A very large proportion of these purchases are replacements. Mobile phones which are replaced are usually 3-4 year old and represent the average life of a mobile device. Many of them obviously have lived their life and cannot be restored back to life. In addition, even with a much-improved quality of phones and mobile devices, there is an approx 0.25% breakdown on a monthly basis. With the current mobile base at nearly 85 crores, it is clear that nearly 2.5 crore individuals are suffering due to the non-availability of new devices or repair of their existing devices.
Amongst these are first responders, doctors, government officials involved with disaster management, and others who are carrying out critical functions, commonly known as COVID HEROES. A large portion of these 2.5 crore citizens is businessmen, professionals, and employees who are working from home for nearly a month since the lockdown was announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
“We have written to the government that these numbers will expand to nearly 4 crores before the end of May. It is critical that mobile device sales via online, and in a phased manner via retail, as well as service centres with facilities for home delivery and pickup must be declared as “essential services”, in addition to grocery and medicines,” said Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman, ICEA.
ICEA, who made a joint representation with CAIT (India’s largest retail body) to the Home Minister, Home Secretary, Commerce & Industry Minister, Secretary DPIIT and Secretary MeitY (also currently the chair of the Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management), has pleaded for allowing mobile devices under the “essential services” category. They have received support from MeitY, DPIIT, and TRAI in addition to leading retail bodies.
ICEA said that they had the utmost respect for the work being led by MHA and the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s decision to extend the lockdown. At this stage, it’s life over livelihoods. However, as the lockdown period grows, mobile devices are not just the lifeline for first responders and doctors, but also the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis in the society – the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions and the poor who are dependent upon government services for rescue in case of suspected COVID disease.