Rural India driving Internet user base, says report; cheaper data plans and devices fuelling growth

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June 04, 2021 4:00 AM

Vernacular, voice and video are projected to emerge as major game-changers for the digital ecosystem over the next few years.

This, analysts say, could be because of the current lockdown in several states and districts which may have hampered recharge and fresh connections.

The future growth of mobile Internet will be led by rural India on the back of cheaper data plans as well as mobile devices, an IAMAI-Kantar Cube report released on Thursday said. The report said that even though the Internet penetration in urban centres is more than 2X that of rural, usership in rural has been growing at a faster rate on a year-on-year basis. Vernacular, voice and video are projected to emerge as major game-changers for the digital ecosystem over the next few years.

For instance, while internet users grew by 4% in urban India – reaching 323 million users (67% of urban population) in 2020, digital adoption continues to be propelled by rural India – clocking a 13% growth to 299 million internet users (31% of rural population) over the past year. “This indicates that there’s a lot of headroom for growth in rural India and this would help in bridging the urban-rural digital divide,” the report said.

Based on faster growth in rural areas, the report has projected that the number of active internet users in the country is likely to grow nearly 45% to 900 million by 2025 compared to 622 million as of last year. By this time, rural India may have a higher number of internet users compared to urban centres.

However, it said that the growth rate of active internet users (AIUs) – those who have accessed internet in the last one month – has progressively reduced over the years and is the lowest in the last four years. This, analysts say, could be because of the current lockdown in several states and districts which may have hampered recharge and fresh connections.

As per the findings of the report, nine out of ten AIU access the internet every day. On an average, AIU spend around 107 minutes (1.8 hours) actively on the internet daily. “Though the proportion of daily users is marginally higher in urban India as compared to rural India, AIU in urban India is spending 17% more time as compared to rural India,” the report said.

In terms of gender wise break-up, there are 58% male Internet users and 42% female Internet users in India. The ratio of male to female in urban India is 57:43 and that in rural India is 58:42.

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