Small towns drive Internet boom in India

Internet usage in India has grown more than 11 times over the last seven years. The boom is being driven not by metros, but by smaller and non-metro towns, where the number of users has risen by a whopping 69 times and 33 times respectively since 2000.

The number of users has grown in all socio-economic categories, as well as in all metros and non-metro towns. In absolute terms, the top eight metros still have the largest numbers. However, the growth has been the fastest in the smaller and non-metro towns. In fact, small towns have the second largest number of total users after the top eight metros put together, where the total number has grown by just over five times.

These are the findings of an internet usage survey, done by the e-technology group of IMRB International. The I-Cube 2007 survey was conducted across 30 cities and towns covering 65,000 people.

The usage profile was prepared by studying active internet users, defined as those who accessed the internet at least once in the past one month.

Where do people access the net? Using the internet in schools and colleges is the fastest growth category — 22 times what it was in 2000 — indicating increasing computerisation of educational institutions. This is followed by internet access from home computers — a segment that has grown over 15 times. However in absolute numbers, cybercafes have the largest numbers accessing the internet, about 57 lakh, followed by those logging on from home. Surprisingly, accessing the net at office comes in only third.

In terms of activities on the net, email and information search are still the biggest drivers of internet use. More than 78.5 lakh people use the net for email compared with less than half that number, nearly 37 lakh, for information search. With the highest jump of 27 times in the number of users since 2000, the entertainment segment comprising games, ring tones, music and video downloads has caught up with the chat segment. Both have about 15.4 lakh users followed by e-commerce — including online travel, share trading, banking and buying products — which has grown nearly 25 times since 2000.

More than 60% of information seekers look for general information on the net and 45% look for educational information. About 27% search job sites and 17% seek financial information. Interestingly, at 8%, the number of people looking for astrological information is double that of those searching online matrimonial sites, a mere 4%.

The article appeared in Times of India

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