India is likely to have 900 million active Internet users by 2025 as against around 622 million as of 2020, registering a growth of about 45% in the next five years, according to a recently released IAMAI Kantar ICUBE 2020 Report.
The report suggests that even though the internet penetration in urban is more than double of rural, users in rural has been growing at a faster rate on a year-on-year basis.
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. However, the growth rate of active internet users (those who have accessed the internet in the last one month) has progressively reduced over the years and is the lowest in the last four years.
It also finds that nine out of ten active internet users access the internet every day; On average, they 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, active internet users in urban India is spending 17% more time as compared to rural India.
“By 2025, there would be a greater number of internet users in rural India than in urban India. Given this, the digital ecosystem will need to evolve to address the specific needs of this emerging demography. Vernacular, Voice and Video will emerge as the game changers for the digital ecosystem over the next few years,” said Biswapriya Bhattacharjee, EVP – Insights Division, Kantar.
Small towns account for almost two out of five active internet users while the top 9 metros account for 33% of the active internet users in urban India. The report suggests, of the 1433 million population in India, 622 million individuals are AIU and this translates to about 43% of the total population (across urban and rural India).
However, with a sizable population not accessing the internet actively in rural India, there is huge headroom for growth in the next few years.
Interestingly, the proportion of male to female active internet users remains almost the same in rural and urban India. In urban India, the ratio between male to female Internet users is around 57:43 while in rural India, the ratio between male to female Internet users is 58:42.
Mobile continues to remain the device of choice for accessing the internet in both urban and rural. Given the affordability of mobile devices along with the availability of cheaper data plans, accessing the Internet through a mobile device has clearly become the first choice, finds the report.
Researchers were optimist that the government’s policies, regulations, and industry’s support will further strengthen the digital footprint in India and ensure a robust digital economy in the country.