The number of active Internet users in India was at 622 million in 2020. This number is said to grow 45 percent in the next five years, taking the total number of Internet users in India to 900 million by 2025. According to IAMAI Kantar’s ICUBE 2020 report, the user base is growing at a faster rate in rural areas, even though the Internet penetration in urban India is more than twice that of the rural population. The report says that the rural Internet population grew 13 percent in the last year, as against the 4 percent growth in urban India.
According the the ICUBE 2020 report, urban India reached 323 million Internet users in 2020, and rural India reached 299 million users over the past year. This, according to the report, 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 AIU (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.
The report 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, AIU in urban India is spending 17 percent more time as compared to rural India.
Biswapriya Bhattacharjee, Executive Vice President, Insights Division, Kantar, stated, “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."
Small towns account for almost two out of five active Internet users while the top 9 metros account to 33 percent of the active Internet users in urban India. The report suggests, of 1,433 million population in India, 622 million individuals are AIU and this translates to about 43 percent 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 AIU 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.
Digital Services have assumed great importance for India with the government actively promoting a vision of “Digital India". Also, Internet has become a lifeline to most of us amid the Covid-19 pandemic.