According to the latest survey by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB, out of the total 118.2 million rural population that was considered, 17.8 million claimed to have used internet at least once in their lifetime (claimed internet users), while 14.7 million users have accessed the internet in the last one month (active internet users) (figure 1).
The report adds that the claimed internet usage in rural India, which is currently at 38 million users, will reach 45 million users by December, 2012. Also, the active internet usage will be 38 million, by the same time, growing from the current 31 million users (figure 2).
While explaining the purpose of internet usage, it states that rural India will witness a growth of 18 per cent in the usage of internet for e-commerce over the next one year. As per the survey, currently, e-commerce has about 34 per cent of the total usage.
Apart from this, the awareness of entertainment and communications usage is the highest (figure 3), while the online finance and rural needs register least awareness. Social networking has much less usage (39 per cent) than its awareness (60 per cent).
Entertainment is the primary driver of internet use in rural India. Seventy five per cent of rural users use internet for entertainment, while 56 per cent use it for communications. Users like to access music, videos and photos for entertainment.
The penetration of claimed internet users in rural India has grown from 2.6 per cent in 2010 to 4.6 per cent in 2012, a CAGR of 73 per cent. On the other hand, the penetration of active internet users has grown from 2.13 per cent in 2010 to 3.7 per cent in 2012.
In an official communiqué, Dr Subho Ray, president, IAMAI, states, "This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next two years, a combination of affordable smartphones, optic fibre backbone and local language content is likely to change and beat all projections of internet growth in rural areas."
The report further states that mobile phones are fast emerging as an important point of internet access in rural India. As of June 2012, there were 3.6 million mobile internet users in India, a growth of 7.2 times from 0.5 million in 2010."
While mentioning the venue for internet usage, the survey suggests that community service centres (CSC) and cyber cafés are the major points of access for internet users in rural India. About 57.7 per cent of the internet users accessed internet through these common user points. A significant 12 per cent of the internet users access internet on their mobile phones.
There is a growing interest amongst the rural constituents seeking information on education. About 81 per cent of claimed internet users seek information pertaining to school/university and exam centres.
The survey was conducted in seven states, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Though the internet usage is highest in English language (figure 4), the availability of content in regional languages will definitely push up their usage. After English, with 79 per cent of the 17.8 million users using internet on the English platform, Hindi ranks second with 32 per cent. Telugu (21 per cent), Tamil (8 per cent) and Marathi (5 per cent) follow next.