Only 17% Indians own smartphones: survey

Internet usage and smartphone ownership in India has risen in past two years, but still lags behind most other emerging nations, as per a Pew survey


Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Internet usage and smartphone ownership in India has increased in the past two years, but Asia’s third-largest economy still lags behind most other emerging economies, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

As many as 54% of people across emerging and developing countries reported using the Internet at least occasionally or owning a smartphone in 2015 compared with 45% in 2013, according to the study released on Monday. Much of that increase came from emerging economies such as Malaysia, Brazil and China.

India stands among the lower half of surveyed countries in Internet usage, reporting an increase of 6 percentage points between 2013 and 2015.

Among those surveyed in 2015, more than one in three (34%) Indian millennial users (aged between 18 and 34) said they use the Internet occasionally or own a smartphone, compared with 12% of older users (aged 35 and above). In contrast, millennial respondents from Canada, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Australia reported 100% Internet usage or smartphone ownership.

The digital divide also includes education levels and income. In India, only 9% of those with lower education levels are online, as compared with 38% who have higher education levels. Similarly, the income gap, too, is reflected in the survey. Eleven per cent of Indians with lower income reported that they used the Internet occasionally or owned a smartphone, in contrast to 28% of those with higher incomes.

India also reported a 10 percentage points gender gap in Internet and smartphone usage—17% women and 27% men. Only 42% of Indian users accessed the Internet “several times a day”. However, India’s daily Internet users has seen a 11 percentage points increase from 2014, when it reported only 31%.

Smartphone ownership, the survey said, had “skyrocketed” in many countries since 2013. Four “large emerging economies”, in particular, showed a steep rise in smartphone ownership, reflected in increases of over 25 percentage points over the two years. Turkey (which wasn’t surveyed in 2014) showed a rise of 42 percentage points, while Malaysia reported a 34 percentage points increase. Smartphone ownership in Latin American countries like Brazil and Chile reported an increase of 26 percentage points each.

India, the survey said, had low levels of smartphone ownership (17%) among its respondents. This dwarfs in comparison to South Korea, where 88% of those surveyed said they owned a smartphone.

Interestingly, India also reported one of the highest levels of respondents who own a non-smartphone cellphone (also known as feature phone), at 61%, joining Burkina Faso (65%), Ukraine (64%), Senegal (63%), Nigeria (62%) and Tanzania (62%).

The report added that 27% of surveyed Indian millennials owned a smartphone. That compares with 9% of non-millennial smartphone owners. In India, only 7% people in the lower income category reported owning a smartphone, as compared with 22% among wealthier people.

The study found that only 13% of adult Indian respondents who owned a smartphone were women, while 21% were men.

India overtook the US as the second largest smartphone market in the world, with its user base increasing by 220 million by the end of last year, according to a report by market research firm Counterpoint.

The Pew survey also revealed that social networking is growing in popularity among users in developing nations. “Majorities of adult Internet users in almost every emerging and developing nation surveyed say that they use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter,” it said. The report added that across the 40 countries it surveyed, a median of 76% of Internet users said that they used social networking sites.

Interestingly, the survey said that social networking was most prevalent among online adults in Jordan (90% of Internet users), Indonesia (89%), the Philippines (88%), Venezuela (88%) and Turkey (88%). In comparison, 62% of Indian Internet users (or smartphone owners) said they used social networking sites. Among those, 69% respondents were millennial users, while 48% were aged 35 and above.

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