NEW DELHI: Despite the government’s push towards a Digital India, there is a wide gap in Internet usage in urban and rural India. While Internet penetration in urban India is about 64.85 per cent, it’s just 20.26 per cent in rural areas. A recent report, Internet in India- 2017, by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) disclosed that though the growth rate in rural India seemed higher, it was mainly due to the low base effect; and overall Internet users in rural India are still critically low.
Internet penetration in urban India was 64.84 per cent in December 2017 as compared to 60.6 per cent in December 2016. In comparison, rural Internet penetration has grown from 18 per cent to 20.26 per cent in the same period. “Given that total urban population is much lower than the rural population, the digital divide is actually more acute than what the penetration numbers portray,” the report said. Future growth policies therefore must focus on bridging this digital divide, the report advised. Urban India, with an estimated population of 455 million, has 295 million Internet users.
Rural India, with an estimated population of 918 million as per the 2011 census, has only 186 million Internet users. Thus, there are 732 million potential users are still to be reached in villages. Out of an estimated 281 million daily Internet users, 182.9 million—or 62 per cent—are in urban areas, as compared to 98 million users or 53 per cent, in rural India. The Internet user market is still a male preserve, with just 143 million female users, or 30 per cent of total users.
In rural areas, the ratio between male and female Internet users is 64:36. However, the proportion of rural females using Internet is growing steadily since the last year. The number of Internet users in India was estimated to be 481 million in December 2017, a growth of 11.34 per cent over December 2016. The number is expected to reach 500 million by June 2018. As on December 2017, the overall Internet penetration was 35 per cent of the total population. Internet is the preserve of the youth, with students and youngsters accounting for around 60 per cent of all users in India. Popularity of entertainment, social networking, etc makes the Internet more attractive for youngsters at present.