India is likely to have 900 million active Internet users by 2025, up from around 622 million as of 2020. This would be a 45% increase in the next five years, according to a report co-authored by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), and data analytics firm Kantar.
The report suggests that even though the Internet penetration in urban areas is more than 2X that of rural areas, the Internet user base in rural areas has been growing at a faster rate on a year-on-year basis.
The Internet user base in the country grew by 4% in urban India–reaching 323 million users (67% of urban population) in 2020. However, the adoption of the Internet in the country continues to be propelled by rural India–clocking a 13% growth to 299 million internet users (31% of rural population) over the last year.
This indicates that there’s a lot of headroom for growth in rural India which could help in bridging the urban-rural digital divide. However, the growth rate of active Internet users in India in the last one month has progressively reduced over the years and is the lowest in the last four years.
The IAMAI report also found 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 are 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,” Biswapriya Bhattacharjee, Executive Vice President, Insights Division, Kantar said.
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 that out of 1.43Bn population in India, 622 million individuals are active Internet users and this translates to about 43% of the total population (across both urban and rural India).
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 major device of access for Internet users in both urban and rural India, the report said.
Around 17% of the active internet users in the country access Internet using a personal computer and 6% choose to access Internet using other devices such as tablets, streaming devices, smart speakers, and smart TVs.