Chennai: The year 2020 saw slower addition of new internet users but logged increased usage of the web by existing users.
While the total internet user base of India grew 20% in 2018 and 24% in 2019, in 2020 there was just 8% growth, according to an IAMAI-Kantar ICUBE study released on Thursday.
This was primarily due to a dip in new mobile connections because of lockdown restrictions last year and the mass movement of migrants. Telecom regulator Trai’s estimates show that the number of mobile connections fell 0.7%, 0.5% and 0.3% respectively in April, May and June 2020.
The active internet user base (those who have accessed the internet in the last one month) stood at 622 million individuals as of 2020, and this pool grew faster in rural India at the rate of 13% to reach 299 million compared to a 4% growth rate in urban India, which had 323 million users. However, as of 2020, nine out of 10 active internet users accessed the web every day, and on average spent around 107 minutes actively on it — a growth of almost 21% from the previous year. This is also one of the highest single-year growths compared to preceding year.
While the number of users did not grow at the same pace as previous years, the frequency of usage and the number of activities engaged in on the internet went up in 2020, Kantar executive VP (insights division) Biswapriya Bhattacharjee said. “Hence, the digital divide widened a bit more in the year,” he added.
As many as 96% of active users used the internet for entertainment-related activities during the year, followed by online communication (text, voice & video chats, emailing, etc.) and social media at 90% and 82% respectively, the study showed. The rise of online gaming and digital payments were more pronounced in 2020, it added.
“We observed significant changes in sources of entertainment for users with more people getting on to OTT platforms compared to video streaming platforms earlier. The frequency of use of communication apps also increased,” Bhattacharjee said.
Mobile phones remain the most used device for accessing the internet on the back of cheaper data plans and growing prevalence of Indic language content on the world wide web.
Out of the 622 million active internet users in India, 58% are male and remaining female.
“The internet user market is still a male preserve in India, underlining digital gender gap. However, the gender digital divide is now closing,” the study noted.
It estimated that by 2025, there will be over 900 million active internet users in India with the 3Cs — communication, commerce and content — driving growth. Rural India and new connections among school-age children for online learning will fuel growth of about 45% in the next five years.





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