India’s Internet Penetration Pitiful

India’s Internet penetration is a pathetic 3% and the lowest of 10 Asia-Pacific countries in a new survey by comScore.

According to the comScore World Metrix study,  India took the booby prize in Internet penetration among a group of countries that included Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

Internet penetration is calculated by estimating users aged 15+ active within 30 days from home or work PCs as a percentage of total country population age 15+.

The comScore figures exclude traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes (high in India?) and access from mobile phones/PDAs.

With a comparable population, India’s rival China has more than four times as many monthly online users as India. China had 91.5 million online users in May 2007 versus 22.8 million for India.

China’s Internet penetration was 9%, three-times larger than India. South Korea had the highest Internet penetration of 65% followed by Australia with 62%.

Could South Korea’s high Internet penetration be linked to the country’s excellent broadband infrastructure?

India’s broadband capability is growing in fits and starts but still woefully inadequate.

Average usage days per user was 11.4 for India versus 12.9 for China and 17.4 for South Korea.

In terms of average monthly hours per user, India came in last at 14.7 as against 19.3 for China and 31.2 for South Korea.

India came in second last in average monthly pages viewed per user at 1,400. Malaysia came in last in average monthly pages viewed per user at 1,239 but had a higher Internet penetration rate of 45%.

Although the comScore press release does not provide reasons for India’s low Internet penetration, the answers are not far. 

Internet penetration is a proxy for how widespread net access is among the masses in a vast country. By that yardstick, it seems that Internet penetration has not really taken roots in India and is still a monopoly of the privileged minority in urban India – the upper and middle classes.

Low Internet penetration is also a reflection of the low PC penetration among the population.

Another hypothesis is that net usage is high in India at public Internet cafes.

Since Internet penetration is linked to access to information and fast communication, India’s low numbers do not bode well for a country where the economy is supposedly growing gangbusters and whose IT industry is the talk of the world.

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