Context: Internet users in rural areas surpassed those in urban areas for the first time, according to the ‘Digital in India’ report by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). 

About the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) 

  • It is a not-for-profit industry body registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Its mandate is to expand and enhance the online and mobile value added services sectors. 
  • It is dedicated to presenting a unified voice of the businesses it represents to the government, investors, consumers and other stakeholders.

Reasons behind increased internet use: The growth in India's internet users, especially in the rural areas has witnessed a boost majorly because of cheap data plans and accessibility to affordable services facilitated by the internet. 

Key findings of the report:

  • India has become the second-largest internet user market behind China, which has about 850 million users. The United States has about 280-300 million users.
  • Rural-Urban divide: As of last November, there were 227 million active internet users in rural areas which is 10% more than around 205 million in urban areas. In total, India had 504 million active internet users.
    • The report showed that in rural India, the number of people actively accessing the internet on a daily basis increased by 30 million since March last year. 
    • However, the time spent on the internet is higher in urban India compared to the rural areas. 
  • Gender equality: The report also highlighted a greater increase in female internet users (by 21%) as compared to male internet users (by 9%).

Active internet users are defined as those who use the internet at least once a month. 

  • India remains behind US and China in internet penetration, which stands at 40% compared to over 88% for the US and 61% for China.
    • India's internet penetration rate determines the relationship between the number of internet users and its demographic data, indicating the portion of the population having access to the internet.
  • Of the overall Internet population, 433 million are of the age of 12 years and above, and 71 million are in the age bracket of 5-11 years who access the Internet on the devices of family members.
  • Almost 70% of the active internet users in India are daily users where nine out of 10 in urban India access it at least once a week, the report added.
    • Around one-third of the users access the internet for over an hour during Sundays and holidays as compared to a normal week day.
    • The preferred device for accessing the internet was mobile in both urban and rural areas.