A lack of affordability, digital literacy and locally relevant content are the top three barriers to mobile internet adoption in Asia, according to a survey by GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi) and GSMA’s Connected Society team.
Tackling these three factors are key to connecting the more than two billion citizens in Asia that are covered by mobile broadband networks but are not yet connected, said Barbara Arese Lucini, a senior analyst at GSMAi.
Asia is the biggest and fastest growing mobile market in the world, with nearly 2.5 billion people, or 62 per cent of the region’s population, using mobile services. But internet adoption is lagging. Only 45 per cent of people living in Asia are actively accessing the internet via mobile, leaving 2.2 billion people without mobile internet (see chart below, click to enlarge).
The connectivity issue in Asia is not exclusively or even primarily about network coverage. Around 80 per cent of the Asian population already live within the footprint of a 3G network. The issue relates more to demand than supply. No more than 8 per cent of the surveyed consumers said a lack of network coverage was a key issue.
Across the six markets surveyed – China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – 72 per cent of those surveyed said a lack of awareness and availability of locally relevant content was the primary reason they were not using the internet (see chart below, click to enlarge). It was the most commonly cited barrier to internet adoption in all six markets, apart from China.
Adding to that gap, the world’s linguistic and cultural diversity is not reflected in the content and services available online. For example, more than 50 per cent of websites worldwide are in English, a language spoken by only 10 per cent of speakers in the survey countries.
A quarter of of respondents cited affordability as an important barrier to getting online. The cost of a handset and mobile services was the second largest barrier for consumers in India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Affordability was a particularly common reason in Indonesia (46 per cent of respondents). Although Indonesia has some of the lowest rates for mobile airtime anywhere in the world, it also has a high proportion of low-income citizens, so the relative cost of connectivity is still high.
Nearly a quarter of respondents also pointed to a lack of digital skills as an important barrier to getting online. This is a particular issue in China, where it was highlighted as a barrier by 89 per cent of non-internet users (40 per cent of respondents). In the Philippines and Thailand this factor was rated as the second largest barrier.
GSMAi’s Lucini said further collaboration between mobile operators and governments will help extend mobile connectivity and internet services to millions of citizens across the region.
Digital inclusion – defined here as the expansion of global connectivity and mobile internet adoption – can deliver broad economic and social benefits by bringing communication services to previously unconnected populations. This in turn can help reduce poverty, improve infrastructure and services, and further increase internet access and usage. Unconnected and underserved communities risk falling further behind, widening the digital divide, if barriers to digital inclusion remain unaddressed.
The results are from GSMAi’s broader Consumer Intelligence Survey of 54 markets, with about 1,000 consumers interviewed face-to-face in each market.