Active internet users in rural India reached 3.3 million in March 2008, reveals an ongoing survey by I-Cube 2008 jointly undertaken by IMRB International and Internet and Mobile Association of India.
I-Cube, which traditionally mapped internet users in urban India, has for the first time covered rural India in the survey, which showed that 5.5 million people actually claimed to have used the internet and some point.
Since internet usage patterns in rural India is being mapped for the first time, the year on year growth of internet users in rural India could not be established in theis maiden survey.
Given the various government and private sector efforts to connect rural Indians, this was the right time to take the survey to rural India and find out the state of affairs there." said IAMAI president Dr Subho Ray, commenting on the research findings.
"In fact, penetration of internet in rural India is directly related to the activities of the government and NGOs," he emphasised.
Given the various government and private sector initiatives to connect rural India, especially the government-led National e-Governance Programme, it was important to bring rural India under the survey, especially as rural India will be figuring prominently in the business plan of internet companies.
Given the high levels of literacy in rural India and very low levels of English speaking population, the survey made a clear case of content and applications in local languages in order to ensure higher and faster adoption of internet in rural India.
Commenting on the study Mohan Krishnan, senior vice president BIRD, a specialised unit of IMRB International, said, "The rural market holds tremendous potential for any media.
However, for internet to flourish in rural India, the applications need to be in vernacular languages, preferably with Text to Speech capabilities. It would be better if visual symbols, graphics and rich media applications are used. The key question is whether we have the right infrastructure to support these applications."
Since this was the first survey of rural internet users, IMRB used an elaborate and comprehensive methodology.
First, clusters of states were created based on population density, per capita income and levels of literacy and then households were classified [SEC] on the basis of educational qualifications, occupation of the chief wage earner and type of the household into four categories R1, R2, R3 and R4.
Out of all the districts in the state, a sample of 6 districts were covered which were representatives of the population of a particular state. 6 villages were selected from each state based on six of the population and rural respondents from 6 villages across each selected district were interviewed.