Internet, Mobile Boom Creating Avid Users Worldwide

A new study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project found that Internet, cell phone and social media use is surging worldwide. And most people to adopt those technologies are becoming avid, rather than occasional, users of them.

In many of the 24 developing nations surveyed–including China, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela and Indonesia–cell phones were found to be “almost omnipresent,” according to the authors of the report released today based on the study’s findings.

Smart phone ownership, however, is strongly correlated to income, and the study found those devices to be in the minority in every country surveyed, despite significant numbers owning them in some.

The internet “still has a limited reach in the emerging and developing world,” the report states. But “once people do gain access to the internet, they quickly begin to integrate it into their lives,” especially through social networking. Majorities of internet users in 21 of 24 nations also use sites like Facebook, Twitter or their local and national analogues.

For publishers and content developers today, international and mobile markets are two areas of enormous current and future opportunity. The challenge won’t so much be about finding the latest users to go online but competing for their attention once they do.


Source: Pew Research Center, Spring 2013 survey, Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology

[Press Release]

Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology
Cell Phones Nearly Ubiquitous in Many Countries

In a remarkably short period of time, the internet and mobile technology have become a part of everyday life for some in the emerging and developing world, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 24 emerging and developing countries.

Cell phones, in particular, are almost omnipresent in many nations. The internet has also made tremendous inroads, although most people surveyed are still offline. Meanwhile, smartphones are still relatively rare, although significant minorities own these devices in countries such as Lebanon (45%), Chile (39%), Jordan (38%) and China (37%).

A new companion blog post co-written by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, looks at how technology use in the 24 nations surveyed compares with survey data from the United States. For example, Russia and Chile have tech-adoption rates similar to the U.S. in 2005; China’s rates are similar to the U.S. in 2000-2001.

Cell Phone Uses: People around the world are using their cell phones for a variety of purposes, especially for texting and taking pictures, while smaller numbers also use their phones to get political, consumer and health information. Mobile technology is also changing economic life in parts of Africa, where many are using cell phones to make or receive payments. For example, 68% of Kenyans who own a cell phone say they regularly use it to make or receive payments.

Internet Usage: While the internet still has a limited reach in the emerging and developing world, once people do gain access, they quickly begin to integrate it into their lives. A significant number of people in these nations say they use the internet on a daily basis, including roughly half in Lebanon, Russia and Argentina. At least 20% use the internet daily in 15 of the 24 nations surveyed. In contrast, 25% or less go online in Indonesia (23%), Uganda (12%) and Pakistan (8%).

Social Networking: In 21 of 24 nations, a majority of internet users also participate in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. A near-universal median of 96% among social networking users across 22 countries say they use social networking for staying in touch with family and friends (Pakistan and Uganda are excluded due to insufficient sample size). Sharing views about pop culture is also common, with a median of 73% saying they use social networks to post opinions on music and movies. Across 22 countries, a median of 38% among social networkers say they share views about politics using social media sites.

Demographic Differences: The survey also finds that using the internet – like many other forms of communication technology – is significantly more common among young people. Internet use and smartphone ownership are also correlated with national income, as nations with higher per capita GDPs tend to have higher percentages of internet users and smartphone owners.

These are among the main findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 24,263 people in 24 emerging and developing economies from March 2, 2013 to May 1, 2013. All interviews were conducted face-to-face.

The report is for immediate release and available at

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan source of data and analysis. It does not take advocacy positions. Its Global Attitudes Project conducts public opinion surveys around the world on a broad array of subjects ranging from people’s assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day.

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