Rural India has spearheaded internet consumption in India in 2023, with over 53% or 442 million users using the internet for various use cases, according to the latest report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in partnership with KANTAR, a digital and analytics company.

"The growing internet penetration in India surpassed a new milestone of 800Mn as total Active Internet Users reached 820MN in 2023, meaning more than 55% of Indians used the internet last year. Internet penetration grew across the nation at a modest 8% YoY. Rural India (442 Mn) is a clear majority accounting for over ~53% of the total user base," says the report.

Released at the India Digital Summit 2024, on Tuesday, the report surveyed more than 90,000 domestic households across India.

It says over-the-top (OTT) audio and video services such as Netflix, Amazon, Jio Cinema and Disney+ Hotstar, have spearheaded the top use-cases of the internet, accounting for around 86% or 707 million internet users in India.

"Diversified usage of internet is leading to new modes of engagement among users across devices. The number of users watching video content only over the internet i.e. the cord cutters are more than the users watching content only on linear television," says the report.

The rise of digital entertainment services has also been bolstered by an increase in demand for non-traditional devices such as smart TVs, smart speakers, firesticks, Chromecast, and blue-ray amongst others, which have witnessed a growth of 58% between 2021 and 2023. "The adoption is driven by the new generation 'cord-cutters' as for the first time, there are more people accessing video content over internet-only devices (208Mn) than over conventional linear TV (181Mn)," says the report.

Apart from this, communications and social media are the other top use cases of the internet in India, at present. It says around 76% or 621 million consumers use the internet for communication, whereas 70% or 575 million people use it for social media activities. Online gaming activities account for 53% of internet use, whereas net commerce and digital payment activities account for 52% and 45% of internet use, respectively.

"While net commerce, digital payment, and online learning are more urban-centric activities, other activities like OTT, communication, social media and online gaming are more democratised," says the report.

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