Wi-Fi, mobile and home access usurp role of internet cafes
Latin America is transitioning from relative internet novice to a fully connected region, as internet penetration spreads from key hubs to a broader swath of the population. Argentina is a great example of how a market can go from barely- to well-connected in a few short years.
eMarketer expects internet user penetration in Argentina to pass the 50% mark during 2012, for a total of 22.9 million users. Broadband household penetration is close behind, forecast to reach 49.6%, or 5.7 million homes, in 2013. This translates to more users in Argentina accessing the internet at home than ever before.
As a result, one thing that has fallen by the wayside is internet cafes. A May 2012 study by Carrier y Asociados titled “Acceso Residencial a Internet – 2012” found that 92% of internet users accessed the internet in the home. By comparison, internet cafes now account for a mere 13% of usage.
The turnaround was quick, and can provide an example of how quickly the digital landscape can change in emerging markets. Internet cafes developed in the US and emerging markets when faster broadband connections were prohibitively expensive for individual households. As recently as 2006, according to an April 2010 Clarin.com and D’Alessio IROL report, 49% of internet users went online at an internet cafe.
The lesson is important, even if 2006 may seem like ages ago to some marketers. The Carrier y Asociados study also points to an increase in mobile and Wi-Fi access. Like the spread of broadband changed the fate of internet cafes, the availability of cheap mobile devices and smartphones could change the way that emerging markets like Argentina access the web at home and on the go. When—not if—that happens, expect the shift to be fast.
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Check out today’s other articles, “Facebook, Twitter Help Publishers Find Their Audience” and “Social Media Is About Social Science, Not Technology.”