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On Mobile, Narrower Gap Between Rural and Urban in India

Radio shows narrowest comparative gap, but use is diminishing

The vast gap in resources and income between the population in rural vs. urban India has major implications for the country’s overall development. And those differences extend to technology uptake, with city dwellers accessing the internet in much greater numbers than those in more remote areas. But mobile is one area in which the difference is not quite as staggering.

According to Ministry of Home Affairs’ “Census of India 2011: Houselisting and Housing Census,” nearly 50% of rural households owned a mobile phone, compared to 64% of urban households. While that is still a significant difference, it pales in comparison to TVs, which were owned by over three-quarters of urban households and only one-third of rural households. And while under 10% of households in cities owned a computer with internet access—an extremely low number by worldwide standards—rural ownership of a computer with internet access was negligible, at under 1%.

Radios showed the narrowest comparative gap between rural and urban ownership, likely due to their older status, but the study found that people are moving away from the traditional technology, with penetration slipping nationwide by 15%.

As mobile uptake in the country grows, Norton’s “Mobile Survey 2012” suggests that traditional uses of the device will remain front and center. Over nine in 10 internet users in India used the mobile phone to text and make calls in February, according to the survey, with texts just edging out phone calls. Using the phone to take photos and video—a more recent phenomenon—was also extremely popular, with nearly eight in 10 users employing the mobile phone for these purposes.

Mobile will also continue to drive the population as a whole online in much greater numbers than broadband. eMarketer estimates that by 2014, one-quarter of mobile phone users will access the mobile internet, while only 7% of households will have fixed broadband.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Real-Time Bidding to Take Ever-Bigger Slice of Display Pie” and “Android Tablets Scoop Up Market Share.”

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