Rural Internet users exceeded 37million with online entertainment level competing with users in urban areas
On September 7, 2007, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) published "Survey Report on the Internet Usage in Chinese Rural Area". This is the first full scale survey report concerning the macro Internet development situation in rural areas that has ever been published in China. The report shows that the scale of Internet users in Chinese rural areas had exceeded 37 million, and their major application is online entertainment, which equals the level in urban areas.
Digital Divide between urban and rural areas is still obvious
The report shows that by the end of June 2007, the scale of the rural Internet users reached 37.41 million. The penetration rate of the Internet in all 737 million rural residents is only 5.1%. Meanwhile, China has 125 million urban Internet users, with the urban penetration rate of 21.6%. However, comparing with the statistics of last December, the gap has been gradually narrowed. In 2006, China has 23.1 million rural Internet users with the penetration rate of 3.1%.
The main bottleneck
By the end of 2006, every 100 households in rural areas possess only 2.7 computers, which was far behind the figure in urban areas (47.2 computers). Comparing with the figures in same period 2005, the computer number raised 0.6 in every 100 rural households, while the urban households have 5.7 computers more. The report also indicates their reasons for not using the Internet. The major one is "have no facility", which accounted for 39.5% of all non-users in rural areas, while this proportion in urban areas is only 26.6%. Due to the lack of household computers, 53.9% of rural users surf online in Internet cafes, resulting a much higher figure that even exceeds the national average Internet café surfing rate of 37.2%. Insufficient Internet infrastructures in rural areas has become the major bottleneck that blocking the development of the Internet use in Chinese rural areas.
Differences in Internet applications
Comparing with urban users, the application level of rural users is less developed. The report shows that 66.5% of rural users read online news, while the proportion in urban areas is 81.5%, which is 15 percentage point higher; 65.8% of the rural users use search engines while the rate in urban areas is 13 percentage points higher (78.4%). Besides, much less users in rural areas have ever touched online purchasing, online banking and online stock trading.
It was found in the survey that rural users and urban users have similar access level of online entertainment. The rates of listening online music, playing online games and watching online movies and TV series of rural users are respectively 68.9%, 47.1% and 60.9%, comparing to 68.4%, 47.0% and 61.2% of urban users.
Young student users
The report also shows that primary and middle school student users in rural areas now reached 15.75 million, accounting for 42.1% of total rural users. This proportion is 21 percentage points higher than that in urban areas. Comparing with the total rural user number of 6.7 million in 2006, it boomed 135.1% in the past 6 months. 60% of rural primary/middle school student users use the Internet in Internet cafes, with main purpose of online entertainment, including playing online games (60.8%) and accessing online music (90%). The above situation could be a key reason that making rural online entertainment usage level competing with that in urban areas. On the other hand, strengthening the scientific education and directing young student users in rural areas to use the Internet properly is much more necessary.
Rural migrant users
The survey also involved rural migrants. The statistics show that rural migrant users reached 20 million and most of which access the Internet in Internet cafes or through their mobile phones. For that matter, they averagely cost 86.6 RMB Yuan per month, that is 11 Yuan higher than the average level of the total Internet users (75 RMB Yuan) and even higher than the total non-student users’ monthly cost of 80.8 RMB Yuan。
Along with the progress of rural informatization construction in China, the Internet has become a substantial part of the building of new-typed rural area. 37 million rural users are bringing vast demand and real business opportunities. No one doubts it will become a great Internet market. The government shall take the lead, making the whole IT industry, including ISPs, software and hardware providers focus on such a potential big market, and bridge the digital divide by means of policy making, technology development and business drive.