The number of Internet users in India has registered an annual 18 per cent growth, and is estimated at 566 million as of December 2018, which is about 40 per cent of the overall internet penetration, according to a study.

The report also projects double-digit growth for 2019 and estimates that the number of internet users will reach 627 million by the end of this year, a study by market research firm Kantar IMRB said.

Of the total user base, 87 per cent, or 493 million Indians, are defined as regular users, having accessed internet in the last 30 days. About 293 million active internet users reside in urban India, while there are 200 million active users in rural India.

Unsurprisingly, 97 per cent of the users access Internet using mobile phones, the study said.

While internet users grew by 7 per cent in urban India, reaching 315 million users in 2018, digital adoption is now being propelled by rural India — registering a 35 per cent growth in internet users over the past year. It is now estimated that there are 251 million internet users in rural India, and this is expected to reach 290 million by the end of 2019.

Increased availability of bandwidth, cheap data plans, and increased awareness driven by government programmes seem to have rapidly bridged the digital gap between urban and rural India. Consequently, the penetration in rural India has increased from 9 per cent in 2015 to 25 per cent in 2018.

“It is fascinating to note that the digital revolution is now sweeping small towns and villages perhaps driven by increased accessibility at affordable data costs. What is also particularly interesting, is the increase in the usage of digital in rural India, where more than two-thirds of active internet users are now accessing the internet daily to meet their entertainment and communication needs. Marketers have a big opportunity today where they can use digital to reach their consumers; both in urban and rural India,” said Hemant Mehta, Managing Director, Media and Digital, Kantar IMRB.

Highest in Bihar

Bihar has registered the highest growth in Internet users across both urban and rural areas, registering a 35 per cent growth over last year, closely followed by Orissa.

Further, the gender digital divide is now closing, with women now accounting for 42 per cent of total Internet users.