Pakistan Digital Consumer Study: ”Pakistanis Putting their Internet into a New Gear”

Pakistan Digital Consumer Study: Pakistani Users are Putting their Internet into a New Gear, Google | PakistanTribeKARACHI – Pakistani users are shifting their Internet into a new gear in 2014, which will be the year mobile Internet overtakes desktop Internet, according to a new survey sponsored by Google.    

While desktop is dominant with 91 percent owning a PC at home, 45 percent also own a smartphone or tablet. 18 percent cite the latter as their primary device. Mobile devices are gaining momentum: 86 percent use PCs to access the Internet daily, 77 percent use smartphones, 73 percent use feature phones and 59 percent use tablets daily.

This trend follows a decline in the prices of smartphones and tablets, and anticipated launch of 3G services. Internet-capable feature phones are expected to continue to play an important role, too. An additional factor is the unreliability of the electricity supply which is also helping to promote the usage of tablets and smartphones in Pakistan.

“We think 2014 is the year mobile Internet overtakes desktop Internet in Pakistan. Consumers are really starting to embrace smartphones and tablets,” said Tania Aidrus, Manager for Asian Growth Markets, Google Asia Pacific.

These findings come from a survey of over 1,000 Pakistanis by research firm IDC on behalf of Google. The “Pakistan Digital Consumer Study” conducted earlier this quarter took a look at the life of the connected Pakistani consumer.

Pakistani digital consumers are engaging more with the Internet than ever before: of those surveyed, 70 percent spend time daily on the Internet while 60 percent say it is also where they liked to spend most of their personal time. Watching TV (41 percent) and reading the newspaper (24 percent) combined ranked lower than the Internet.

The study revealed that home is the preferred location for Internet access — even for mobile-only users, who prefer to use their home wi-fi connection. The average hours spent on the Internet are 2.25 hours a day on weekdays and 3 hours a day on weekends.

The top three activities in Pakistan both on desktop and mobile Internet are: social media, email and general search. Interestingly, digital Pakistanis like to learn on their smartphones with educational content coming in fourth. Also popular on smartphones are online banking, researching financial services and investment, and bill payments — pointing to a near future where digitally literate Pakistanis make the Web work for them.

The main challenge of Internet proliferation in Pakistan are the quality and reliability of connectivity — including poor speed or bandwidth availability, perceived value-for-money, customer service quality, limited choice of plans and frequency of service interruptions. The unreliability of the power supply is also a factor.

With digital Pakistanis living more of their lives online, the main opportunities are related to the economic contribution of the Internet, especially for small-medium businesses, as well as nutritious and local Internet content: education, research, financial services.

Google press conference at Sheraton Karachi Hotel to launch Pakistan's 1st "Digital Consumer Study", conducted by IDC | PakistanTribe
Google press conference at Sheraton Karachi Hotel to launch Pakistan’s 1st “Digital Consumer Study”, conducted by IDC. PHOTO – Badar Khushnood

There are over 2 billion Internet users today. Throughout the 2000s, the Internet has been defined by developed countries, but it is now being defined by massive, developing countries like Pakistan.

“Emerging markets are starting from mobile, so if we lower Internet access barriers to consumers, businesses and communities, then we can expect growth far more rapid than what we’re already seeing,” said Aidrus.

As other markets have demonstrated, growth on the Internet encourages growth across the economy. More businesses online means more information for people and incentives to create better networks and content that better reflect local culture and needs. That will make the Internet more valuable and the economy stronger for Pakistan.

The Pakistan Digital Consumer Study identifies several significant trends among Pakistani Internet users toward capturing the full potential of the Internet in Pakistan.

  1. Pakistani users are putting their Internet into a new gear. 2014 is the year mobile Internet overtakes desktop Internet. Everyone needs to relearn what they think they know about the Internet.
    1. Falling prices of smartphones and the launch of 3G. Internet-capable feature phones continue to play an important role too.
    2. Android has an important role to play.
    3. Unreliability of the country’s electricity supply pushing the usage of tablets and smartphones.
  2. Pakistani users are using the Internet for education, financial services and research. This points to a future trend of Pakistan making the web work for them.
    1. The top three activities on the desktop Internet are social media, email, search.
    2. Education content use is higher on smartphones than on desktop.
    3. Online banking, bill payments and investing also figure highly on mobile Internet.
  3. Pakistani digital consumers are consuming more Internet content than broadcast and print.
    1. Average hours spent on the Internet: weekday – 2.25; weekend – 3.
    2. Home is the preferred location for Internet access — even for mobile-only users.

The report highlights the following challenges in the way of realising the full potential of the Internet in Pakistan.

  1. The main challenge is quality and reliability of Internet connectivity both in terms of Internet Service Provider coverage and utility reliability.
  2. The secondary challenge is more equal gender involvement in Internet usage.

The report points to the following opportunities for Pakistan to make the Internet work better for Pakistanis:

  1. Economic impact of the Internet, esp. for SMBs. If Internet access barriers are lowered to consumers, businesses and communities, then we can expect growth to be far more rapid than what we are already seeing. Growth on the Internet encourages more growth. More businesses online means more information for people. More people online means incentives to create better networks.

Nutritious use of Internet content: education, research, financial services. If Pakistan gets this right, the growth of the Internet will be more sustainable and more balanced, but even faster. It will be based on the growth of lots of small businesses, rather than a few conglomerates. It will be built by and for the people in emerging markets, and therefore be more useful to them. It will better reflect local culture. It will better reflect local needs. That will make the Internet more valuable and the economy stronger. The demand is there, the only problem is with schools, universities and banks who don’t believe it’s there.

About the author

Shahid Abbasi

Shahid Abbasi is founder and editor of PakistanTribe.com. with 10 years experience in conventional media, he is one of the pioneers of new/digital media in Pakistan. He tweets @MShahid_Abbasi

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