Digital 2014: Asia-Pacific Regional Overview
It also turns out that a week can make a big difference when it comes to online data. In the days since our publication of the Global Overview report, we’ve identified some even fresher stats that we’ve included in this new APAC report.
These new discoveries have had a particular impact on India's stats, where figures for internet users have changed from 151 million to 213 million. Internet figures for Indonesia have also almost doubled, to 72.7 million.
These changes have had a significant impact on the regional and global totals too, so we'll begin with a refreshed look at the stats from the very top.
The Global Picture
Following revisions to a number of countries, the number of worldwide internet users now exceeds 2.64 billion, representing global penetration of 37%:
Following the publication of the global report, we also received a number of queries regarding the difference between mobile subscriptions and actual mobile users, so we're delighted to be able include a new chart comparing the two in this report.
We've teamed up with the wonderful team at GSMA Intelligence for this, and they've been kind enough to let us share this valuable data in this report – here's the APAC picture:
In order to understand the context in which people use mobile devices, it's also important to understand how people pay for their subscriptions (contracts), and whether they have access to potentially faster mobile data connections.
The chart below offers more detail on both these areas, detailing how many people have pre- vs post-paid contracts, and using 3G as a proxy for the likelihood people could access faster internet if they chose to take out a relevant mobile data plan:
Asia-Pacific in context
APAC is home to almost 3.9 billion people, accounting for just under 55% of the total world population. The region hosts just under half the world's Internet users, and 52.2% of the world's active social media users:
Although internet user data for a number of countries around the region hasn't been updated as recently as we'd hoped, APAC has still shown impressive growth in recent months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 150 million new users since our previous report in October 2012 – many of which were in India and Indonesia:
However, internet access is still far from a universal reality around APAC, and penetration rates in some countries remain surprisingly low:
It's interesting to see how the average number of hours spent on the internet varies around the region too, both in terms of desktop / laptop access, as well as the time spent on the mobile web:
It's important to note that the figures in the chart above are based on claimed time spent on the internet, rather than on actual traffic. This has two important consequences:
The data will, in part, reveal the story that people choose to tell about their internet use, rather than the exact number of minutes they spend connected
However, in a similar way, this 'claimed' data helps to avoid over-counting internet usage when someone is connected to the internet, but not actually making use of it (e.g. the browser is open in the background while someone works on another, non-internet related application).
There may also be some variations across cultures in what people consider 'internet' access. For example, someone who streams music through a service like Spotify for the whole day may not consider this 'time spent on the internet', even if we could argue the opposite is also true.
2013 was an impressive year of growth across almost every aspect of the social media world in APAC, with chat apps in particular seeing stunning growth thanks to platforms like WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk.
We've chose to focus on social networks for this report's data though, as they continue to offer the greater opportunity for marketers.
User figures and penetration rates for social networks still vary hugely around the region, but the overall trend is definitely upwards (note that MAU stands for Monthly Active Users):
It's worth highlighting that our figures for social media penetration often exceed those for internet penetration, especially in fast-evolving markets. There may be a number of reasons for this:
Social media stats are almost always more up to date than those for internet usage, largely because they are collected by a commercial entity on an on-going basis and published at least quarterly to help with advertising sales. In Facebook's case, the monthly active user figures are available in almost real-time.
Many reports on internet usage and penetration omit mobile internet usage, meaning many mobile-only users aren't included in the figures (partly because they're more difficult to identify). In many emerging markets - particularly places like Indonesia or Myanmar - mobile-only use can account for a significant proportion of internet use. People accessing social media through mobile devices will be counted, however, meaning social media numbers are often a more accurate indication of actual internet use and penetration in these markets.
On the other hand, some people may have multiple social media accounts on the same platform, leading to a slight skew in the data, although we don't anticipate this is the main cause for the difference between internet and social media usage numbers.
We've also changed the way we report user numbers in this year's report compared to our previous report in 2012, and we now only report monthly active user numbers (MAUs) for any given platform. This ensures a more reliable and actionable data set, and ensures organisations using the data have the most up-to-date picture of people's preferences and behaviour throughout the region.
Facebook's MAUs continued to grow across the region over the past year, adding 54 million by January 2014 in Asian countries alone (excluding countries in Oceania like Australia and New Zealand).
China's Qzone added 25 million MAUs too, meaning that overall growth around the region is somewhere in the region of 80 million new active users - almost 10% growth year-on-year.
We opted not to include chat apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, LINE and KakaoTalk in this year's analysis for a couple of reasons:
The way that people use these platforms remains largely one-to-one, so they offer less of an obvious mass engagement channel for brands compared to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Weibo (although we recongise that this is changing, especially with tweaks to WeChat's platform);
The companies who operate these platforms tend not to publish monthly active user figures, and where they do, they aren't broken down by country, making it very difficult for us to attribute usage by country.
However, for handy reference, the global user figures for each of the region's largest chat apps are as follows:
WhatsApp: 400 million monthly active users worldwide
WeChat (Weixin): 270 million monthly active users worldwide
LINE: 300 million total registered users worldwide
KakaoTalk: 130 million total registered users worldwide
We're pleased to offer time spent on social media for many of the region's larger economies too, thanks to some great data from GlobalWebIndex's Active Usage: Time Spent study, which they've kindly allowed us to share. You can find out more about this study here.
As with the time spent on the internet chart above, this data is based on claimed usage rather than actual traffic information. This again means that data may be coloured by the story people wish to tell about themselves, but at the same time, it also helps to avoid over-counting time where people have social media open in the background.
Based on our qualitative research, many people keep social networks open throughout the day in a distinct browser tab or tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, but do not necessarily spend all that time actively engaging with the platform itself, so the data above should be used in conjunction with traffic-based numbers (where available) to paint a multi-dimensional picture of people's behaviour.
It's interesting to explore the above chart in the context of the societal norms of each country too; it appears that the time spent on social media is determined as much by a nation's culture as it is by the speed or ease of internet access. In many countries where fast internet access is still a luxury, people still spend many hours engaging with social media, highlighting once again that social media are playing a huge part in the growth and evolution of the online landscape in APAC.
However, to enrich this story, it's worth looking at the infrastructural elements too. Mobile devices play a huge role in Asia's social media scene, so we've added an extra data set to this report to illustrate mobile social access in more detail:
The number of mobile subscriptions in APAC continue to grow steadily in the past 15 months, with Asian countries alone adding more than 200 million new subscriptions since our previous report in October 2012.
Although it's likely that some of these new subscriptions constitute second subscriptions (e.g. an additional contract for work or personal use), the importance of mobile devices even in the region's less developed nations highlights the critical role mobile plays in people's daily lives in APAC.
While it can be tricky to identify the exact number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices, we have identified reliable data for two important indicators that offer valuable insights: mobile broadband subscriptions, and people accessing social media through mobile devices:
It's particularly interesting to note that the proportion of the population accessing social media through a mobile device is much higher than the penetration of mobile broadband, suggesting that many people continue to access social media through slower mobile connections.
You'll find this data broken down for each country around the region in the full report.
Individual country stories
We're delighted to announce that we now have social media and mobile data for every Asian country, as well as four key nations in Oceania.
Major additions to this year's report are North Korea and Myanmar, and although these countries aren't likely to challenge China's position as the dominant digital player in the region, it's very exciting to see how online media are helping to open up some of the world's most secretive nations.
In particular, Myanmar – or Burma, if you prefer – has surprised us with the sheer speed of its digital growth, particularly when it comes to social media. From a position where Facebook was technically blocked barely 12 months ago, this Southeast Asian country now boasts well over one million Facebook users, and is still growing at an impressive rate:
Despite these impressive numbers though, this still represents a social media penetration of just 2% in Myanmar, so there's clearly plenty more potential for growth as the country continues its journey towards a fully open approach to the internet.
Even mobile subscriptions struggle to reach double-digit penetration, while the internet – albeit based mostly on fixed-line figures – languishes at just 1%.
However, 2014 looks like a promising year for Myanmar's online landscape, and we're looking forward to plenty more good news from the country in the months to come.
The story in North Korea remains less clear; with the internet still officially blocked in the world's most reclusive nation, it's difficult to get a clear picture of what's going on. However, Facebook themselves state that they now have 8,200 users within the North Asian state, 4,600 of whom access through mobile devices:
It's unclear how many of these users are actually North Korean citizens though, and we suspect that most (if not all) may be foreign nationals based in the country.
However, the fact that it is even possible for these people to access Facebook from within North Korea represents a step forward compared to the situation this time last year, so we'll take that as a glimmer of hope for 2014.
We've also included data for Timor-Leste, which, although still small in absolute numbers, represents another reason for optimism, given the young country's recent history.
East Timor's social media population in particular is growing steadily, with 6% of the population - or 76,000 people - using Facebook at least once in the past month:
As with many emerging economies, the numbers for internet usage in Timor-Leste are far lower than those for social media, mainly because it's harder to measure the exact number of people accessing the internet.
Many people still access from shared devices in internet cafés or in places of work, and data is often collected by surveys that have taken quite some time to gather, analyse and publish.
Social media figures such as those made available by Facebook are almost real-time though, offering a more up-to-date and accurate picture of the online landscape within these fast-evolving digital ecosystems.
Excitingly, mobile phone subscriptions have already surpassed 50% penetration in Timor-Leste too, meaning many more people now have the opportunity to connect to the internet as soon as affordable mobile data plans become available.
Alongside figures for Australia and New Zealand, we're also pleased to present some initial figures for Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations play an important role in understanding the broader picture across Pacific nations, and the stories their data snapshots tell reveal some interesting insights:
Fiji already demonstrates relatively strong internet and social media penetration figures, surpassing the regional average in both areas.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea still has plenty of potential for growth, with barely 4% of the population using Facebook in the past month. However, with mobile subscription penetration of 42%, it's clear that people in the country have an increasing digital opportunity, and we're confident that these figures will all grow considerably during 2014.
We're also pleased to share statistics on mobile social behaviour for all 30 countries in this study, ensuring marketers have a solid understanding of the opportunities to engage their audiences in a variety of settings and contexts – here are some example stats for Indonesia:
As mobile increasingly becomes our predominant means of accessing online services and content, it's likely that Asia-Pacific will continue to lead the world in defining the future of the online landscape.
Finally, given the major changes in internet user numbers since our global report, here's how the individual country situation looks today:
So there you have it – another bumper collection of stats. Do get in touch if you'd like some help making sense of these numbers, or turning them into part of an actionable strategy.
Be sure to check back to the DataReportal blog for future updates too – given how quickly the data seems to be changing, it's clear that 2014 will be another vintage year for online growth.
We're already looking forward to next year's APAC report!
Sources for all the above data are listed in the full report. We'd especially like to thank GlobalWebIndex and GSMA Intelligence for their help in providing data for these reports, and for allowing us to publish their valuable data.
Click here to download a free PDF of the complete report (you may need to sign in to SlideShare first).
This article first appeared on the We Are Social blog.