Digital 2015: Southeast Asia Regional Overview
This new report in We Are Social's on-going series of reports into connected behaviour around the world shows that digital adoption and usage continues to grow apace around Southeast Asia, with internet and social media usage increasing more than 15% year-on-year.
Just before we get into the regional data though, here are the latest global figures:
Global Internet Users: 3.249 billion
Global Social Media Users: 2.317 billion
Global Mobile Users: 3.761 billion
Global Mobile Social Media Users: 2.062 billion
Read on to get the in-depth details for Southeast Asia.
The regional overview
Digital connectivity in Southeast Asia has leapt over the past few months, with much of this growth attributable to more widespread access to internet-enabled mobile devices.
This mobile connectivity is quickly influencing the shape of the social media landscape too. Publicly available data indicate that Facebook remains the most popular social platform in all countries around the region, but only just; LINE registers almost as many monthly active users as Facebook in Thailand, and Viber is hugely popular in the Philippines.
Internet in Southeast Asia
The number of internet users around Southeast Asia has grown an impressive 12% since March this year, although – as is often the case with internet usage data – this increase may be due to better reporting, rather than an absolute increase of 27 million new users during the same period.
The fact that 40% of the region's citizens now have access to the internet is cause for celebration though; internet usage in Southeast Asia still lags behind the global average (40% vs. 44%), but it seems that the improved accessibility of smartphones and mobile broadband subscriptions has significantly boosted connectivity across all of the region's developing nations during the course of 2015.
Social media in Southeast Asia
The social media landscape in Southeast Asia is becoming increasingly varied and exciting. The publicly available data suggest that Facebook is still the region's most popular social platform, but other choices – notably chat apps – are capturing a significant share of people's time and activities.
Facebook now has more than 230 million active users around Southeast Asia, and almost 200 million of these logged in via mobile devices in the past 30 days.
Interestingly, despite media click-bait suggesting that young people are leaving Facebook "in their droves", the latest data suggest that Facebook remains hugely popular with Millennial audiences. More than 70% of the platform's users in the region are under 30 years of age, and the network reports that more than 63 million users under the age of 20 used Facebook in the past 30 days.
Facebook continues to grow elsewhere too, registering more than 180 million new users around the world since the start of 2015. For reference, here is the latest list of the world's most popular social media platforms, ranked by the number of monthly active users:
Although other social media companies are notoriously coy about sharing monthly active user data – especially broken down by country – our analysis suggests that LINE is just a few hundred thousand users behind Facebook in Thailand.
The same data suggest that LINE has a significant user base in Indonesia, although it's still a long way behind Facebook, which reports 79 million users in the region's largest country.
Viber is another chat app that's won the hearts of users around Southeast Asia, most notably in the Philippines. WeChat continues to be popular amongst native Mandarin speakers around the region too, although the lion's share of Tencent's hugely popular platform still live in mainland China.
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger continue to grow around the region too, although Facebook haven't published any recent monthly active user data by country.
Blackberry Messenger – now available to users of most smartphone operating systems – still has an impressive user base in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia. Anecdotally, Kakaotalk still has a noteworthy base around the region too, but the company's latest financial reports suggest that usage is now falling.
Our qualitative research indicates that Snapchat has gained a solid following amongst the region's Millennial users too, although there is insufficient reliable data for us to offer any concrete statistics. Similarly, Telegram and Kik feature in a number of our conversations with local audiences, but there isn't enough publicly available data to offer an accurate picture of actual usage or penetration by market.
Mobile in Southeast Asia
Although the figures for mobile growth around the region haven't grown as quickly as the other indicators in this report – mobile subscriptions were up just 4% in the past 8 months – there are already more mobile subscriptions than people around Southeast Asia.
This doesn't mean that we've reached saturation though, and there's an important distinction between subscriptions (i.e. mobile contracts) and unique users. The latest global figures suggest that just over half the world's population has a mobile phone of some description, but penetration tends to be lower in developing markets.
The good news is that mobile adoption is accelerating at a staggering pace across Southeast Asia's less developed markets.
The situation in Myanmar has improved rapidly since 2014, with the number of mobile subscriptions in use in the country doubling from just 15 million in Q4 2014 to more than 30 million today. Current data suggest that people in Myanmar activate a new mobile subscription more than once every minute. What's more, the use of smartphones amongst the nation's mobile subscribers is already widespread, suggesting that mobile connectivity – and mobile internet in particular – is likely to accelerate rapidly during 2016.
Individual country data
You'll find individual country data for every nation in Southeast Asia in the second part of the report, including an age and gender breakdown of each country's Facebook audience.
Digital growth shows no sign of slowing around the region, nor the rest of the world for that matter. The latest global stats show that a quarter of a billion people around the world used the internet for the first time in 2015, whilst more than 300 million people started using social media since January this year.
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 Tech In Asia.