WSJ writes about the expanding user base in China:
Internet use is spreading farther than expected in China, reaching smaller, less-developed cities, and would likely be even more popular if not for government controls, according to two surveys.
The surveys, conducted by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, are the most extensive on Internet use in China to date. Researchers interviewed 4,100 people in 12 cities, from the major urban centers on the prosperous coast to interior towns where economic growth has lagged behind. The surveys show that Internet penetration is on average highest in the metropolises of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou — where one-third of all residents use the Internet — but small cities of around 100,000 in population ranked a surprising second, with 27% of residents going online. That percentage surpasses the 24% rate in four leading industrial provincial capitals, according to the surveys.
Underpinning the growth in small cities is an array of factors, including government policies and free-market competition to provide Internet services, says one of the surveys, on small cities. In Yima, a city in hilly, rural Henan province, for example, a mining company vied with the local subsidiary of China’s telecommunications authority to offer Internet services starting in the late 1990s. The result was low-cost Internet connections and a surge in Internet cafes — 60 of them by early 2002 — for a city of 120,000 where incomes average $500 a year and many residents can’t afford a home computer.
Some key numbers:
Total users: 68 million
Profile: 56% male; 58.2% between ages 17 and 24
Income: 39.2% have no monthly income
Activities: 57% go online to read news
Location: 62.8% log on from home, for an average 5.35 hours a week
Growth in India is still hobbled by expensive connectivity and PCs, compounded with limited local language content.