China, India lead global surge in mobile Web usage

Despite concerns over privacy and security, number of mobile Internet users worldwide edge upward with fastest-growing economies like China and India leading the way, finds new KPMG survey.
Written by Tyler Thia, Contributor on

Mobile Internet penetration continues to gain foothold as an increasing number of users around the world take to its convenience, despite concerns over privacy and data security, according to a new report by KPMG.

Released Tuesday, the survey revealed that while mobile Internet is becoming more pervasive, privacy and security remain major concerns among users.

Despite such concerns, the number of survey respondents adopting mobile banking transactions worldwide more than doubled to 46 percent, compared to the previous study conducted 18 months ago in late-2008. Consumers who turned to the Internet to buy goods and services also surged from 10 to 28 percent.

Numbers from the world's fastest-developing economies jumped the most, according to the survey. Some 77 percent of respondents in China, for instance, said they have used their mobile phones for banking and 44 percent have done likewise for retail transactions. In India, 38 percent have used their mobile phones to shop while 43 percent for financial services.

The KPMG survey polled 5,627 users, who owned either a mobile phone or PDA, from 22 countries worldwide including Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and United States.

More than 90 percent of respondents nine countries including South Korea, India and China indicated their concerns about online privacy and security, while those in Czech Republic and the Netherlands were the least disturbed about such issues where 70 percent in these two economies expressed similar concerns.

Doubts about inadequate privacy and poor security remain uppermost in the minds of consumers, Gary Matuszak, global chair of KPMG's information, communications and entertainment division, noted in the report, adding that these concerns could hold back further development of the online platform as a commercial tool.

"Consumers around the world see solving these issues as a joint responsibility of the service providers, who should improve systems and be more transparent in their reporting on security matters, and regulators, who should introduce privacy and security policies that address new challenges arising from evolving mobile technology," Matuszak said.

More willing to pay
The survey also found that more people were willing to pay for high-value content. Matuszak noted that "organizations that can provide high-quality material in an imaginative and user-friendly way will be able to generate significant revenues".

Worldwide, 43 of respondents said they were willing to pay for access to frequently used online content, with the average number among Asia-Pacific nations rising to 59 percent. India and China topped this segment at 65 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Respondents in the Netherlands, Ireland and Canada users were least willing to pay.

Among those who were willing to pay, consumers indicated doing so for video content which was highlighted by 56 percent of respondents, followed by music at 53 percent.

And while there was growing acceptance to advertising, consumers were more comfortable seeing advertisements on their PCs at 56 percent, compared to only 42 percent on their mobile devices. Some 58 percent of respondents said they would allow their online usage and personal profile data to be tracked in exchange for lower costs.

Sean Collins, KPMG's global chair for communications and media, explained: "At first sight, these results might seem to conflict with our findings on privacy and security but there seems to be a clear distinction in consumers' minds between uncontrolled use of personal information, and properly regulated use.

"They do see the value in allowing service providers to have access to the information necessary for more tailored services, but they are only prepared to do this if the risks are controlled and, crucially, if there is some value in it for them," he said.

Cloud computing also appeared to be picking up pace with 66 percent of respondents indicating they currently used such services including data storage and shared applications. In fact, one fifth were already storing personal medical and financial information on the cloud.

However, cloud adoption differed between countries. For instance, Spain topped the list with 89 percent of respondents indicating they used cloud services, while only 51 percent in the U.S. and 27 percent in Germany did likewise.

Matuszak pointed to the lack of awareness and perceived need as main barriers to cloud adoption. "There does not seem to be any significant bias against using remote applications instead of applications residing on one's computer," he noted. "If the global problems associated with privacy and security can be overcome to consumers' satisfaction, then this new, convenient and highly efficient channel for delivering information and services is very likely to play a major part in the further development of the global marketplace."

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