Rural India Web population to reach 45M by end-2012

Number of Internet users in rural India is expected to surge with community service centers and Internet cafes providing points of access to the World Wide Web.

The number of users in rural India who have accessed the Internet at least once in their lifetime is expected to grow to 45 million by the end of 2012.

According to findings in the I-Cube report released Thursday, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) said the country's rural community currently has 38 million "claimed Internet" users, of which 31 million are active users.

Claimed Internet users have accessed the Web at least once in their lifetime, while active users are online at least once a month.

IAMAI said the penetration of claimed Internet users in rural India is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 73 percent, from 2.6 percent in 2010, to 4.6 percent in 2012. The penetration of active Internet users will grow from 2.13 percent in 2010 to 3.7 percent in 2012, it added.

IAMAI President Subho Ray said: "This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next two years, a combination of affordable smartphones , optic fiber backbone and local language content  is likely to change the beat all projections of Internet growth in rural areas."

In rural India, community service centers and cybercafes are major points of access for Intenret users. According to the report, 57.7 percent of Internet users visit public facilities to access the Internet while 12 percent go online on their mobile phones.

Mobile phones are fast becoming an important Internet access point in India. The number of mobile Internet users in the country  grew from 500,000 in 2010 to 3.6 million in June 2012, IAMAI said.