Author: Simon Kemp (@eskimon), Engagement Planner, BBH Asia Pacific & BBH Labs
The digital landscape across Asia-Pacific has seen significant change in recent months, with enthusiasm for social media driving the broader adoption of a wide range of connected services and tools.
Although Internet penetration levels remain low in many Asian countries, the sheer size of those countries’ populations means that the numbers must be seen in context; for example, internet penetration in China stands at just 34%, but the number of social media users in that country exceeds the total population of Russia.
It’s also critical to understand how people in the East access and use the web.
We know mobile phones are already an indispensable part of life throughout Asia, and given the faltering state of infrastructure in much of the region, these are often the predominant means of communication and entertainment. Digging into the latest numbers still has the power to give us pause for thought, however. In India, for example, Mobile penetration is 50% higher than TV penetration.
As a consequence, the Asian internet revolution is skipping a step, with many people accessing the web and web-powered utilities uniquely through mobile devices.
In many Asian countries, this entails access via basic ‘feature’ phones (i.e. non-smartphones), but as in so many other areas, Asians approach these devices with a remarkable sense of resourcefulness. Simple apps and hacks for social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and their local equivalents abound, and this simplified access is helping to fuel astonishing adoption rates across the region.
Importantly, many tracking studies miss this mobile-only behaviour – a reality borne out by the fact that the number of Facebook users in Indonesia appears to exceed the total number of internet users.
To help make sense of all this data and the broader Asian picture, BBH Asia-Pacific has been profiling the digital, mobile, and social media landscapes of a number of countries around the region.