Internet Going Mainstream in China

The average home Internet user in China is 30 years old, earns RMB 1,860 per month (US $221.42), and is university educated, according to research by iamasia (Interactive Audience Measurement Asia). However, Internet usage is beginning to increase outside of the wealthy, educated elite, as more people with lower incomes and education levels begin to go online in China.

The figures also suggest that the average age of Chinese Internet users will continue to drop given the upsurge of younger people (especially in the 16-20 year-old age bracket) going online. Of the Chinese Internet users with two or more years of Internet experience, the average age is 32. For those with six months experience or less, the age is 28.

While individuals with a university degree or at least some college education account for 72 percent of those using the Internet at home (about 22 percent of non-Internet users in China), iamasia’s survey also found increasing numbers among those with primary and secondary level educations beginning to use the Internet at home. Of those with two or more years of Internet experience at home, 90 percent are college-educated. Of those who have come online at home within the last six months, the percentage drops to 61 percent.

Internet users in China still have a substantially higher monthly income than non-users. The average personal monthly income for those online at home is RMB 1,860 (US $221.42) vs. RMB 920 (US $109.52) for those without home Internet access. However, the survey also found that the cost threshold for having home access to the Internet is continuing to decline in China. The average monthly personal income for people who have used the Internet at home is six months or less is RMB 1,360 (US $161.19); for those online at home for two years or more, the monthly personal income average is RMB 2,650 (US $315.47).

Of those who have been online at home for two years or more, 39 percent have average monthly household incomes above RMB 4,000 (US $476.19). Of those who began to use the Internet at home during the past six months, the percentage at this relatively high-income level drops to 20 percent.

“As the Internet grows to become increasingly mainstream in China, so the demographics of the Internet user base will begin to more closely mirror those of the general population,” said Kevin Tan, CEO of iamasia. “While there can be no doubt that the Internet in China is still dominated by those with higher-than-average incomes and education levels, it is heartening to see that the digital divide is quickly beginning to narrow.”

iamasia’s research is based on a survey of more than 24,000 randomly selected households in nine cities across China.

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