Feature Article

October 09, 2012

For Emerging Countries Mobile Devices are Clearly the Only Choice for Internet and Web Access

The use of mobile devices is rapidly becoming the medium of choice – the “de facto standard” may be more accurate, for accessing the Internet and Web, at least according to a new Accenture report, “Mobile Web Watch 2012.”  

The study and survey was conducted online in 13 countries, including Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, with 17,225 total respondents – a substantially sized panel. The annual online survey was conducted with a sample representative of Internet users across age, gender (51 percent men and 49 percent women) and incomes. 

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The report data claims that more than two-thirds - 69 percent - of all users surveyed now access the Internet and Web daily through their mobile devices. The report also found that for those consumers who use multiple devices to connect to the Web, 61 percent use smartphones, 37 percent use netbooks, and 22 percent use tablets.

The Accenture study further uncovered that emerging economies such as those in Brazil, South Africa and Russia are the front-runners in the adoption of mobile devices - more than 70 percent, on average -to access the Internet. Given that they are now for the most part affordable; smartphones are more likely than other mobile devices to serve as access gateways to the Internet in these emerging markets.

It is an inevitable conclusion to draw – and it is something that has been obvious to most of us for some time now that as smartphones gain the upper hand in overall market penetration, they simply become the easiest means to Internet access. It is a trend will continue.

The survey clearly points to a higher percentage of respondents in emerging markets expressing their intention to buy a Web-enabled mobile phone in the near future:

  • Brazil, 78 percent
  • Russia, 73 percent
  • Mexico, 61 percent
  • South Africa, 57 percent

The numbers above are significant when compared directly with an average of 46 percent for all countries that were surveyed for the report.

It isn’t a phenomenon limited to emerging countries however. For example, the trend continues as well in developed European economies:

  • In Germany, adoption of mobile Internet access via smartphones has tripled since 2010 from 17 to 51 percent.
  • In Switzerland,  67 percent of respondents now use Web-enabled mobile phones to go online, compared to 27 percent in 2010.
  • In Austria, the percentage of mobile Internet users has doubled in two years from 31 to 62 percent.

In less established countries, smartphones provide the means for basic Internet and Web access. Mobile banking and mobile payments are the types of services that third world users are gaining access to as they gain easier access.

For established countries the growth in Internet and Web access through mobile devices is a bit different. Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Mohr, a managing director in Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology operating group, notes that, “The growth in use of mobile devices in established countries to access the Internet comes in conjunction with a willingness to pay for mobile services such as cloud or premium services.”

Along with that growth and the desire to pay for premium services come additional opportunities for businesses. Mohr continues, “The willingness to pay for premium services, as well as access to a larger overall pool of mobile users, opens up a host of opportunities for market players in the communications, media and technology industries. Companies would do well to leverage the efficiencies of this mass market. We believe that this can be achieved through innovation and, more importantly, through collaboration among all the players in the value chain of the communications, media and technology industries.”

Availability of Mobile Apps Fuels Growth

Hardware may always be the thing the captures the imagination first, but ultimately it is always the apps that keep users coming back. Accenture’s survey certainly found this to be the case.

A constantly growing ecosystem of mobile apps absolutely fuels the ingoing rapid growth of the mobile Internet, and provides consumers easy access to services they consider important:

  • 71 percent of mobile Internet users have downloaded programs or apps to their mobile devices.
  • 72 percent of survey respondents note that information apps, such as train schedules, the weather, or news are the most popular.
  • 70 percent look for entertainment apps.
  • 70 percent claim that sending or receiving e-mails through an installed program on their mobile devices is the most popular feature.
  • 62 percent say that accessing online communities is important.
  • 61 percent say that instant messaging (IM) is important to them.

We’ve noted in other articles that instant messaging (IM) and various online communities growing up around them are key uses for mobile devices – especially in Asia, but also more generally in other countries as well. In most cases, it is younger users that are fueling IM growth. Given that it will certainly come as no particular surprise that the Accenture survey also found that for younger users, online communities and instant messaging have become key tools to connect with other users:

  • 68 percent of 14 to 19 year-old respondents use these tools at least daily.
  • 16 percent of this age group says they are heavy users, communicating via online communities and instant messaging more than ten times a day on a mobile device.
  • 41 to 57 percent of respondents aged 30-plus use these services on a daily basis, and only three to nine percent are heavy users.

As with the Asia-Pac communities we noted above, respondents in the emerging markets of Mexico and South Africa are the biggest users of mobile email and instant messaging, with more than 80 percent of respondents in both countries using the services. Among all respondents in these countries, 27 percent use their mobile device for Tweeting and blogging, and almost half - 46 percent - use mobile devices to conduct banking transactions.

Survey Highlights Growth Potential of Fee-based Services

As Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Mohr states above, there is ample opportunity for companies to create fee-based cloud or mobile premium services such as news, financial data or games services, and the survey certainly points to this:

  • 59 percent of respondents are aware of cloud or data storage services.
  • 78 percent of this group is willing to pay for cloud applications.
  • There are even more takers for premium services, with 87 percent of respondents stating that they are willing to pay for them.

“This strong demand for mobile-based information, entertainment and social networking activities will require a considerable sustained investment in infrastructure upgrades,” said Mohr. “Companies need to react quickly, transform their operating models and use mobile and cloud-based customer relationship management technologies to keep pace with the changing demands of their customers.”

Additional Survey Insights

The survey and report go into a good deal of depth, far more than we can cover in our brief overview. There are a number of additional related Web and Internet access insights from the report that are worth providing here, though we won’t elaborate on them:

  • 79 percent of respondents say that data security and privacy remain major areas of concern.
  • 95 percent of respondents say they view the cost of data connections as one of the top five criteria for selecting a carrier.
  • 89 percent rank network quality as the top criterion in the selection of a service provider, followed closely by geographic coverage at 88 percent, connection speed at 85 percent and cost of service at 81 percent.
  • More men - 73 percent - are using the mobile Internet than women at 66 percent.
  • Advertising on mobile devices is regarded as an annoyance - 38 percent of respondents view ad banners as annoying and 37 percent find advertising through texting annoying.
  • More than 90 percent of respondents are favorably inclined toward information on special offers, promotions and coupons, while 60 percent find such promotions entertaining. This is interesting given that advertising is found to be highly annoying.
  • 58 percent of respondents access the Web on a smartphone for personal matters while only 20 percent do so for work-related activities. This is no doubt due to respondents having better access to the Internet within the workplace on traditional computer hardware than they have available in their homes.

All in all, a very interesting survey, though its value may be more to confirm things we already know or intuitively know to be true. The move to near universal mobile Internet and Web access is inevitable.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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