NEW DELHI: A growing number of consumers are regularly accessing the internet in India, with this group spending more time online and engaging in an increasingly diverse range of activities.

According to figures from the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the industry body, and IMRB, the research firm, 71 million people "claimed" to have used the web in India in 2009.

More specifically, the "active" online user base in the country, or the individuals who utilised this medium at least once a month, climbed to 52 million people, up by 10 million from 2008.

Just under a third of this cohort was drawn from the eight biggest cities in the country, while 18% were based in second tier cities.

A further 12% lived in towns with populations of between 500,000 and one million people, and 36% in areas with less than 500,000 residents.

By contrast, the eight largest urban centres in India contributed 77% of the internet population in 2000, falling to 55% in 2004 and 37% in 2008.

"The internet has reached the remote masses in urban India," the IAMAI/IMRB study said.

"This surge in numbers has been primarily due to the increased numbers of the users in the remote urban pockets (small metros and towns) and among lower socio-economic classes."

Elsewhere, the report revealed that the average Indian netizen logged on to the web for 15.7 hours a week in 2009, an improvement from 9.3 hours in 2008 and 6.9 hours in 2007.

Reading and sending email was the primary purpose for going online for 87% of Indians, a total that had decreased by 4% from 2008.

Eight out of ten people used search engines like Google, an uptick of 4% year-on-year, with 45% playing music and video content on the net, a jump of 13% on an annual basis.

However, instant messaging services declined in popularity, down by 6% to 40%, as did online games, off by 8% to 33%.

Younger consumers were said to make up both the largest share of new web users and the majority of the current audience, with entertainment and search among their favoured online activities.

"While people in the smaller towns are taking to the internet … we need to provide them with the best innovations in the language of their choice, at an access cost that does not pinch and through a device that they have," said Subho Ray, IAMAI's president.

Data sourced from IAMAI; additional content by Warc staff