Digital Life, a survey of 50,000 online users in 46 countries by British research firm TNS, included about 90% of the world's online population, according to the research firm.
"The Internet is a huge part of life in the 21st century, but how it affects our lives varies depending upon where in the world you live. We've seen that in mature markets where people have been online for years and where access is ubiquitous, the Internet has already become a commoditized item that consumers take for granted," said Matthew Froggatt, chief developer officer at TNS. "However, in rapid-growth markets that have seen recent, sustained investment in infrastructure, users are embracing these new channels in much more active ways. The digital world is transforming how they live, develop, and interact and online consumers in these markets are leaving those in the developed world behind in terms of being active online and engaging in new forms of communications."
In terms of rapid-growth markets, 56% of users in Egypt and 54% of users in China are engaged in digital activities compared with 20% in Japan, 25% in Denmark, and 26% in Finland, TNS found, despite the more advanced Internet infrastructures found in Japan and the Nordic nations. Likewise, 88% of online users in China and 51% of those in Brazil had written a blog or forum entry, compared with only 32% in the United States, the report found.
"The Internet has also become the default option for photo sharing among online users in rapid growth markets, particularly in Asia," according to TNS. "The number of online consumers who have ever uploaded photos to social networks or photo sharing sites is 92% in Thailand, 88% in Malaysia, and 87% in Vietnam, whilst developed markets are more conservative. Less than a third of online consumers in Japan (28%) and under half of those in Germany (48%) have uploaded photos to such sites."
Rapid-growth nations also are more likely to use social media instead of email. In Malaysia, users spend 9 hours per week on social networking; in Russia, they spend 8.1 hours a week; and in Turkey, they are on social networking sites 7.7 hours weekly, TNS reported. On average, users in rapid growth markets spend 5.2 hours weekly on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, compared with 4 hours a week on email, according to the study.
They also are more likely to use mobile devices to log onto social media sites, spending an average 3.1 hours a week on social networking sites vs. 2.2 hours weekly on email, the study said. And users around the globe predict increased reliance on mobile devices in the future, TNS said. In the United States, 36% of online users expect social networking on their mobile device to grow in the next 12 months, compared with 26% who foresee an increase in social networking on their PCs, the study found. In Australia, the figures are 44% and 26%, respectively, while in Sweden they are 53% and 28%, TNS said.
Whether they are checking in via PC or smartphone, more people are going to the Internet for news: In fact, 61% of online users visit digital sources daily as their top media channel, compared with 54% for television, 36% for radio, and 32% for newspapers, the study said.
When it comes to online friends, Malaysians have an average of 233 friends in their networks, and Brazilians have an average of 231, TNS said. The Japanese have an average of only 29 friends and Tanzanians have, on average, 38, according to the report.