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06 January 2005

Internet Adoption in South-East Asia - Thailand 1.0

In Thailand, Internet users are about 10% of the total population. They are concentrated in Bangkok and other urban areas. Expensive hardware, low computer literacy, high telecommunications and Internet access fees in a country where income levels are still relatively low are invoked to explain limited and concentrated Internet use (see, Centre for International Development, Harvard).

How many Internet users in Thailand?
In Internet Use in Thailand, Poonsri Vate-U-Lan from Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok, quotes a household survey carried out in March-June 2003  by two public institutions: NECTEC and NSTDA (see, Internet Information Research Centre, Thailand). The survey shows a steady increase in the number of Internet users, of approximately 30% per year: 

  • 2003 = 9.56% of total population (approx. 63 M)
  • 2002 = 7.38%
  • 2001 = 5.64%

Internet vs. telephony
According to the ITU Asia-Pacific Telecommunications Indicators 2003, Thailand has a broad telephone subscribers base:

  • fixed-lines subscribers are close to 32 M, corresponding to nearly 50% of the total population
  • mobile subscribers are nearly 25 M, or 40% of the population

On the contrary, the Internet users and subscribers base is much narrower. Internet users are close to 7 M, or 11% of the population. Internet subscribers are 2.5 M , of whom 45.000, or 1.9% have a broadband connection.

Internet adoption in South-East Asia
Drawing from Nua Internet Surveys (2003) in the region, Poonsri Vate-U-Lan positions Thailand in the middle range among South-East Asian countries.

High adoption rate

Singapore at 51.48%
Malaysia at 25.15%

Medium adoption rate
Thailand between 9.5 and 11%
Brunei at 9.97%
Philippines at 7.77%

Low and very low adoption rate
Indonesia at 1.93%
Vietnam at 0.49%
Laos at 0.17%
Cambodia at 0.08%
Myanmar = 0.02%

Further analysis of this data shows that the country's per capita income appears to be the best economic predictor of Internet adoption (e.g. Thailand GDP 2.044 $ - Indonesia 860$, source ITU report cited above).

Who are Internet users in Thailand?
They are young: more than half are 20-29 years old (53.2% in 2002) ; followed by 30-39 (above 20%) and 10-19 (below 20%).

They live in the Bangkok region (62.6%) or in other urban areas (21.8%).

They have high education: University graduate (62.3%) and High school (16.7%).

Over the years, women are becoming more numerous among Internet users than men (53.4% in 2002, 51.2% in 2001, 49.2% in 2000).

They access the Internet from multiple points: home (46.7%); office (31.6%); school (13.7%) and Internet cafes (7.5%). And most of them (83.2%) own a PC.

Note: the data above come from NECTEC annual online survey, which started in 1999. Internet users are invited to take the survey by an advertising banner embedded in various popular websites. As such it suffers from self-selection bias and should be taken as an interesting description rather than an accurate representation of the Internet users community in Thailand.

Two interesting articles to know more about Internet in Thailand are :

Bridging the Digital Divide: a case study of CATNET Nationwide Internet kiosks, by Rattanawan Rattakul. At the end of 2002, Thailand had deployed 1400 public Internet access points. A survey was carried out to know who used these Internet access points, how and for what uses.

A critical analysis of the adoption and utilization of the Internet in Thailand for educational purposes, by Noppadol Prammanee retraces the story of the development of the Internet in Thailand and gives a view on the local government Internet policies and initiatives.

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The link to my original article has disappeared. If you are interested in the profile of Internet users, similar finding is present at http://www.apdip.net/documents/evaluation/indicators/itu-th16112004.pdf

Or, contact me for the full article, rattanawan@gmail.com

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