A Decade in Digital

10 years ago today – on the 29th of November, 2011 – we published the first report in the Global Digital Reports series.

Looking back over the thousands of reports that we’ve published since then, it’s fascinating to see how much has changed in the subsequent decade – but also which of our connected behaviours have remained the same.


This article doesn’t just analyse the past though.

By revealing some of the common themes and patterns in the world’s connected behaviours – and the associated underlying motivations – it also offers a glimpse into the future.

But what has a decade of digital data told us so far?

Let’s dive in…

The global population

When we published the first collection of Global Digital Reports, data from the United Nations showed that there were slightly more than 6.8 billion people living around the world [note: the UN has updated its historical figures for the global population since we published our first report, so values shown later in this study may not correlate with this 6.8 billion figure].

Asian countries were home to more than half of this global total (53 percent), with more than 3.7 billion people living across the 24 countries that we profiled in that first round of data.¹

Asia Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

Startlingly, however, the global population has increased by 830 million people since then.

The latest data suggest that the world’s total population now stands at close to 7.9 billion, which is almost 12 percent higher than it was this time a decade ago.

Asia accounts for an even greater share of today’s global population, too.

Current data indicates that countries across Southern, South-Eastern, and Eastern Asia are now home to more than 4.3 billion people, or 55 percent of the global total.

At current growth rates, the United Nations predicts that the global population will pass the 8 billion mark within the next 18 months – most likely sometime in early 2023.

Global Population Over Time, 2011 to 2023 November 2021 DataReportal


Internet growth over the past 10 years

At the end of 2011, our analysis indicated that just over 2 billion people around the world were using the internet, which equated to roughly 30 percent of the global population.

Fast forward ten years, and that global user figure has grown to almost 4.9 billion, with more than 6 in 10 people around the world using the internet at the end of 2021.

Global Digital Overview October 2021 DataReportal

Growth rates have fluctuated over the past decade, but on an annualised basis, our analysis suggests that the world’s internet population has grown by an average of 9 percent per year since 2011.

However, restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have limited research into internet adoption over the past 2 years, so there’s a good chance that actual figures are higher than the available data suggest.

Either way though, at current growth rates, the world’s internet population looks set to pass the 5 billion mark by the middle of 2022.

Note that the chart below plotting internet user growth over the past decade includes new data that wasn’t available at the time we published each of our annual reports, so these figures may not correlate with the numbers published in our yearly Global Digital Overview reports.

Internet Users Over Time 2011 - 2021 November 2021 DataReportal

Time Online

But it’s not just user numbers that have shown impressive growth over the past decade.

In our November 2011 summary report, we found that internet users in Asia spent an average of 16½ hours per month using the internet, which equated to roughly 33 minutes per day.

Cut to 2021, and GWI reports that the region’s working age adults now spend an average of 6 hours and 19 minutes per day using connected devices and services.

That means internet users across Asia now spend almost 12 times as much time using the internet each day as they did just 10 years ago.

However, this regional average is actually quite a bit below the current global average of 6 hours and 58 minutes.

And somewhat surprisingly, this difference is largely due to the fact that Chinese internet users say that they spend considerably less time using the internet each day than users in almost every other country.

Asia is also home to the country where people spend the most time online each day though – a story we’ll cover in more detail later in this analysis – so the region sits at both ends of the spectrum.

Average Daily Time Spent Using the Internet November 2021 DataReportal

Social media activities have played an important role in fuelling increases in the amount of time that people spend online, as we’ll explore in more detail below.

However, with social media currently accounting for roughly one-third of the world’s total internet time, it’s clearly not the only thing that people are doing online.

Reasons for Using the Internet November 2021 DataReportal


The internet is now 20 times faster

It’s also interesting to see how quickly internet connection speeds have accelerated over the past decade.

Back in 2011, we reported that South Korea had the fastest internet in the world, with fixed connections clocking in at an average of 13.8Mbps.

A decade ago, those kinds of speeds put South Korea at the vanguard of online activity.

Indeed, data revealed that almost half of all the country’s internet users had already streamed a full movie over the internet by the end of 2011.

Ten years later, the data on internet connection speeds reveal that some things haven’t changed that much in the interim – at least when it comes to connection speed rankings.

South Korea still enjoys some of the world’s fastest internet connections today, with Ookla reporting that Koreans enjoyed an average fixed connection speed of 219Mbps in October 2021.

However, the United Arab Emirates tops the current global speed rankings, with Ookla reporting that mobile connections in the country reached an average of 273.9Mbps in October 2021.

Somewhat surprisingly, this is even quicker than the world’s fastest average fixed internet speeds, which only reached 270 Mbps for the same measurement period.

The World's Fastest Average Internet Connection Speeds November 2021 DataReportal

The latest data reveal that the world’s fastest average connection speeds have increased by a factor of twenty over the past decade.

For context, it would take users on a 56K modem more than 1 hour and 20 minutes to download the same amount of data that the typical user in the UAE can now download in 1 second using their mobile phone.

Some countries continue to struggle with 2011-like connection speeds though, and Ookla reports that average connections remain below 10Mbps in 6 countries today.

Encouragingly though, the overall picture continues to improve when it comes to internet connection speeds.

At a global level, Ookla reports the following values for October 2021:

  • Global mean speed for mobile connections: 68.44Mbps

  • Global median speed for mobile connections: 28.61Mbps

  • Global mean speed for fixed connections: 116.86Mbps

  • Global median speed for fixed connections: 56.09Mbps

Average Fixed Internet Connection Speed November 2021 DataReportal


Connectivity in Asia: a decade of milestones

When we published our first overview of connectivity around Asia, the region¹ accounted for 44 percent of the world’s internet users.

More than 900 million people had come online across Southern, South-Eastern, and Eastern Asia by then, with China home to more than half of the regional total.

However, that meant that less than a quarter (24 percent) of Asia’s total population was online at the end of 2011.

Overview of Internet Penetration in Asia November 2011 DataReportal

10 years later, the same three Asian sub-regions are home to more than 2½ billion internet users, and account for more than 52 percent of the current global total.

Just under 60 percent of Asia’s population is now online, but internet penetration is already above 70 percent across South-Eastern and Eastern Asia.

Different countries have taken quite different digital journeys over the past decade though, so let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Share of the World's Internet Users by Geographic Region November 2021 DataReportal

Internet growth in China

China alone accounted for close to a quarter of the world’s internet users in November 2011, with 485 million users. 

For context, that figure equated to roughly 39 percent of China’s total population at the time, and was equivalent to more than the total population of Western Europe.

China Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

However, China’s internet population has more than doubled in the ensuing decade.

As we reported in our Digital 2021 October Global Statshot Report, China is now home to more than 1 billion internet users, which means that roughly 70 percent of the country’s total population is now online.

There’s still plenty more room for growth in the world’s most populous nation too, with the latest data suggesting that roughly 400 million people in China are yet to come online.

Despite its large unconnected population, however, China is still home to more than 1 in 5 of all the world’s internet users at the end of 2021.


India’s connected journey

A decade ago, India was home to almost 18 percent of the world’s total population, but the country accounted for less than 5 percent of its internet users.

Barely 100 million people across the country had internet access in November 2011, which equated to just 8 percent of the national population.

India Digital Overview November 2011

Things have changed dramatically over the past 10 years though, with the latest data indicating that India is now home to more than 650 million internet users – 6½ times as many as a decade ago.

But India is still home to the world’s largest unconnected population, and more than half of the country’s 1.4 billion inhabitants are yet to come online.

The more reassuring news is that connectivity in the country is growing quickly, with compound annual growth rates suggesting that internet adoption in India has grown by more than 20 percent per year over the past decade.

However, big gaps remain.

For example, the GSMA reports that barely 60 percent of people living in India are even aware of the possibility of accessing the internet via mobile phones, despite 99 percent of the country’s population living in areas already covered by the necessary infrastructure.

To put that figure in context, more than half a billion people in India still don’t know that it’s possible to access the internet via a mobile phone.

The GSMA also reports that women in rural areas of the country are disproportionately less likely to use the internet than the population as a whole.

This has important implications for various other aspects of India’s development, as highlighted by the emphasis that the United Nations puts on improved digital connectivity in its Sustainable Development Goals.

The World's Unconnected Populations November 2021 DataReportal

The internet in Indonesia

Indonesia has been one of Asia’s most impressive internet success stories over the past decade, with access and adoption increasing significantly since our first report on the country in late 2011.

And in fact, adoption rates have even accelerated in recent years, partly due to initiatives designed to address challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of 2011, data indicated that Indonesia was home to just under 40 million internet users, which equated to 1 in 6 (17 percent) of the 238 million people living in the country at the time.

Indonesia Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

However, over the past 10 years, the number of internet users in Indonesia has increased by a factor of five.

The latest data suggest that just over 200 million people across the country are now online, equating to just under 74 percent of the current population.

For context, these figures suggest a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 18 percent over the past 10 years.

And what’s more, Indonesians now spend an average of 9 hours per day using the internet, which is considerably more than the global average of just under 7 hours per day.

Much of Indonesia’s digital journey has been fuelled by its ongoing love affair with social media – a topic that we’ll explore in more detail later in this analysis. 


The Philippines: almost always online

Back in November 2011, the Philippines was home to fewer than 30 million internet users, with less than 1 in 3 people across the country online at that time.

Philippines Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

Jump forward 10 years though, and things look very different.

Our analysis of the latest data from various sources suggests that more than 75 million people across the country are now online, which equates to 68 percent of the national population.

That means that the Philippines’s connected population has grown by 2½ times over the past decade, equating to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 10 percent. 

However, it is worth highlighting that estimates of the number of internet users in the Philippines vary significantly between different sources, and over time.

For example, the latest data published by the ITU in 2020 puts internet penetration in the country at somewhere between 43 and 47 percent, based on local government data from 2019.

The ITU’s figures have fluctuated over the years though, with their 2018 and 2019 updates reporting internet penetration rates in excess of 60 percent – considerably higher than the current reported values [note: the ITU is mandated to publish the data that it receives from relevant local authorities and reporting bodies, so these changes do not reflect any lack of consistency in the ITU’s methodology or research].

Get the full picture: compare trends across more than 230 countries in our complete library.

Meanwhile, in its latest World Factbook update (based on 2018 data), the CIA also puts internet penetration in the Philippines at just above 60 percent.

The latest figures for social media use in the Philippines suggest a much higher rate of internet adoption than the 75 million we’re reporting, but – as we’ll see in our social media section below – the social media platforms themselves warn that these figures may be somewhat ‘inflated’.

As a result, we’d advise taking a cautious approach to interpreting internet penetration figures in the Philippines.

But looking beyond user numbers, perhaps the most interesting data point when it comes to digital in the Philippines is how much time people in the country spend online.

Indeed, the latest data from GWI reveals that Filipinos spend more time using the internet than people in any other country around the world.

The typical internet user in the Philippines now spends more than 11 hours per day online, compared to a global average of just under 7 hours per day.

And the good news is that this figure is less susceptible to the vagaries of the internet user numbers that we covered above, so it’s clear that – once Filipinos do come online – the internet becomes very important to them.

It’s also worth highlighting that a significant share of the country’s online time is dedicated to social media activities, so be sure to check out our analysis of the country’s social behaviours later in this article too.

Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar’s digital journey over the past 10 years has been nothing short of remarkable, but a number of challenges remain.

The internet was largely unavailable in Myanmar at the end of 2011, with social media still officially ‘blocked’ in the country.

The data available at the time suggested that barely 110,000 of the country’s 48 million inhabitants had internet access, meaning that just 0.23 percent of the population was online.

Myanmar Digital Overview November 2011

But the picture has changed dramatically since then, with the latest data indicating that Myanmar is now home to almost 24 million internet users.

That’s still considerably less than half of the country’s population though, which has jumped to almost 55 million by the end of 2021.

And sadly, despite significant advances in connectivity and internet use over the past decade, internet access remains a point of political contention in Myanmar.

For example, the country still experiences intermittent internet and social media restrictions, especially during times of unrest.


Social media

Providing up-to-date social media user numbers was a primary focus in our first Global Digital Reports, and these data points remain a core theme in the ongoing series.

At the end of 2011, the available data indicated that there were just under 1.5 billion active social media users around the world, which equated to 22 percent of the total global population of 6.8 billion people.

Asian countries¹ accounted for more than half of this global total, with the region home to roughly three-quarters of a billion social media users in November 2011.

Social Media Users in Asia November 2011 DataReportal

However, that global social media figure has tripled over the past 10 years, with our Digital 2021 October Global Statshot Report revealing that there are now more than 4.5 billion social media users at a global level.

That equates to more than 57 percent of the current world total population, but it only passed the 50 percent ‘halfway’ mark in the middle of last year

Kepios analysis reveals that social media user numbers are still growing rapidly too, with more than 400 million users starting their social media journey in the past 12 months.

That means social media users are still growing at an annualised rate of close to 10 percent.

Global Social Media Overview October 2021 DataReportal

That’s slightly lower than the 12 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) that we’ve seen for the past decade, but that’s perhaps to be expected now that we’re approaching 60 percent adoption.

Indeed, the fact that social media growth rates have remained so strong has been one of the biggest surprises for me as I look back over the data from the past decade.

And although relative growth rates may be slowing, the absolute growth in social media users still offers some eye-watering numbers.

For example, more than 1 billion new users have started using social media since April 2019, and more than half of the world’s current active user base only started using social media in the past 6 years.

Social Media Users Over Time 2011 - 2021 November 2021 DataReportal

Social media activities

Once again though, the impressive stats aren’t restricted to user numbers.

One of the most interesting stories in social media over the past decade has been the rise – and sometimes fall – of different social platforms.

Facebook was already the world’s biggest social media platform by the time we published our first Global Digital Report, but many of today’s social ‘giants’ were still in their infancy.

WeChat and Snapchat were barely a few months old in November 2011, and it would be another 5 years before TikTok came into being.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen some of 2011’s favourite social platforms fall largely off the radar in the ensuing decade, including Foursquare, Path, Cyworld, Mixi, and Renren.

Overall, today’s social media landscape looks quite different to the one we knew just a decade ago.

Back in November 2011, Facebook had a global active user base of just over 800 million, and it would be almost another year before the platform passed the billion monthly active users milestone, in early October 2012.

But Facebook’s active user base is now 3½ times bigger than it was this time 10 years ago, with the platform’s latest earnings announcement revealing that 2.9 billion users visit the platform every month.

Moreover, a total of 7 different platforms now claim more than 1 billion monthly active users, and the typical social media user now makes active use of an average of 6.7 different social platforms each month.

The World's Most-Used Social Media Platforms October 2021 DataReportal


People are also spending considerably more time using social media.

GWI reports that the typical global user between the ages of 16 and 64 now spends almost 2½ hours per day using social platforms, and that figure rises to almost 3 hours per day for users aged 16 to 24.

Social media’s role in our lives has also evolved, leaving the old cliché of “photos of my lunch” firmly in the past.

Indeed, in recent years, social media has moved to the centre of how the world finds and consumes news content, and it’s playing an increasingly important role in our entertainment activities too.

Reasons for Using Social Media October 2021 DataReportal

Social media in Asia

Asia’s love affair with social media was already apparent in our first Global Digital Report back in 2011, but that passion only seems to have grown in the meantime.

Asia¹ was already home to more than half of the world’s social media users in 2011, despite accounting for just 44 percent of the world’s internet users.

However, social media adoption was still relatively low across the region this time ten years ago.

Our analysis suggested that there were roughly 750 million social media users across Asia in November 2011, which equated to just 20 percent of the region’s erstwhile population.

Social Networking Penetration in Asia November 2011 DataReportal


Those figures have changed significantly in the subsequent decade, but the region’s underlying enthusiasm for social media shows no signs of abating.

Countries across Southern, South-Eastern, and Eastern Asia are now home to 2.3 billion social media users, and account for 55 percent of the global total.²

Overall, the number of social media users across Asia equates to 53 percent of the region’s total population.

However, the numbers for South-East Asia are even more impressive.

The region is currently home to about 8.5 percent of the world’s total population and just under 10 percent of its internet users, but it’s already home to 12.7 percent of the world’s social media users.

Share of Global Social Media Users by Geographic Region November 2021 DataReportal

The region doesn’t just over-index in social media adoption rates, either.

Working-age internet users in South-East Asia spend an average of 3¼ hours per day using social media, which is 33 percent more than the global average of just under 2½ hours per day.

Average Daily Time Spent Using Social Media by Country November 2021 DataReportal

The region’s social media users also make use of a wider variety of social media platforms than their global peers.

GWI reports that the typical South-East Asian internet user is active across 7.1 social media platforms each month, compared to a global average of 6.7.

However, Asia’s social media landscape has changed significantly over the past decade.


Top social media platforms in Asia

In our November 2011 report, we found that Tencent’s QZone had the region’s largest user base, with 536 million users.

Tencent Weibo ranked second with 310 million users, while Sina Weibo had 250 million.

Facebook was a distant fourth in the regional rankings, with just 172 million people across Asia using the platform in November 2011.

For context, that meant that Qzone was more than three times bigger than Facebook was across Asia at the end of 2011.

Largest Social Media Platforms in Asia November 2011 DataReportal

Things look very different today, however.

Numbers published in Meta’s self-service advertising tools show that Facebook now attracts more than 950 million active users across Asia¹ each month, with India alone accounting for almost 350 million users (37 percent of the platform’s regional total).

Meanwhile, Tencent reports that its current ‘hero’ platform – WeChat – now has a global user base of 1.26 billion users, which is all the more impressive when we consider that WeChat had only just launched when we published our November 2011 report.

Data from CNNIC also suggests that there are around 983 million people using social media in China today, so it seems likely that a meaningful share of WeChat’s user base lives outside of China.

It’s tricky to ascertain how many users WeChat has in each individual country, but our analysis suggests that the platform likely has a meaningful user base in other Asian nations too.

So, across the region¹ as a whole, it appears that Facebook and WeChat may now be neck and neck.

Make better sense of social: get all the latest numbers for the world’s top social media platforms on our dedicated social media page, and explore up-to-date audience figures by country in our social platform reports.

Changing platform preferences

But what happened to 2011’s top platforms?

Well, while it’s still in operation, QZone has been largely usurped by its Tencent stablemate, WeChat.

QZone’s user base appears to have peaked at 668 million in the first quarter of 2015, but active user numbers have been declining steadily over the past few years.

Tencent stopped reporting user numbers for QZone after its 2019 Q3 earnings report, when it stated that QZone attracted 517 million active users each month – 19 million fewer than the 536 million we reported in November 2011.

Tencent also retired its Weibo service at the end of last year.

However, Sina Weibo is still going strong, and now reports 573 million monthly active users around the world.

That’s enough to put the platform in tenth place in our latest ranking of the world’s most-used social platforms.

For context, despite the fact that most of Sina Weibo’s current user base lives in China, the platform still manages to attract more active users each month than some of today’s more ‘global’ platforms like Snapchat and Twitter.

Meanwhile, various other social media platforms have grown sizeable user bases across Asia over the past decade.

For example, while China’s social media landscape continues to differ meaningfully to the one we see elsewhere in the world, the country’s sheer size means that various homegrown platforms have managed to attract huge user bases that rival their global peers.

Despite the success of WeChat, Tencent sibling QQ continues to enjoy widespread popularity in China, and the company’s latest earnings report reveals that it attracted 574 million monthly active users in September 2021.


Short video platforms have also gained huge momentum in China.

At the top of the short video rankings, Douyin – China’s TikTok sibling – now claims 600 million daily active users, while rival Kuaishou reports more than half a billion monthly active users.

Looking beyond China, Meta’s self-service advertising tools show that Instagram now attracts more than 470 million active users across Asia¹ each month, with India home to more than 200 million of these users.

TikTok has also enjoyed rapid growth across the region, and data published in the company’s self-service advertising tools indicate that the platform now attracts more than a quarter of a billion users aged 18 and above across Asia each month.

This figure is all the more impressive when we consider that the platform is currently blocked in India – and that the platform is barely 5 years old.

And there are plenty of interesting stories at a local country level, too. 

Aside from China, Asia still counts two other nations where one of Meta’s platforms doesn’t claim top spot in the social media rankings: Japan and South Korea.

So, let’s take a closer look at how social media has evolved in those two countries over the past decade, before going on to look at some of the other standout country stories from across the region.

The local story

Social media in Japan

In November 2011, we reported that Japan was home to fewer than 25 million social media users.

Japan Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

Mixi was the country’s most popular social media platform at the time, with 24.7 million users.

However, Twitter had already built a strong user base in the country, partly due to its important role in facilitating communication following the devastating tsunami that had hit the country a few months earlier.

By November 2011, Twitter reported 17.6 million users in Japan – over three times more than the 5.2 million monthly users that Facebook attracted in the country at the time.

Japan’s social media preferences have evolved meaningfully over the past decade, but the country’s social media landscape is still just as different to the one we see in the rest of the world as it was 10 years ago.

For context, there are now more than three times as many social media users in Japan as there were at the end of 2011, with our analysis suggesting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 14 percent over the past decade.

LINE is now the most popular social platform in Japan, with the company reporting a domestic audience of 89 million monthly active users.

And what’s more, LINE only launched in June 2011 – just 5 months before we published our first Global Digital Report on Japan.

Twitter still claims second place in Japan’s social media platform rankings, with the platform’s self-service advertising tools reporting more than 58 million monthly active users in the country in October 2021.

Readers from outside Asia may be surprised to learn that Twitter currently has almost 10 million more users than Instagram does in Japan, and it has more than three times as many users as Facebook, which only claims 17 million local users.


South Korea’s unique social landscape

South Korea also has its own unique social media story, and the country’s social media landscape and behaviours continue to differ meaningfully to those that we see almost everywhere else.

Back in 2011, South Korea was home to 25 million social media users, which equated to more than half of the country’s total population (52 percent).

Indeed, South Korea had one of the highest rates of social media adoption in the world at that time, and the country ranked third in Asia, behind Brunei (55 percent) and Hong Kong (54 percent). 

Social Media Adoption in Asian Countries November 2011 DataReportal

Cyworld was the most popular social media platform in South Korea in November 2011, with 24.7 million users.

For context, that’s the same number of users as Mixi reported in Japan at the time, despite Japan’s population being roughly 2½ times bigger than South Korea’s.

Meanwhile, data suggested that roughly 17.6 million people used Facebook in South Korea each month, while Twitter claimed 3.3 million users in the country.

Few hard numbers were available for KakaoTalk at the time, but our analysis suggests that the platform had around 15 million monthly active users at the end of 2011.

KakaoTalk has enjoyed rapid growth since then though, and is now South Korea’s most popular social media platform, with close to 47 million monthly active users in the country.

However, KakaoTalk remains dependent on its users in South Korea, with the country home to roughly 86 percent of the platform’s total active user base.

KakaoTalk still has a comfortable lead over other social media platforms in its top market though, with Instagram only attracting 18.6 million users each month.

Meanwhile, Facebook only reports 11.6 million monthly active users in South Korea today, which means it now attracts 34 percent fewer users in the country than it did this time 10 years ago.


Social media in Indonesia

Indonesia was the focus of the first local country report we published in the Global Digital Reports series.

As I noted in my analysis article to accompany that report (published on 1 December 2011), Indonesia was already “one of the most social countries in the world,” and that – together with Filipinos – Indonesians “are some of the most social people on Earth.

At the time, Indonesia was home to just under 41 million social media users.

Indonesia Digital Overview November 2011 DataReportal

Interestingly though, at that time, Indonesia was the second largest country market in the world for Facebook, with only the United States having a greater number of users.

What’s more, by the end of 2011, almost 9 in 10 Indonesian internet users already made active use of social media platforms each month, and the country’s netizens had already shifted much of their online communication activities from email to social networks.

Data shows that Indonesians have always been quick to find innovative ways of using social channels to meet the specific needs of their lifestyle, as well as the unique challenges posed by living in a country made up of 17,500 different islands.

Shortly before we published our 2011 reports, I’d conducted some interviews exploring young Indonesians’ use of social media, and as I noted in my 2011 analysis,

[Indonesian teens] talk about Twitter in much the same way as [other countries] might think of SMS. One interviewee said that Twitter was “the new BBM” – something which has particular weight in Indonesia. Blackberry is still a handset of choice amongst many tech-savvy Indonesian teens, but the ability to use social media to connect with anyone on any device makes platforms like Twitter an essential part of their communications arsenal. Listening to what our interviewees were saying, it’s clear that Indonesian youth is championing ‘mobile social’ in a way that we expect will spread to many other Asian and Western markets in the coming months.

To be honest though, I didn’t anticipate the extent to which Indonesians of all ages would embrace ‘mobile social’ in those coming months.

Fast forward 10 years, and – while much has changed in the country’s digital landscape – Indonesia’s love affair with social media doesn’t appear to have waned.

Dig deeper: you’ll find all the numbers you need to understand digital in Indonesia today in our latest country report.

Platforms like BBM and Path may have come and gone, but many of the same behaviours are evident in Indonesians’ current ‘platforms of choice’ like WhatsApp and Instagram.

Similarly, the speed with which Indonesians have embraced TikTok demonstrates that the country’s youth are still just as much at the cutting edge of social media as their peers were a decade ago.

Indonesia is still one of the “most social” countries on Earth too, with GWI reporting that the country’s working-age internet users now spend an average of 3 hours and 20 minutes every day using social media.

For context, that means that the average Indonesian now spends roughly 20 percent of their waking life using social media – well over one full waking day each week.

Meanwhile, the latest audience data published in Meta’s self-service advertising tools indicate that there are now more than 210 million active social media users in Indonesia, which is even higher than the latest reported number of internet users [note: this doesn’t necessarily represent an error in either dataset; it’s simply one of the interesting quirks of social media user data compared with internet user data, which we explore in more detail here].

However, as we’ll see in the next section on social media use in the Philippines, Meta itself notes that the user numbers it publishes for a number of South-East Asian countries may be subject to increased risk of ‘inflation’, due to both duplicate and ‘false’ accounts.


The Philippines is still the most ‘social’ country on Earth

Throughout the past decade, the Philippines has consistently topped the world rankings when it comes to the amount of time that people spend on social media.

As a result, the Philippines has a credible claim to the title of ‘social media capital of the world’.

In our first Global Digital Report on the country back in 2011, we found that there were already close to 26.8 million social media users in the Philippines, which was equivalent to 28 percent of the total population.

This was already well ahead of the average adoption rate across South-East Asia at the time, perhaps because the Philippines had already embraced mobile messaging during the country’s rein as the ‘world capital of SMS’ – a title which it had already claimed by the early 2000s.

All the early signs pointed to continued growth in Filipinos’ use of social media too, with our 2011 report on the country revealing that 95 percent of internet users in the Philippines already visited social media sites.

Go global: learn how social media use has evolved in every country in the world in our complete library of reports.

So, it perhaps won’t come as a surprise to learn that the Philippines is still the ‘social media capital’ of the world.

The country’s internet users now spend an average of more than 4 hours per day using social media – more than users in any other country in the world, and a full 17 minutes per day more than users in second-ranked Brazil.

For context, internet users in the Philippines now spend an average of 65 days per year using social media – that’s more than two full months, without even factoring the time that people need to sleep.

Meanwhile, Meta’s self-service advertising tools now report that marketers can now reach more than 90 million distinct users in the country using ads across its portfolio of platforms.

However, this figure is well in excess of the total population aged 13 and above, so there’s a high likelihood that numerous people in the Philippines now maintain multiple accounts on Facebook and / or Instagram, while fake accounts are also an important consideration.

For clarity, Meta states that the figures that it reports have been deduplicated to the best of its ability, but the company also acknowledges that its active user base may include a meaningful number of duplicate and “false” accounts:

In the fourth quarter of 2020, we estimated that duplicate accounts may have represented approximately 11% of our worldwide MAUs. We believe the percentage of duplicate accounts is meaningfully higher in developing markets such as the Philippines and Vietnam, as compared to more developed markets. In the fourth quarter of 2020, we estimated that false accounts may have represented approximately 5% of our worldwide MAUs. Our estimation of false accounts can vary as a result of episodic spikes in the creation of such accounts, which we have seen originate more frequently in specific countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

As a result, it’s important to treat social media user numbers with a degree of caution.

However, even if we allow for a 25 percent margin in the totals that the company’s tools report, that would still mean that the Philippines is home to 70 million active social media users, which would equate to roughly 85 percent of the eligible population.

Furthermore, any inflation in these user figures wouldn’t impact the findings of GWI’s survey, so Filipinos can still confidently lay claim to their nation’s status as the world’s most ‘social’ country. 

Average Daily Time Spent Using Social Media by Country November 2021 DataReportal


Data for other countries

If you’d like to take a closer look at the latest local-country audience figures for a wide variety of social media platforms, check out our latest global platform reports.

Looking ahead: the next decade in digital

Despite the incredible growth that we’ve witnessed over the past decade, there’s still plenty more work to do to connect everyone that wants to use the internet.

At the most basic level, more than 3 billion people around the world remain ‘unconnected’, and these offline populations remain disproportionately concentrated in a few areas.

For example, as highlighted in the recent State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2021 from the GSMA, older, less-educated women living in rural areas of developing countries are the least likely to use the internet today.

In turn, this lack of internet use makes it more difficult for these women to access resources that can help them overcome other important challenges, especially in areas such as education, healthcare, and financial empowerment.

As the GSMA notes, there may be various factors contributing to this lack of connectivity, including the cost of handsets and data, basic literacy levels, and broader societal issues.

However, research conducted by the GSMA and by the ITU found that improving internet access and adoption amongst women living in rural areas would likely have a broader beneficial effect for the rest of the population, as well as for the economy. 

As a result, improving internet connectivity amongst these under-served communities must be a priority for the coming decade, to ensure that everybody who wants to take advantage of connected technologies can do so on equal terms.

But even if we achieve universal availability, it’s unlikely that we’d ever see 100 percent of the world’s population using the internet on a regular basis.

Certain disabilities mean that some people will be unable to use the internet, while some individuals may actively choose not to use connected tech.

However, as an ever broader range of devices and services cater to an ever wider variety of daily activities, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see internet adoption and use rates climb for the foreseeable future.

What’s less clear, though, is which technologies will dominate a decade from now.

For example, many of today’s forecasts focus on the potential impact of the ‘metaverse,’ and blockchain technology.

But – as I mentioned in my recent analysis of our Digital 2021 Global Digital Statshot – there’s a real possibility that an entirely new technology will significantly change our relationship with digital tech over the coming decade, just as the smartphone has changed that relationship over the past decade.

In particular, new kinds of interface could dramatically change how we interact with digital devices, and in turn redefine which services account for the greatest share of our connected time.

On the other hand though, despite the perpetually accelerating rate of technical innovation, it seems that our core human wants, needs, and desires are much more stable.

As a result, I believe that it’s the devices and platforms that cater to these core human needs – and especially those that cater to our desire to connect with the people that we care about – that are best placed to define the decade ahead.

As with everything else in life though, the one constant we can be sure of is change, and nowhere does that change seem to occur faster than in the world of digital.

So, stay tuned… things could get even more interesting over the next ten years, and I’m looking forward to helping you make sense of all those changes through our ongoing series of Global Digital Reports.

Want to dig deeper? Our quarterly briefings and custom advisory services help you make sense of how people’s online behaviours are evolving in every country in the world, enabling you to turn data into insights, action, and results. Learn more at kepios.com.

Notes and references

1 The 24 countries and territories that we included in our 2011 definition of ‘Asia’ were: Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

2 The figure that we report for global social media users is based on a different dataset compared with the figures we report for individual countries and regions, so regional share figures may not correlate with global totals.

About the author
Simon is DataReportal’s chief analyst, and CEO of Kepios.
Click here to see all of Simon’s articles, read his bio, and connect with him on social media.