Latest Internet Penetration Statistics for Sri Lanka: We Have Crossed 4 Million Internet Users Milestone

Latest Internet Penetration Statistics for Sri Lanka
UPDATE: Latest Sri Lanka Internet Penetration Statistics

Last year (2013) I blogged when we crossed the 3 Million internet users milestone and made a prediction that Sri Lanka will cross the 4 Million internet users mark at the end of year 2013. Up until recently there was no officially published report for latest internet penetration statistics for Sri Lanka. We used year on year growth rates to predict a 4.5 million internet users as of end of the Q1 of 2014.
However finally we have some officially published data to verify these figures. 
According to this latest published report by, Sri Lanka is ranked 74th among 198 countries, in terms of total internet users. Sri Lanka is having 4,267,507 internet users according to this report which takes it’s sources as elaboration of data by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Population Division, Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), and the World Bank.

This 4.2 Million internet users in Sri Lanka is a 19.9% penetration into the total population of the country. Compared with other countries in South Asian region (with a population more than 1 million), this is the highest percentage of internet users penetrated into the population. India comes second at 19.19% internet penetration and a mammoth 243 Million internet users which is now the 3rd largest internet population in the world.

In my blog post of 2013 (when we crossed 3 million internet users), I credited mobile devices with internet capability as a major contributor for Sri Lanka’s internet growth. My prediction then was, internet through mobile devices will exceed the usage of internet through desktop/laptop devices by the end of year 2014. 

However I was under estimating the growth of mobile! According to the latest Statcounter data and as Infas Iqbal has blogged few weeks back, usage of internet through mobile devices has already surpassed usage of internet through desktop/laptop devices.

What impact does this growth make to media landscape in Sri Lanka?
In my last year’s post about internet penetration statistics of Sri Lanka, I mentioned more and more brands will start investing in online advertising in comparison to previous years. We can clearly see a growth of this trend but not to the level I was expecting. We still see loads of uncertainty among marketing managers/brand managers in Sri Lanka when it comes to investing more on digital advertising. This is largely due to their lack of understanding of the medium and their reluctance to trust the advice of those who understand the medium. Maybe it could coming from a very common problem we have in Sri Lanka; resistance to change.

In 2014, companies must focus on training their marketing staff for digital and they must be careful when selecting the right partners to train them. Training for digital marketing and social media itself is an industry now. There are dozens of people (and organizations) who claimed themselves to be Digital Gurus and conduct such training workshops. In the end, all you will take out will be a set of buzzwords and a bunch of videos stolen off YouTube. (I will cover more on this topic in a future blog post). Apart from training their existing staff to be digital savvy, they need to focus on digital marketing qualifications when they recruit new staff for marketing. In three years from now, there should not be a special job role for "Digital Marketing" inside an organization. Every marketer, every brand manager must know their basics in digital marketing.

Growth of smartphone penetration will continue in 2014, and marketers now need to think of mobile as something beyond just SMS marketing. Companies need to focus on making their product websites mobile responsive and search optimized for mobile. 

As an agency, my employer (Ogilvy) experienced a significant growth in digital advertising activities by sticking with a selected set of clients who are well geared to take the challenge of this new media landscape. What we experienced with our clients is very promising for the future. They have started early on digital advertising and they are now staying ahead of the curve in comparison to their competition. As an agency, we too gained lots of experience by working with these clients over last four years when the internet market was smaller. I believe 2014 and beyond going to be tougher for anyone who would want to step into digital advertising for the first time.

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