Sri Lanka Internet Usage Statistics – Updated for 2016


Looking for the latest internet penetration statistics for Sri Lanka? Well, has updated their numbers as of June2016, and according to them there are  6,087,164 Internet users in Sri Lanka which is a 27.4% penetration into the total population of Sri Lanka.

In December 2014, IWS reported a total of 5,689,800 internet users in Sri Lanka. If that number is correct, this only a 7% growth in 18 months. For over 5 years, Sri Lanka maintained over a 20% year over year growth in internet penetration. Last 12 months, we saw a clear increase in Social Media engagement in Sri Lanka with Facebook crossing 4 million monthly active users. In such a context, the latest published number of 6,087,164 is a little too hard to believe. All these years, IWS credited International Telco Union (ITU) as the source of information to report internet users count in Sri Lanka, but in this latest updated report they fail to credit the source to a credible organization like ITU. Instead they are crediting themselves (IWS) as the source of this information.

At Neo@Ogilvy we estimate about 7 million to 7.5 million internet users in Sri Lanka. We have multiple sources to derive our estimation. Yes, we based IWS’s last report of 5,689,800 users as of 31st December 2014 as our starting point, and then we cross checked it with Facebook and Google advertising data. Facebook reported 3.8 million monthly active users as of June 2016. Assuming 50% of all internet users are on Facebook this will be 7.6 million total internet users. Then, from the Google Display Network statistics we can see close to about 8 million to 10 million unique cookies for an ad plan covering Sri Lanka for all topics on GDN targeted. We can safely assume, 1 cookie is less than 1 person (given that people access internet from multiple devices with multiple logins) so even according to that the closest number of internet users we can estimate would be around 7 to 8 million. Therefore, in my opinion the latest published number is a little bit under estimated by IWS.

According to, nearly 68% of all internet visits happening in Sri Lanka on a mobile device. According to Facebook, 70% of Sri Lankan Facebook users use only a mobile device to access Facebook. This shows how mobile biased this market is. This is an indication of how marketers should think ‘mobile first’ when making decisions about their campaigns. Gone are the days you have to worry about the aesthetics of your website layout on desktop view (or is it?).

Your customer will now browse your website most probably on a mobile device inside his car, while he is waiting for a traffic light to turn green. He surely doesn’t have any time to critically evaluate your website’s color platter or it’s creative aesthetics. However, this doesn’t mean in anyway that you need to have a ‘mobile strategy’ for your company. Mobile is just an access point of your content, so there can’t be a stand-alone strategy for mobile.

What other implications are there for the marketers?

As I’ve said in one of the Neo@Ogilvy DigiCasts, internet is now penetrating into the rural Sri Lanka. The mobile dominance, high demand for Sinhala language content are the indicators of this fact. You are going to experience a new breed of internet users, who have never touched a desktop or laptop computer before, and who doesn’t have clue about who Mark Zuckerberg is but spending 5 hours a day browsing Facebook on their mobile. They have no clue about their own privacy on the internet and they have no respect for the privacy of others. We are entering the most chaotic era of Sri Lankan internet (Nation’s Trust Bank incident was just a teaser. Wait for more irresponsible disasters). This opens up the debate, “should government get involved in monitoring internet usage in Sri Lanka?” and this debate will heat up the online communities for next 12 months.  This is where the first 3 million users of the internet have to come forward and start talking about ‘responsible use of Social Media’. Need for educating the new internet users about basic internet etiquette, taking care of their own online privacy, and respecting to other’s privacy online will be the areas of focus for next 12 months for the newly formed ministry of Digital Infrastructure Development.

What do you think? Can 6,087,164 be the actual number of internet users in Sri Lanka as of June 2016? Or, could this be higher? Or even lower? What’s your view?

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