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Digital Southeast Asia / Thailand in 2017 – An Overview

The guys of We Are Social and Hootsuite did it again and created an extensive collection of information about digital usage around the world (thanks for that!). I’m trying to break it down a bit while focusing on Southeast Asia and Thailand in particular. Here’s what I found interesting / useful.

The region

When looking at the key digital indicators we see that the penetration of internet users is still below the 50% mark and while we certainly all feel as if everybody and their moms are on Facebook we only have 36% penetration of active social media users. And I could swear all if it is my dad posting outdated cat memes.

Mobile subscriptions, and that won’t surprise anyone within in the region. soar at 96% in relation to the APAC population. Also intersting while there’s “only” a 36% penetration of active social media users we can see a 35% penetration of active mobile social users. So it’s basically Social Mobile first or second. Or at all.

When we look at the annual growth in APAC we can see that we’re still growing and growing. All key stats show an increase with mobile subscriptions showing only little change to the previous year which is understandable since we’re almost at 100% here. Internet and Social Media users are growing on a steady pace which will manifest in a few more interesting stats later on.

Global Comparisons

Taking our eyes on the internet penetration by region we can see that Southeast Asia is still amongst the regions with some of the lower penetration rates. That certainly doesn’t feel like it while walking around BKK and attending tech Meetups but shows that there’s more to Southeast Asia than just our bubble!

Diving a bit deeper into global stats shows that, in terms of pure numbers, we’re (Southeast Asia) are on 5th place on a global scale. When looking at the penetration, which might be more interesting in order to compare regions, we are, as mentioned above, amongst the areas with lower penetration and it’s interesting to see that North America and West Europe are aiming on passing the 90% sooner than later.

SEA’s strength is always said to be the immense growth potential here and when looking at the stats, that seems to be true. Internet user numbers in Indonesia, The Philippines and Thailand are all growing stronger than the global average. Way to go!

And now something rather funny / surprising. When looking at the fixed internet connection speeds. I only highlighted Thailand in the pic below since we’re always complaining a lot about our internet speed here but I believe other Southeast Asian countries are also surprised to see themselves above the global average. Right Malaysia and Indonesia? (Not mentioning Singapore here, I’m sure you feel entitled to high speed ;-) ).

Finally a chart I guessed right before looking at the numbers. Time spent on the internet. Philippines on #1, Thailand #3, Indonesia #4 and Vietnam and Singapore also not too far behind. We are the internet! #NotSureIfThatsAGoodThingButHighFivesAnyways

As stated in the beginning, Mobile is big in APAC and so it’s no wonder that some of our ASEAN partners are showing a high percentage of web pages served to mobile phones. Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are ahead of the global average.

Social Media

With Social Media being a big part of everybody’s online presence, it’s probably a good idea to check some social media specific numbers here.

The social media penetration rate in SEA is at 47% which doesn’t seem to be that high but compared to the internet penetration rate that we examined above it’s pretty significant. If you’re online, you’re on social media.

Now when we look at the pure numbers SEA is even number two! Only beaten by East Asia with it’s huge population and followed by South Asia. Asia is the social internet.

The social media penetration by country now looks huge, but shouldn’t surprise is anymore by now. Nevertheless, still impressive how important social media seems to be here in SEA.

And just when you think Social Media can’t possibly grow anymore, SEA proves you wrong and stays ahead of the global average and keeps growing and growing. How many profiles do you run by now? Be honest!

Below the social media growth rankings. Asia FTW! And SEA in particular (since that’s where we live)! Who would have thought, a few years ago, to ever see Myanmar in such a ranking?

The following chart speaks for itself. Time spent on social media. Is there anything else that we do here? Looking at you Philippines!

So we love social media and hence we obviously also love Facebook. And even if we don’t, we still use it, right? So let’s look at the daily active facebook users. High, and above, or close to, the global average but not as high as Zuck would like I guess. Still a bit room left until complete world domination for the big blue F.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, get ready to celebrate Bangkok’s triumph in the category ‘most users on fb’. Oops we did it again! With out friends from other SEA cities not too far behind. Who run social media? (Southeast) Asia!

Now that we know that we’re all on social media and that mobile penetration is high, let’s bring it together.

Again, interestingly, even when looking a total numbers SEA is on number two. We take this seriously here! Mobile is life.

Case in point. We’re wayyyyyy ahead of the global average.

And of course we still appear in social media growth rankings. Even though it seems like it’s impossible to grow even further.

But it’s not only smartphones that rule SEA. Just look at the unique mobile user penetration.

And now look at that percentage. 133%. Again. One Hundred And Thirty Three percent. Only beaten by East Europe. Number two ya’ll!

In overall numbers other regions are ahead thanks to their population, but we know that we rule. Well, together with East Europe.

Looking at the connectivity we can see, once again, how SEA is above the global average. Don’t you mess with your mobile phone connections!

Even though we are all very much relying on mobile phones, post-pay seems something that most people here don’t really think about.

Taking all those prior points into consideration it’s probably not a big surprise that APAC is responsible for 4.12 billion gigabytes of mobile data traffic. I don’t want to know how much of that are Korean TV series streamed in other Asian countries.

It’s not only mobile data connections that are being measured. It’s also broadband mobile connectivity.

And even here, Southeast Asia holds its place on #2. Mobiles are simply too close to our hearts.

We’re always hating on our 3G and 4G connections but look at this.

And again, ahead of the global average. Who’s the “developing” country now?

And here we are again on number 1. I still think that’s an understatement though. ;-)

And another surprise. Average speed…believe it…or not! :P

So with all the time spent online, we certainly also spend lots of money online, right? Let’s see.

While e-commerce per se isn’t thaaaat big (but certainly increasing) the people who do buy online, seem to do that via mobile connections.

It seems as if m-commerce is finally taking off in Southeast Asia and the fact that the mobile phone penetration rate is so high certainly helps fostering that boom.

We just learned that m-commerce is taking off, more or less but when looking at the average revenue an e-commerce customer brings in we can still see lots of potential here. Just imagine what would happen if conversions would be higher with all those m-commerce providers? BAM!

Thailand in particular

After having looked at SEA let’s check on Thailand in particular. As this is that’s obviously our focus point. I’ll be giving a conference talk on Digital Southeast Asia later this year though so if you’re interested in the topic, drop me a line!

With the quite impressive numbers above (still I think the mobile subscription rate is insane!) it’s also worth pointing out that the growth is not seeming to slow down. Still easily in the double digits. Thailand moves more and more digital.

We said before that the mobile device usage is huge in Southeast Asia and Thailand is one of the countries on the forefront here. What I find interesting here is to see how slow the speed of implementation of new tech is. Digital is so important here (smartphones) but new technology (wearables, etc.) is being adapted on a rather slow level.

Almost 9 hours of internet use. Keep in mind that is self reported activity. I’m quite sure that most people didn’t report their whole online time so we can assume that the actual number is even higher. Also look at the TV time….They say print is dead. But TV doesn’t seem to be that far behind. Video killed the radio star but digital is already digging the next hole and its reserved for the old-school TV time.

We’ve seen it before and here is it again in more detail: Mobile mobile mobile. And mobile.

Different data perspectives. Interesting how vastly they differ, right?

Frequency of internet use. 85 % say they use it daily. No surprise here I’d say.

A common saying in Thailand is ‘sabai sabai’ which stands for ‘take it easy’ – that, quite often, also fits for what the internet speed seems to be here in the land of smiles.

Oh and did I mention mobile first yet? Mobile? Mobile!

Just in case you didn’t get it yet: Mobile! Mobile! Mobile! (check how much the percentage in laptop use dropped!).

They should have asked ‘play ridiculous games’ ;-) Oh and…emails are out in Thailand! (which shows in response time – even on a professional level).

Not surprising again. Just have a look at the displays when stuck while on commute in public transport. Easily half of the people looking at their phones will quite likely watch some kind of video.

I’m apparently in the minority and most people spend the two hours they watch TV per day still in front of a ‘real’ TV set.

We are Social Media! (ha, sorry, had to make this pun).

Not a surprise that Facebook is the top social network – just like in most other countries. Again mobile first – only 63% say they use it daily though. I find that hard to believe.

No surprise with FB and YT but what’s interesting to point out for people that are not too familiar with Thailand is the number 3 in the chart below. LINE is THE messenger to use! Seriously. If you’re not on LINE, you will face disadvantages here.

So who’s on Facebook? As expected 18-34 year olds. Those ‘young’ kids and their technology.

Mobile First

Since we’re a mobile first country here, let’s look the mobile users vs connections stats.

Again, Pre-Paid is prevalent in Thailand just like in most other Southeast Asian countries and the data broadband connection rate is incredibly high with 98%.

So what are you doing on your mobile device? No surprises besides the mobile banking I would say. Since e-commerce or m-commerce is not that huge in total numbers it’s interesting to see that many people (I would say 40% are ‘many’ in this regard) use banking apps to transfer money and pay their bills.

What do you think about this report? Which numbers surprised you the most? Shout out in the comments!

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at
Sascha is the publisher of and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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