The digital (almost) does not divide

The Internet penetration rate in Macau is as high as 83.6 per cent. The user scale maintains a steady growth and reaches 509,000 this year. The mobile Internet rate (80.0 per cent) is nearly equal to the Internet penetration rate, according to the Internet Usage Trends in Macau, 2018 report.

Only the most advanced age groups present lower values: about 60 per cent of the elders aged 60 and over do not surf the internet. Even so, the Internet penetration rate in Macau residents aged over 50 has risen significantly in recent years. “The Internet usage by middle-aged and elderly people has been a new trend,” tells the report, to nullify the idea that digital divide, especially for age reasons. 

According to the annual surveys of Macau Association for Internet Research (MAIR), from 2008 to 2018, the Internet penetration rate of Macau residents aged 51-60 rose from 23 per cent in 2008 to 71 per cent in 2018, increased obviously by 48 percent points. The Internet penetration rate of the elderly people aged above 60 reach 38 per cent, increased substantially by 26 percent points from a decade ago. “It is shown that in addition to the teenagers and adults, elderly people have gradually become a significant group in the development of Internet”, says the MAIR to Macau Business. 

According to the comprehensive index constructed research team led by Dr. Angus Cheong, President of MAIR, the Macau Internet Digital Divide Index (DDI) decreased continuously from 0.394 in 2001 to 0.124 in 2018. The DDI has been below 0.2 since 2014, “indicating that the Internet applications have penetrated the populations of various identities or characteristics in Macau. The people from all walks of life in Macau share equal opportunities on Internet usage.” 

Internet Usage Trends in Macau, 2018

”Mobile payment remains to be further popularized” 

“Mobile payment is not popularized yet in Macau with a relatively small user scale,” says Internet Usage Trends in Macau, 2018 report. Among adult netizens in Macau, the penetration rate of mobile payment is less than 20 per cent.  “However, the level of understanding and acceptance of mobile payment is rather high. It is quite common that they know about mobile payment used in physical stores but they have never used it,” adds the report from Macau Association for Internet Research (MAIR).  

64 per cent of adult netizens expressed a willingness to use mobile payment, “which indicates mobile payment has its great development potential in Macau.” However, “security issue is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps Macau residents from using mobile payment,” states the same report.  52 per cent of adult netizens think the relevant security policy in Macau needs improvement; “a doubtlessly large proportion of adult netizens (77 per cent) are worried about the security issue of mobile payment.” 

“It is too early to judge that the failing of the popularity of mobile payment in Macau as our data indicates over the years that it has been kept improving, although it is not in a satisfactory pace,” Athena Seng, Chief Research and Chairman of MAIR said to Macau Business.  

Some reasons for this maybe, besides the security concerns, inadequate of relevant law. “There is no inadequate e-payment policy in Macau, lack legal content related to internet regulation, and the related legal innovation of financial management develops slowly,” says MAIR. Also the size of Macau market, “small and lacks professional technical talents. The government indicated that the existing law does not hinder foreign institutions from applying for new payment services in Macau. However, due to the small market in Macau and its lack of professional and technical personnel, relevant institutions have no intention to settle in Macau.” 

To reach Japan and South Korea 

Some 93.3 per cent of the Japanese population is connected to the Internet, according to ITU data, as is South Korea. Will Macau reach this peak? 

“Macau is not far behind the leading countries in terms of Internet penetration,” states MAIR. “In recent years, the gap between Macau, Japan and South Koreahas narrowed, with the possibility of catching up.” 

The Internet penetration rate in Macau has increased from last year; possible reasons for the increase, according to MAIR, include the popularity of the smartphone (in 2018, 91 per cent of residents have a mobile phone, 85 per cent have a smartphone, and 80 per cent use mobile phones to access the Internet) and the popularity of WeChat. 

“WeChat is convenient to use,” says MAIR. “Residents who do not understand the input of text are able to communicate with others through voice, which lowers the barrier for residents to access the Internet. The popularity of WeChat has enabled the elderly and less educated who had difficulties using the Internet in the past to now start using Internet.” 

In 2018, 74 per cent of residents use WeChat, while the WeChat usage rate of mobile phone users is 92 per cent. Macau mobile phone users of all demographic characteristics use WeChat at a higher rate, claims the report. 

In the future, it can continue to promote the popularity of Internet penetration in Macau  

through these aspects, but in particular “it needs to pay attention to the convenience of accessing the Internet by elderly people. As the current Internet penetration rate of students or younger residents is already high the elderly population is likely the key group [driving] the increasing Internet penetration rate. It can pay more attention to the difficulties and needs of the elderly in Internet usage - mobile use in particular - thus effectively motivating more elderly people and increasing the Internet penetration rate.”