Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Internet Use Varies Widely and in Unexpected Ways in Russia’s Regions

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 2 – Russian regions vary not only according to how much their residents go online but also and increasingly in terms of the various ways in which they make use of this new information technology, according to a comprehensive new study released at the end of December.
Moscow’s Yandex Company, together with the Public Opinion Foundation, TNS, RU-Center, and the Cherniy kvadrat project described this situation in a report entitled “The Development of the Internet in the Regions of Russia in 2007.” It is described and with a hypertext link to the original at
While many of the report’s findings – people in Moscow and St.Petersburg go online far more often than those in the provinces and those in provincial cities do so more often than rural residents – will surprise no one, its other conclusions are both more dramatic and more interesting.
The number of sites on the Russian Internet grew by 66 percent in 2007, and the total number of such sites is on track to top two million by the end of 2008, the study said. But only one in five of the dot RU domains is located outside of the Russian capital, and their number is growing slightly more slowly than that in Moscow.
Approximately 57 percent of Muscovites now go online regularly, the study concluded, while only 40 percent of those in other Russian cities of more than 100,000 currently do so. And in small cities and rural areas, the figure is still below 20 percent, although that number is growing.
Those figures are consistent with ones that other investigators of the Internet in Russia have released in recent months, but the Yandex study goes further and provides information on the way in which people are in fact using the Internet in the two capitals and the various federal districts.
Moscow, to the surprise of no one, leads in every category of Internet use. Its residents make use of the Internet 2.5 times more often than Russians elsewhere. The number of domains registered there is seven times that of the rest of the country, and the level of participation in the blogosphere by Muscovites is 11 times that of other regions.
St. Petersburg residents use the Internet 1.5 times as often as the national average, they blog and register domain names ten and five times more often than others, and they make online purchases six times more often than do residents living in other regions. But media there use the Internet only slightly more than do media outlets elsewhere.
In the Central Federal District (excluding Moscow), five million people over the age of 18 go online regularly, 17 percent of all users in the country. Among the cities there with the highest percentages of surfers are Voronezh, Ryazan’, Tver’, and Yaroslav’.
Media outlets in this region, however, make use of the Internet only half as often as those elsewhere. Its rate of domain registrations is also close to that average, but it is in second place among the federal districts (behind only the Urals FD) in terms of the percentage of the population making online purchases.
The North-West Federal District (excluding St. Petersburg) now has 2.4 million Internet users, 13 percent of the national total. That puts the district in first place among the FDs in the country. But they are less active than many others, with fewer in this region blogging, registering domains, or making online purchases.
There are 4.8 million Internet users in the Volga FD, 17 percent of all Russian users, but overall Internet penetration there – 20 percent – is lower than the average. Internet media here are also less active than the average, but Volga residents blog more than do those in most other areas.
In the Urals FD, 1.8 million adults regularly use the Internet, six percent of the national total. That makes Internet penetration there slightly lower than the national average, and those who do go online there make use of the net’s various offerings about a third less than do surfers elsewhere.
There are 3.5 million Internet users in the Siberian FD, the study found, some 12percent of the Russian total, and on all measures, Internet use there is almost exactly the same as it is in the other FDs. But Novosibirsk represents an exception: its users trail only those in Moscow and St. Petersburg in terms of online activity.
And while only 1.6 million adults in the Far Eastern FD go online, five percent of the national total, their percentage in the population exceeds the national average and the Internet media in this region are more active than any others, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of the amount of updating.
The other FDs are also surveyed, but their rates of participation are lower and in the still unsettled Southern FD, the data themselves are more problematic. While the number of people using the Internet there remains low, certain Internet news outlets like, are extremely important.
Indeed, as the authorities in that republic continue to crack down on that independent site, its supporters are both turning to satellite connections (to get around the government’s control of the ISP there) and printing out and posting printouts of its reports as wall newspapers (

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