By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Ownership of desktops and laptops in Sri Lanka has fallen significantly in the first half of 2016 (1H16) compared to the same period in 2015 due to increased use of smartphones and tablets.
According to the data released by the Census and Statistics Department, the number of households that own a laptop or a desktop fell to 22.5 percent in 1H16 from 24.4 percent year-on-year (YoY). The ownership of a desktop fell to 13.1 percent in 1H16 from 15.3 percent YoY.
“The trend seems to be that the new generation goes for tablets and mobile communication technologies instead of buying a desktop or a laptop,” Census and Statistics Department Director General Dr. Amara Satharasinghe told Mirror Business.
However, he also noted that the statistical differences are still not significant enough to paint a clearer picture.
According to the data available, the largest PC ownership declines were experienced in the urban areas, where the figure fell to 35.3 percent of the households from 41.5 percent YoY, while ownership of desktops fell to 19.6 percent from 23 percent YoY during 1H16.
Rural Sri Lanka too saw declines during the same period, with PC ownership falling to 20.7 percent of the households from 21.9 percent YoY, while desktop ownership fell to 12.2 percent from 14.4 percent YoY.
In the one million-strong estate areas, there was still growth in 1H16, with 6.4 percent of the households owning a PC, up from 5.6 percent YoY, while desktop ownership increased to 5 percent from 4.1 percent YoY.
However, the Census and Statistics Department warned about the data from the estate areas due to large variances in them.
Although desktop ownership had continued its decline since 2014 across urban and rural areas, total PC ownership had increased between 2014 and 2 015, signifying that households had purchased more laptops in 2015.
The increase in smartphone ownership was evident in the increase in Internet and email use across households, which were 15.1 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively across all types of devices in 1H16, according to the Census and Statistics Department, up from 11.8 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.
According to the tech company zMEssenger, around 40 percent of the country’s 14 million mobile subscribers are in possession of a smartphone, although the company had placed Internet penetration at 29.3 percent.
According to the government data, Colombo however has an Internet penetration of 30 percent.
Smartphone sales have been on the rise for the country’s leading consumer durable retailers recently.
Abans PLC had noted that its communication product segment had increased 57 percent YoY in 2015/16.
Singer (Sri Lanka) PLC had noted that its smartphone sales turnover had increased 54 percent YoY in 2016, tablet/media pad sales had increased 105 percent YoY, while interestingly, the IT product turnover had also increased by 40.10 percent YoY.
While smartphone ownership data had not been included in past national surveys, Dr. Satharasinghe said that queries related to smartphones will be included in the future.
Meanwhile, the country’s computer literacy levels—defined by the ability to operate a computer by oneself—increased to 27.5 percent in the first half of 2016 from 26.6 percent YoY, with over two thirds of the population saying that they had acquired the skills at school or at university.