China’s rush to the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.
There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).
Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.
Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.
Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.
The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.
In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.
Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.