Determining the Philippine Internet population has traditionally been a tale of chasing the “guesstimates”. The closest we had to a scientific effort to nail the figure were the studies published by the market research company AGB Nielsen. In 2009, they announced a figure of 20 Million online Filipinos that year, with a projected run up to 30 Million by 2012.
How Nielsen arrives at those projection is always a bit of mystery to me (surveys? projections?), but given the state of the Net in the PH, that might be understandable. Internet access isn’t just measured in terms of Internet ISP accounts since home usage is low (the usual scapegoat – low PC ownership is the oft-cited culprit), but Filipinos access the Internet in alternative ways, through cybercafes, school labs, offices, and mobile phones. The recent phenomenon of the USB dongle – inexpensive 3G modems with prepaid accounts that you can purchase on your own – adds another dimension to the equation. The dongles gives people their own unique “Internet key”. Even if they don’t own a personal computer, they can walk over to their friend’s laptop and plug in, and voila – instant netizen.
But there could be more reliable stats, and that could be in the form of the Facebook numbers coming right out of Facebook’s own advertising API. Facebook calculates the number of unique users for a country based on a combination of IP addresses and registration profile info. The Ad API presents these figures to the user when you select the option to advertise on Facebook. One of the most convenient aspects of this self-service method is that it takes the guesswork out of targeting an ad buy – you can select a very specific demographic (such as all single males in the Philippines 18-24 years old), or you can select “all” for everybody in the country. The “All” selection returns the number of all users in the country.
The independent Facebook tracking service SocialBakers (formerly known as Facebakers) plugs directly into the Facebook Ad API and uses it as the basis for its country statistics. As far as the Philippines is concerned, we are now clocking in at 21,759,280 users as of today, for a penetration of 21.78% of the total population.
This puts the Philippines among the Top 5 countries on Facebook. And with our high growth rate, (6.2 Million users were added in the last 6 months) we’re #5 on the charts with a bullet!
When you drill deep into the PH stats, Socialbakers turns up all sorts of interesting profile info, like the male/female ratio (48% male, 52% female) and age distribution (44% of users are 18-24 years old).
If we consider Facebook to have a significant market share among Filipino Internet users (It is #1 in the Alexa rankings, and for a lot of people, Facebook *is* the Internet), the Facebook demographics give us an insight into the composition of Filipino netizens as a whole. Socialbakers itself estimates that Facebook is used by 73% of the Philippine online population.
You can argue about the accuracy about the stats coming from the Facebook API, but it does inspire more confidence about accuracy compared to surveys and projections. We can continue to guess that that there are between 20-25 Million Filipinos on the Internet today. But thanks to the Facebook stats, we can say with certainty that there are at least 21,759,280 Philippine users.