As part of its “next billion” initiative, Google provided members of the media with plenty of statistics to back their initiative. As an emerging market, Malaysia were one of several country data that were covered. The majority of these statistics were gathered from reputable sources such as the World Bank and AC Nielsen.

So, how many Internet users are there in the country? What’s the broadband penetration like in Malaysia? Even more interesting would be the amount of time Malaysians spent online. All these and more after the break.

One of the interesting facts from the data sheet Google provided was the amount of Internet users in Malaysia, compared to the rest of the emerging markets. According to the World Bank 2011 data, Malaysia had 17.6 million Internet users, or an impressive 61% of the country’s population. This is a high percentage for emerging markets, compared to Indonesia (18%) or the Philippines (29%). In addition, the economic impact of the Internet accounted for 4.1% (McKinsey, 2011) of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is more than twice that of Indonesia (1.6%) and also larger than India’s (3.2%).

However, for a country seemingly so connected, broadband Internet penetration remains surprisingly low at only 7.3% (WEF Competitiveness Report, 2011). That means that 1.28 million Malaysians are using the Internet at broadband speeds – and that’s not good enough. With proper infrastructure in place, the sheer amount of Internet users will surely be using the Internet a lot more and contributing to the country’s GDP.

The numbers continue to be impressive. Malaysia has one of the highest smartphone ownerships in the region, at 27% according to AC Nielsen. Only Thailand (28%) and the Philippines (29%) have marginally higher percentages. And, last year’s AC Nielsen report states that Malaysians spend a good 20 hours a week online – and a chunk of that (33%) is spent on social media. In addition, an impressive 60% of Malaysians use the Internet to conduct their own research on a product or service before purchasing, and a majority of that then purchase the product or service online.

The company also shared some of its data from their research. According to Google, less than 20% of Malaysian businesses have an online presence – severely limiting their growth opportunities. However, Malaysia is fifth in the top ten Asia Pacific countries advertising with the company – the highest among the emerging markets. We’re also the fourth-highest spenders in digital marketing. However, in terms of number of SMBs advertising with Google, our country is nowhere to be seen in the top ten in Asia Pacific.

Image credit: amanz.my

Google also highlights that more Malaysians are using Google’s other products such as Hangouts – especially since it was used by both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Najib Tun Razak, as well as opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recently. In fact, LowyatTV has been using Google Hangouts for quite some time now.

No wonder Google sees such potential in emerging markets, and Malaysia is a good example. With its high number of Internet users who spend lots of time online, but low online presence of local businesses, there is great potential for more Malaysians to go online and use it for more economically-driven purposes, in addition to social networking.