LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

A better way to define rural

Nalaka Gunawardene asks good questions. So I paid attention when he tweeted:

Based on the ongoing work using mobile transaction generated data (big data), we can give a good answer about areas that are predominantly residential, ans those that are mixed or predominantly commercial. But this will not mesh with the rural-urban divide. For example, it will show the densely populated Colombo North or Colombo’s inner city to be predominantly residential. It definitely is not rural.

Why does one need to know what is rural? Traditionally, it was because rural areas lacked in services; and needed extra attention. But Sri Lankan rural areas have never fit the pattern. We had post offices distributed across the country, at levels that matched those of Italy. We had rural dispensaries and hospitals.

I can see the value of identifying predominantly residential areas. Could someone answer the question as to why we need to identify rural?

Here is Nalaka’s response:

3 Comments to A better way to define rural

  1. July 6, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    For purposes of Marketing & Social Research Surveys, the use of Sectors (Urban, Rural & Estate) was discontinued many years ago since this variable was no longer considered to be an efficient discriminator of local market segments. In it’s place we now use ‘SEC’ groups. The Socio Economic Classification (SEC) of Households is based on two variables – The Occupation of the Main Earner and the Highest Exam Passed by the Main Earner. The SEC as defined above yields five mutually exclusive and exhaustive sub-groups when applied to a population of households. Each sub-group represents a level of ‘life-style’ of the households in that group. Since ‘Consumption’ is driven by ‘Life-style’, the Socio Economic Classification of a sample of Households will provide a better segmentation of a prospective market with regard to both, Attitude & Behaviour.
    Mr Nalaka Mendis should check out whether there is any significant ‘info-deprivation’ between the higher and lower Life-style groups.
    For a detailed definition of SEC groups, please visit our web-site,

  2. July 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Sri Lanka is very small and densely populated. The difference between urban and rural may thus be very small. The right distinction needs to be country specific and post offices are not really a good indicator on its own. Other options include:
    1) Average size of land a households lives on = higher in rural areas.
    2) Agricultural production distinguished by size. Presence of large scale would indicate rural areas.
    3) Service density: secondary schools, universities, clinics, police stations, super markets, shopping centres, etc.
    4) Income for a particular activity
    5) Share of labour force employed in primary sector other than mining
    The ideal distinction may combine several characteristics.


Research Mailing List

Enter your email for research updates:


Flickr Photos