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Is The World Wide Web Really Worldwide?
by Mohsen Tawfik


Sometimes, statistical figures are more eloquent than words. This is especially true in the case of evolving information technologies which are represented by the Internet and its World Wide Web. An attempt is made here to have a statistical snapshot of the Internet today, and a glimpse at where it is going, providing statistical information and analysis covering most of the Internet aspects, from numbers and growth rates of Intranet users to online geography, electronic commerce, advertising, demographics, usage patterns, etc. Present statistics are derived from a wide range of authoritative research sources including the ITU.

With UNESCO’s limited financial and human resources, the design of its programmes and projects should be subjected to a highly selective approach. Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) provide different media for the dissemination of scientific and cultural information and material. Traditional media like radio, television, books and press, and new media like CDs and the Internet, are serving this purpose but with different capacities in different countries and regions of the World.

The question is: whom are we addressing through different information and communication media, especially through the Internet, and which is the main representative of the new booming ICTs? The answer to this question is very important for the design of UNESCO’s programs where the audience or eventually the "target group" is defined. Also, it is even more important for the choice of the media through which a certain UNESCO activity would be addressed to people, and to help decide upon UNESCO’s policy for the promotion of different types of media.

The aim of this paper is to be thought-provoking, rather than to draw conclusions.

A concerted intersectoral effort is badly needed to follow up the educational, cultural and social impacts of new media and to anticipate its development evolution to be able to advise Member States, especially developing countries on the most relevant and efficient way of drawing up their information, communication, educational, scientific and cultural policies and strategies.

 

Selected Indicators of World-Wide Information and Telecommunications Penetration

The following self-explanatory table shows the discrepancies between different economic groups of the world as specified by the World Bank.

 

 

Group

Telephone main lines per 1,000 people, 1995

Personal computers per 1,000 people, 1995

Internet users per 1,000 people, 1996

Low-income economies

25.7

1.6

0.01

Lower-middle-income economies

94.5

10.0

0.7

Upper-middle-income economies

130.1

24.2

3.5

Newly industralizing economies (NIEs)

448.4

114.8

12.9

High-income economies (excluding NIEs)

546.1

199.3

111.0

Source: World Bank Development Report 1998

 

 

The following table - derived from the one above - shows the ratio of telephone main lines, personal computers, and Internet users for different economic groups as related to the low-income economy group. It is worth mentioning that the low income, the middle-income, and the high-income economies compose 35.1%, 49% and 15.1% of world population respectively.

Group

Telephone main lines ratio

Personal computers ratio

Internet users ratio

Low-income economies

1

1

1

Lower-middle-income economies

3.7

6.3

70

Upper-middle-income economies

5.1

15.5

350

Newly industralizing economies (NIEs)

17.5

718

1290

High-income economies

21.2

1246

11100

       

 

 

Internet Diffusion

According to the ITU the number of countries connected to the Internet increased from 22 countries in 1990 to 217 countries at the present time. Practically all countries except D.P.R. Korea, Iraq and Tokeland are connected to the Internet, i.e. may have Internet hosts registered in their domain name or physically located in the country. However, this does not mean that everybody in these countries has an access to the internet. This is because of many factors, especially technical (connectivity) and financial (cost of access).

In July 1998 Canada and US accounted for 73% of the Internet hosts, Europe 18%, Australia, Japan and New Zealand 6% and 3% in the others (Developing countries in Asia-Pacific less than 2%, Latin America and Caribbean less than 1% and Africa less than 0.4%).

How Many People are Online? Excluding drop-outs, i.e. people who try the Internet, and then, for whatever reason, drop out, and dabblers, i.e. those who have been on the net once or twice, it is estimated that the number of Internet users was about 76 million, as of the end of 1998. The net is growing at a rapid pace, especially in the USA, where 36 new, first-time users go online every minute of the day,i.e. one new net user every 1.67 seconds.

Recognizing the rapid growth rate of net users in Europe, the Asia/Pacific Rim, South America and several underdeveloped regions of the world, it is projected that the non-U.S. portion of the world will have, for the first time, more net users than the U.S. by the end of 1999.

 

 

 

 

The number of non-U.S. net users will increase by nine-fold over the next several years, from 16.4 million in 1997 to 143 million by the year 2002, representing an annual growth rate of 70%. If figures for the USA are added for a total world-wide picture, the growth rate will more than quintuple, from 44 million in 1997 to 228 million by 2002. Looked at another way, the U.S. share of Internet users will fall from about 61% today, to only 37% by the year 2002

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Behind This Shift?

While the U.S. market is becoming increasingly saturated – generally those that want to, and can get online, are already there (or soon will be) – the world at large has a bigger base from which to grow and therefore represents the greatest long-term growth opportunity. True globalization will begin to occur over the next few years, due to the following factors:

  • Emergence of telecom deregulation (with associated lower costs) in previously controlled markets.

  • Increased PC and modem penetration, particularly in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

  • The attraction of eCommerce to foreign businesses looking to draw revenues from a worldwide market.

  • Deployment of midband and broadband solutions.

  • The continued popularity of online services in Europe.

Because of these factors, it is projected that non-U.S. net users will begin to outnumber U.S. users by the end of the Century. The U.S./Canada stronghold will continue to dominate for sometime, but there is great growth potential over the next five years in the Asia/Pacific areas including Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. Scandinavia will also take an unrepresentatively high share of users. In Finland, for instance, there are now 62 internet hosts computers for each 1,000 people, which is roughly twice the proportion in the United States.

PCs Distribution

Obviously one of the biggest factors affecting Internet usage is access to a PC (except those very few who own a WebTV). This is where North America, and to a lesser extent, Europe have a decided advantage. It is estimated that about 55% of the adult U.S. population uses a PC either at home or at work; the figure for France is more like 32%. Among white-collar workers, Microsoft claims that in the U.S. more than 90% use a PC; this compares to Western Europe where only 56% do. Further a typical large business in the United States owns 75% more PCs than Europe. The U.S. market for PCs has grown 15% in units last year, as compared with only a 7% growth rate in Western Europe.

Growth Areas

The eStats research team, having poured over data from hundreds of different sources on the world-wide Internet market, believes that the major international growth areas will be in Europe, led by Germany, the UK, Sweden, Finland and France and the Asia/Pacific Rim, (especially Japan, Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand).

Western Europe, with 14 million people online, accounting for 18% of the world's total, represents the next big growth opportunity on the net. According to Price Waterhouse, one-fourth of all European companies, and 20% of employees have web access.

There is tremendous net development occurring particularly in Germany, the UK, Sweden and France, based on all measures of growth: individual users, households, eCommerce revenues and advertising dollars invested online. Currently, Germany has the most online users at 4.3 million, followed by the United Kingdom at 4.1 million and Sweden and France, with 1.4 and 1.2 million, respectively.

Online advertising revenues in Europe are expected to grow from $38 million in 1997 to over one billion dollars in 2002, according to Jupiter Communications. The IDC reports that total internet commerce revenues in Western Europe will rise from one billion dollars in 1997 to $30 billion in 2001.

Asia, led by online powerhouse Japan, is a booming market for online users, eCommerce and advertising dollars. It is estimated that Asia and the Pacific Rim region hold 8 million of the world's net users, nearly 11% of the total. According to Paul Budde Communications, the online population in Asia, estimated at 5 - 10 million, comprises only 0.4% of the total population in that region. Of course, what Asia lacks in online household penetration, it makes up for in sheer numbers of people. The long-term potential for growth is "astronomical".

Japan has the lion's share of Asia's net users at just over five million online, or 62.5% of total users in the Asia/Pacific Rim area. Japan also has over 750,000 internet host computers and a large advertising market. Tokyo-based ad agency Dentsu Inc., estimates that ad spending in Japan reached 6 billion yen in 1997, three times the figure in 1996, and rose to 9 billion yen by the end of 1998.

In China (1.25 billion people) the government expects the number of net users in to grow to four million by 2000.

Australia shows more immediate but less dramatic promise as an internet Mecca. The culture and interests of Australians are very Westernized, and perhaps given their remote location, they have a strong desire to stay connected to the world via the Internet. We expect the million plus users down under to rise up to over two million within the next three years.

 

 

Other Markets

Other net developing markets to watch out for are Latin America and Africa. Though scant data exists on these regions, it is believed that Latin America has roughly two million persons on line, led by Brazil at over 750,000. It is estimated that Africa has only about 500,000 - 750,000 online today, most of whom are in South Africa. But, again, the long-term growth potential is huge for those willing to invest in telecom and Internet development, literally from the ground up.

 

Net Languages

The Internet, though global, is still heavily dominated by the English language.In 1996, the Internet Society conducted a survey sampling 60,000 of the 30 million computers around the world with internet addresses. The study revealed that of the 17 most common languages in the world, English was by far the most frequently encountered – accounting for no fewer than 82% home pages (web sites). German was second with 4%; Japan 1.6%; French 1.5% and Spanish 1.1%. And while there has been a tremendous influx of non-English languages on the Internet since last year, the net has long way to go before it becomes a true representative picture of the world’s languages.

Here are the latest estimated figures of the number of each language population on the Internet (native speakers): those who have access to the Internet on a world-wide scale (that is, who have email access) or to the Web. They are classified by languages instead of by countries, since people speaking the same language form their own online community no matter what country they happen to live in. All figures are in millions.

 

 

Internet access (M)

%’age of entire world online pop.

Year 2000 (end) projected (M)

Total pop. Who speak this language (M)

GDP ($B) Source: OECD

%’age of world GDP

GDP per capita ($000)

Net Hosts (thousands, 1/99, source: Network Wizards)

English

103.61

56.3%

160

322

$8,770

26%

   

Non-English

80.2

43.7%

167

5,520

$24,930

74%

   

European Languages (non-English)

54.9

30%

 

1,063

$10,550

31%

   

Czech

0.272

   

10.3

$27

 

$11.1

74

Dutch

4.23

 

7

20

$518

 

$20.7

668

Finnish

1.44

   

5

$151

 

$20

513

French

7.25

3.9%

16

72

$1620

4.8%

$24

812

German

13.86

7.5%

25

98

$2240

6.6%

$25

1621

Greek

0.267

   

12

$96

 

$7.5

52

Hungarian

0.258

   

15

$35

 

$7.5

84

Italian

3.29

 

10.6

37

$1210

3.6%

$20.5

349

Polish

0.9510

   

44

$79

 

$2.5

109

Portuguese

1.811

   

170

$1088

3.2%

$6.5

265

Russian

112

 

5

170

692

2.0%

$5.2

166

Danish

1.113

   

5

165

 

$22.6

280

Norwegian

1.513

   

4

$154

 

$26.2

319

Swedish

3.613

 

4

10

$249

 

$20.8

534

Scandinavian languages (total)

6.113

3.3%

8

19.25

$568

     

Spanish

14.214

7.7%

 

332

$2015

6.0%

 

510

Turkish

.1515

   

59

$212

   

33

TOTAL EUROPEAN LANGUAGES (excl. English

55

30%

 

1,4050

$10,550

31%

 

6328

ASIAN LANGUAGES

               

Chinese (Mandarin

6.416

3.5

 

885

$4560

13.5%

 

476

Hebrew

0.817

     

$86

   

98

Indonesian

0.0818

   

220

$780

 

$3.8

15

Japanese

14.219

7.8%

23

125

$3,256

9.7%

$22.7

1688

Korean

3.520

1.9%

 

75

$384

 

$14.2

186

Malaysian

0.621

   

18

$193

 

$10.8

48

Thai

0.1322

   

20

$525

 

$7.7

21

TOTAL ASIAN LANGUAGES

25.3

13.8%

         

2311

                 

TOTAL WORLD

175

 

327

5,950

$33,700

     

 

Is the Web Finally Becoming Multilingual?

According to a study released by Global Reach, the fastest-growing group of people online today do not access the Internet in English. Over the last four years, the number of non-English speaking users has grown from less than 10% to nearly 50% according to Bill Dunlap, author of the Global Reach Study.

For reference, the eMarketer eGeogra Report (released in April 1999) reports there are 47 million internet users residing outside the US and another 48 million inside the US, for a world total of 95.4 million (These figures, importantly, are based on counting only "active" net users, defined as those that get online at least once a week and for a period of at least one to two hours per week).

According to Dunlap’s survey, about 100 million of the Internet’s 180 million subscribers still speak English, but "As more users access the Internet in languages other than English, businesses marketing on the web need to change their tune, too," Dunlap said. "It is important for websites who need international exposure to know how many people are in each language group, since a company can analyze their current sales activity there and decide where to invest in promoting their website."

The fastest growing group of people online today is those who do not access the Internet in English. Think of this chart as a city of 80 M people: It is a city where 17-18% are Spanish, Japanese and German-speaking, 9% are French-speaking, etc.

 

Where People Access the Net

Home continues to be the primary place for accessing the web (70%), although a good number of people access from work (57%), and about a third access from other locations such as schools, libraries, hotels, remote business centers, etc.

The figures presented above are based on an extensive and intensive analysis of dozens of research studies measuring web access locations.

Without a doubt, e-mail has emerged as the main research using the net. It is estimated that 94% of people accessing the web do so at least partially to send and receive e-mail messages. The other big reason for getting on the net is to gather news and information.

Beyond the broad categories of e-mail and gathering news and information, web usage varies too much between disparate user groups to make any meaningful assessments.

 

 

Net Demography(USA)

Children Online

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The number of children online are defined by eStats as those aged 3 - 17 who regularly access the net. This figure will rise from roughly 10 million in June 1998 to 18 million by year-end 1999, and to 38 million by the year 2002.

Teens Online

The largest single segment of children online today are teenagers, defined as those aged 12 - 17 years old. According to American Demographics, there is a base of 18.8 million teenagers in the United States today. eStats calculates that, as of mid-1998, 7.5 million of these teenagers were online, comprising 40% of all teens and 16.9% of all Internet users in the U.S.

By year-end 1998, the number of teens online reached 9 million, or nearly half (47.6%) of all teens and they account for 16.1% of the total online population. Exploding growth among the baby boomer and mature population groups, in terms of absolute numbers and as a percentage of total online, will overshadow the increase in teens online.

Gender

The ratio of women to men online continues to be a topic of controversy among media and research groups reporting on net user demographic trends. eStats has analyzed no less than 13 separate research studies covering the subject of gender mix on the net, and the conclusion is that, as of mid-1998, 41.2% of net users, or nearly 15 million, were women and 59.8% were men. By year-end 1998, though this figure climbed to 42% of total users. In contrast, the split for the American population at large is 51% women versus 49% men. But while men still outnumber women online today, women are growing at a faster rate. Women, as a percent of total users, grew from 33% in 1996, to 39% by year-end 1997, and it is projected that they will account for 49% of net users by the year 2000.

Women will continue to gravitate towards the web for its community, relationship, content and shopping appeals. In contrast to the Internet, NFO Research reported that women overtook men on America Online at the beginning of 1998. Women now represent 52% of total AOL users, leaving men at 48%

Meanwhile, researcher NetSmart predicts that women will account for 60% of total net users by the year 2005. And Jupiter Communications sees the number of women online more than doubling, from 19 million last year to 52.4 million in the year 2000.

Income

The net continues to be dominated by relatively affluent people, who can afford a PC and modem, as well as monthly access charges. The income needle has shifted only slightly downwards since 1996. It is estimated (as of mid-year 1998) that the median household income on the net is $58,000, which is 61% higher than the U.S. population median of $36,000.

It is further estimated that 29% of net users live in households making over $75,000 annually, and nearly one fifth (18%) make over $100,000.

Education



As with income, the educational background of net users has moved slowly downwards since 1996 as the net becomes cheaper, easier to use and more widely accessible to the general public. Education is, nevertheless, one of the stickiest demographic parameters on the net.

It is estimated that 56% of Internet users have a undergraduate college education or higher. For perspective, only about one-fourth, or 26%, of the American population at large has an undergraduate college education or higher.

 

Occupation

 

As with age, gender and education, a slight leveling of net usage by occupational endeavour is seen.The education and computer-related fields still dominate, together accounting for exactly 50% of total net users, but their portion of total users has shrunk a few percentage points each since 1996.

Taking up the slack are professional and managerial fields, which now collectively account for 41% of total net users. In contrast, the combination of professional and managerial types make up only 18% of all Americans.

Marital Status

Over the past couple of years, a little movement in this demographic measure is noted. The majority of net users, like most Americans, are married (45%), with 36% being single and the remaining 19% falling into either the living-with-someone or widowed/divorced/separated categories.

 

Conclusions

 

  1. At present (1999) the world population is estimated to be 5.85 billion people but only 108 million of them (1.85%) are connected to the Internet. In 2002, with an estimated 6 billion population in the world, it is expected that 228 million (3.8%) will be connected to the Internet. Considering the number of users in the United States, at the present time 20% of the US population and 0.9% out of the US population are connected to the Internet. In 2002, these percentages will rise to 30.4% and 2.5%, respectively.
  2. At present, considering the number of Internet websites, 82% of them are in English, 4% in German, 1.6% in Japanese, 1.3% in French and 1.1% in Spanish. The remainder, 9.8% of the Internet’s websites are in other languages, mostly of them European.
  3. Among the Internet users children and teenagers comprise 15-30% and women 20-42% according to different countries.
  4. The majority (56-80%) of people connected to the Internet worldwide has at least an undergraduate university level of education.
  5. Most Internet users are higher-ranking people: managers and professionals who are most an affluent class of people in their societies.

Therefore, is the Internet now, or will it be in the very near future (2002), a truly global phenomena?

 

  Mr Mohsen Tawfik is Director of the Unit for Special Projects of UNESCO’s Communication, Information and Informatics Sector

Texts published in 'Points of View' may not reflect UNESCO's position.

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