The number of people who accessed the Internet at least once a week from their businesses and homes grew to 147 million [M] worldwide in 1998, up from 61 million [M] in 1996, according to a recent report by Computer Industry Almanac Inc.
The expanding number is projected to rise to approximately 320 million [M] by 2000 and 720 million [M] by 2005, Computer Industry Almanac said in a statement.
The tremendous growth in Internet use over the last couple of years was surprising, said Emil Juliussen, primary author of the report. "The one (finding) that sticks out the most is that Scandinavian countries had the highest number of Internet users on a per capita basis than did any other country -- even than the U.S."
That's partly because Scandinavian countries use the Internet for conducting a lot of their import and export business, which accounts for a large portion of the gross national product in those countries, Juliussen said. "The Internet contributes to their effectiveness."
The United States' lead in Internet access accounted for almost 52 percent of Internet users worldwide in 1998, totaling 76.5 million [M] users, according to findings of the report, titled "The Internet User Forecast 1990-2005." The U.S. will grow to over 207 million [M] Internet users in 2005, or 29 percent of Internet users worldwide, the report predicted.
The projected drop in the U.S.' percentage of total Internet users is a fairly standard progression as the U.S. market becomes saturated, said Juliussen.
The top five countries with the highest Internet usage are: the U.S.; Japan with 9.75 million [M] users; the U.K. with 8.10 million [M] users; Germany with 7.14 million [M] users; and Canada with 6.49 million [M] users.
The number of European Internet users totaled 36.02 million [M], or almost 25 percent of worldwide users last year, according to the Computer Industry Almanac.
Other top countries in Internet usage for 1998 included: Australia with 4.36 million [M] users; France with 2.79 million [M] users; Sweden with 2.58 million [M] users; Italy with 2.14 million [M] users; Spain with 1.98 million [M] users; The Netherlands with 1.96 million [M] users; Taiwan with 1.65 million [M] users; China with 1.58 million [M] users; Finland with 1.57 million [M] users; and Norway with 1.34 million [M] users.
Economics and geography are factors in countries with high Internet usage, Juliussen said.
"The Internet makes sense for those countries that are geographically isolated, such as Australia and New Zealand," he said. "Some of the early adopters of Internet access, after the U.S., were small, medium and large companies in Finland, Sweden and Norway."
Also, it makes sense that wealthier countries, such as the U.S., are more likely to have higher Internet access than countries that lack the financial resources to set up computers and the communication systems needed for 'Net access, added Juliussen.
Data from different organizations around the world were gathered for analysis in the report. The Computer Industry Almanac, which has been analyzing computer usage since 1980, then "puts the pieces together like a puzzle and fills in the holes with their own statistics," Juliussen said.
The Computer Industry Almanac, located in Arlington Heights, Illinois, can be reached at +1-847-718-0423 or at http://www.c-i-a.com/.