All this and now the Information Utility

By 2005, the US will have completed its first digital decade -- the 10 years during which consumers will have adopted digital appliances, Internet access, and the services they enable. The big question now is what will life be like when the Internet becomes a mainstream resource, like electricity or water? In addressing the question Forrester Research has come to the view that by 2005 the Net will have completed its first phase of commercial adoption and will have given rise to an information utility. Defined by Forrester as "the mechanism that people use to access information and each other from anywhere, and through any device", this utility will enable individuals to take greater control of their lives as consumers, employees and citizens.

Forrester analysts note that the Internet is a fundamental force that will truly transform the way people interact and behave at an individual, organisational and social level. The original promises of a networked society -- like anytime, anywhere communication -- will be fulfilled and surpassed, as people tailor the utility to suit their needs. Over the next four years, technology standards, user adoption and a massive build-out will transform the Internet from the 'next new thing' to a truly ubiquitous information resource, creating new roles for businesses and government to address new end-user demands for emerging technologies and Internet-enabled lifestyles.

Forrester believes that the information utility is inevitable as individuals -- acting in their roles as consumers, employees and citizens -- increasingly rely on information to accomplish everyday tasks. Information access will evolve into a utility as consumers pay to research or shop online, while traditional corporations weave Internet strategies throughout their supply chains to offer customers a reliable experience across all channels. Forrester forecasts that by 2005, 67 per cent of US households will have Internet access -- dramatically affecting the way Americans communicate, shop and research. As people become more comfortable with Internet applications, the next era in technological displacement will enable electronic communications like e-mail, instant messaging, digital photos and voice-over-IP to become the norm. During this same period, 55 per cent of US consumers will shop online, increasing their online retail spending from more than $US40 billion today to nearly $US270 billion in 2005. Armed with price-comparison data, consumers will demand more value for their money and expect personal attention and special offers when they shop online.

As employees, individuals will begin to rely on their PDAs, cell phones and digital cameras to become more productive at work and improve business operations. The information utility will also help executives hone their research skills to access data critical to their business success, or to accelerate career ambitions using online training programs.

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