South to catch up with North as European Internet use continues to grow

April 22, 2002

Brussels, 19 April 2002

The number of online users in Europe is expected to reach more than 200 million - 67 per cent of the population - by the end of 2006, according to a new report released by US based Forrester Research. Although the Scandinavian countries will continue to achieve higher levels of online penetration than their southern European counterparts, the latter will experience dramatic growth in the next four years, according to the report.

Regular Internet use in Europe was measured at 19 per cent of the population in 1999 and 39 per cent (119 million people) in 2001. Further growth, predicted to continue until 2006, is expected to be based on falling hardware and connection prices and a continued spreading of the perception that Internet use is a vital means of communication.

Southern European markets -- France, Italy, and Spain - bring European online rates down at the moment with an average 30 per cent of citizens regularly using the Internet. The Nordic markets remain in the lead with access rates of between 60 and 70 per cent.

However, more than 30 million new, regular users will materialise in France and Italy over the next five years, according to the report. Italy will experience the most dramatic growth, reaching 68 per cent online penetration in 2006. France will be marginally slower, with 64 per cent of its population online by 2006. Internet penetration in Scandinavia should reach saturation at 70 per cent from 2003 onwards.

Most European surfers connect from Germany or the UK -- the two largest online populations in Europe with 30 million and 20 million users respectively. The report says that Germany will increase to 48.5 million regular users (70 per cent of its population) by 2006. The UK will achieve 68 per cent penetration or 32.8m regular users in the same period.

Austria and Switzerland will continue to grow from 2004 onwards - a result of their high income levels and high number of technology optimists. Their total online penetration will reach 75 per cent by 2006.

Most regular online users connect from home - only 13 per cent of users have access from work alone. The location that users connect from impacts on their behaviour -- for instance, work-only users are online for five hours per week, 1.7 hours less than home-only users.

50 percent of the 119 million Europeans that currently use the Internet regularly are aged 35 or younger, indicating that the Internet is still a medium for well-educated young people, the report concludes.

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CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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