Number of non-US Web surfers to skyrocket by 2002

The number of non-US users of the World Wide Web will increase more quickly over the next four years than the number of their US counterparts, according to new research from IDC. In total, there will be about100 million global Web users by the end of 1998, and 320 million by 2002, the firm says. Last year, there were 78.1 million devices used to access the Web, while by 2002 the number of devices will jump to 515 million

The number of non-US users of the World Wide Web will increase more quickly over the next four years than the number of their US counterparts, according to new research from International Data (IDC).

In total, there will be approximately 100 million global Web users by the end of 1998, and 320 million by 2002, the Massachusetts-based research firm said. Last year, there were 78.1 million devices used to access the Web, while by 2002 the number of devices will jump to 515 million, said IDC in the new report, entitled "The Global Market Forecast for Internet Usage and Commerce."

While many computer users worldwide access the Internet only for e-mail, the percentage who explore the Web also will rise until "the Internet and the Web become synonymous," said Carol Glasheen, IDC's director of primary research and market models and the author of the report.

In the US, the percentage of all PCs and network computers that access the Internet will grow from an estimated 53%by the end of this year to 87% by the end of 2002, said Glasheen.

The percentage of US users who access the Web is expected to be 44% by the end of this year and 84% by 2002. Among worldwide users, 41% are expected to use PCs or network computers to access the Internet by the end of this year, and that figure is likely to jump to 72 percent by the end of 2002. Web use worldwide will grow from 33% this year to 69% in 2002, she said.

The real explosion in numbers will occur in the Asia-Pacific region between 1997 and 2002, but other areas outside the US also will experience high growth as various countries build their Internet infrastructure and use of PCs and network computers becomes more widespread, according to the report.

Electronic commerce will benefit from the surge in those who access the Web. The percentage of worldwide users who buy goods either directly over the Internet or as a result of seeing products on the Internet and then calling or faxing the vendor will jump from 26% in December 1997 to 40%in December 2002, the report said.

While the percentage increase in online shoppers is modest, given the jump in the number of Internet users over the same period, the number of Web shoppers will rise dramatically. In 1997, there were 18 million people using the Internet for shopping worldwide, whereas there will be more than 128 million in 2002, the report said.

Due to the huge increase in the number of Web shoppers, IDC predicts that more than $US400 billion worth of goods and services will change hands over the Internet by 2002, a compound annual growth rate of 103% between 1997 and 2002.

That also will translate into an increase in spending per consumer. US online consumers, for instance, will spend $750 yearly by the end of this year compared with the average $600 at the end of last year. US business buyers will spend an average $3,800 annually by the end of this year, compared with just over $3,000 last year, Glasheen said.

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