The number of Internet users outside of the U.S. is growing at an average annual rate of 70 percent, and will surpass users in the U.S. by 2002, according to a report released this week by research firm eMarketer.
There are currently 60 million Internet users worldwide, of which 68 percent are in the U.S. and Canada, New York-based eMarketer said. Currently there are 23 million non-U.S. users but they will number 143 million by 2002. Worldwide, the total number of Internet users will reach 228 million by 2002, according to the researcher -- leaving the U.S. with a 37 percent share of the users.
European and Nordic countries have a heavy share of Internet users. Germany, the U.K. and Sweden are in the lead with the most Internet links per 1,000 citizens, according to the report, entitled "eOverview."
In fact, about 30 percent of hits on the top 10 web sites in the U.S. are by users outside the U.S., said Gary Galati, a spokesman for eMarketer. Yahoo is accessed by 110 countries and is a dominant site in Europe and the most popular site in Japan. ESPNet Sportszone claims 37 percent of its hits come from overseas, while America Online has over 1 million subscribers in Europe and 10 million in the U.S.
The growth of the number of Internet users in Latin America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and developing nations will make large gains in the next several years, the report said.
One hotbed of Internet users growth will be in Latin America, which has approximately 2 million users, with Brazil leading the pack with 750,000 users, Galati said.
Another growth area will be in Africa, which has 500,000 to 750,000 Internet users mostly based in South Africa, he said. The region will continue to see growth if people are willing to invest in telecommunications and Internet development from the ground up, Galeti said.
The shift away from U.S. users dominating the Internet will come from several factors, including telecom deregulation and increased PC and modem penetration, the study said.
Internet users outside the U.S. will grow with the deployment of higher bandwidth networks. For example, China has seen the number of Internet users jump dramatically in six months, from 500,000 at the end of 1997 to 1.17 million last month. Its fiber-optic infrastructure and may give it a far superior system to the U.S. in the next 10 to 20 years, the report's publisher said.
More information on eOverview and eMarketer can be found at http://www.emarketer.com/.