More Tech Users, But Divide Still Exists

A study by Roper Starch Worldwide has found sharp rises in PC ownership and Internet use around the world, but the divide between developed countries and developing countries is only modestly closing.

Thirty percent of global consumers own a PC, up six percentage points since 1998, while nearly one in five (18 percent) went online in the past month, up seven points in the same period, according to “Roper Reports Worldwide Spring 2000” study. The survey, based on 30,000 face-to-face interviews with 1,000 consumers age 13 to 65 in each of 30 countries, is projectable to 1.39 billion people.

The biggest regional jump in PC ownership occurred in developed Asia, where 55 percent of consumers have computers, up 12 points from 1998. In second place, half of North Americans (51 percent) own PCs, an eight-point gain over 1998. Third-place Latin America, where nearly three in 10 own PCs (29 percent), saw a seven point rise. Tied for fourth are Western Europe (39 percent) and developing Asia (17 percent), each up four points.

The top-five biggest gains by country: Japan (50 percent), up 16 points; Turkey (26 percent), up 13 points; and Taiwan (60 percent), Germany (44 percent), and Saudi Arabia (32 percent), each up 12 points.

“As we look at ownership and use of technology, it’s clear that in the last year or so, the mastery of technology at a personal level is rising significantly in many regions of the world,” said Tom Miller, group senior vice president of Roper Starch Worldwide and director of the global consumer study. “When you translate the point gains into percentages, the increases in many cases are dramatic — in developed Asia, for example, where PC ownership has surged 26 percent since 1998, signaling a remarkable proliferation of technology.”

Despite the gains in many parts of the world, the digital divide between developed and developing countries is only modestly closing, according to Miller. “The rate of adopting information technology in more nascent economies is faster than in developed countries, but it’s from a base still quite small. At the current G8 summit of industrialized nations, we expect to see a number of global initiatives aimed to speed up the digital revolution in less advantaged countries.”

Internet use is expanding at a pace similar to PCs. North Americans are more likely than people in other regions to have accessed the Internet in the past 30 days (41 percent), up 12 points since 1998. Next is developed Asia (32 percent), up 10 points, trailed by Western Europe (23 percent), up eight points; and Latin America (11 percent), Eastern Europe (11 percent), and developing Asia (10 percent), each up four points.

At a country level, Turkey’s Internet use has grown fastest, up 14 points to 19 percent. In the US, which has the highest Internet use (44 percent), those accessing the Net leaped 13 points. Germany (23 percent) also boosted its use by 13 points. Korea (25 percent) was up 12 points, and Taiwan (27 percent) scored an 11-point gain. Australia (43 percent), Japan (22 percent), and France (16 percent) were each up 10 points.

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