The Internet may seem like a pervasive presence in much of the world, yet in many countries -- including some developed ones -- going online is a far from universal experience, according to findings by the World Internet Project (WIP).
In the current project conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, only half of the 10 reporting countries found that more than a majority of their respondents are users of the Internet.
Both developed and less-developed countries reported relatively low percentages of Internet users, including Mexico (32 percent), Portugal (37 percent), Cyprus and Colombia (45 percent), Czech Republic (51 percent), and Chile (55 percent).
Only three countries and regions report more than 60 percent of respondents as Internet users: Macao (61 percent), the United States (78 percent) and Sweden (80 percent).
“These findings reinforce that the Internet is not yet part of life for hundreds of millions of people around the globe -- even in technologically advanced countries,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, which created and manages the World Internet Project. “And we are seeing large numbers of non-users even in countries with high levels of education and employment, long histories of Internet use, and high percentages of broadband installation.”
“Countries that reported an average of five or more years of Internet use found key disparities in access to online technology,” Cole said. “For example, many countries have a long way to go to increase Internet equality among men and women.”
Gender Differences in Internet Use
The World Internet Project found notable differences between men and women in their use of online technology. In six of the WIP countries, eight percent or more men than women use the Internet (Chile, Columbia, Cyprus, Italy, Macao, Mexico). The gender gap is the largest in Mexico (16 percent more men than women are Internet users) and Columbia (15 percent more men than women).
However, in four of the WIP countries, the gap in Internet use between men and women is four percent or less, with the Czech Republic, Portugal, Sweden, and the United States reporting only slightly higher percentages of men than women as users.
Why are people not online? Perhaps surprisingly, the expense of owning a computer or an Internet connection is not the primary explanation.
In six of the 10 WIP countries in the current study, “no interest/not useful” is the most-cited reason by non-users.
The cost of going online is not a significant factor in most of the WIP countries; with all of the countries except the Czech Republic reporting less than 15 percent of respondents who said that going online was too expensive or they cannot afford the fees.
While going online to shop is routine in some countries, purchasing online is not yet a typical experience for Internet users in most of the WIP countries and regions.
The WIP countries and regions report a wide range of online buying frequency. In seven of the reporting countries and regions, more than 60 percent of Internet users never go online to buy.
Concerns about Credit Card Security
One reason why Internet purchasing may continue to be low in much of the world is that levels of concern about the security of credit card information during online purchasing are very high. At least two-thirds of Internet users age 18 or older in all of the WIP countries and regions report some level of concern when or if they bought something online.
Information on the Internet: Is it Reliable? Is it Important?
The World Internet Project found widely divergent views about the reliability or the importance of information found online.
When asked about the reliability of information found online, all of the WIP countries and regions reported at least 40 percent of users who said that only half or less of information on the Internet is reliable.
In spite of these high percentages, the Internet is nevertheless considered an important source of information for them by large majorities in all of the WIP countries and regions. More than 60 percent of users in all of the WIP countries and regions except for Sweden said that the Internet is an important or very important source of information for them.
The Center for the Digital Future:
Nine years of exploring the digital realm
The findings are part of the 2010 report of the World Internet Project (WIP), which includes findings from 10 of the 30 countries and regions in North America, South American, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australasia.
The World Internet Project is the first global partnership of research institutions that compiles data on the behavior and views of Internet users and non-users.
The Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism created and organizes the World Internet Project, which includes the Digital Future Project and similar studies in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macao, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.
On a yearly basis since 2000, the center has been conducting the Digital Future Project, the most comprehensive year-to-year study of the Internet and online technology on Americans, examining the behavior and views of a national sample of Internet users and non-users.
For highlights of the 2010 World Internet Project Report, or to order a copy of the complete report, visit www.digitalcenter.org.