Europeans flocked online in '98

The total number of Europeans online grew from 17.7 million in 1997 to more than 35 million in 1998, a growth rate of 99%, according to a new report issued by market research company Dataquest, part of Gartner Group Inc.

With strong growth expected to continue throughout this year, Europe's Internet and digital commerce marketplace is poised to explode, according to the report.

Business use of the Internet grew at a rate of 91%, with more than 20 million users having Net access at work, Dataquest said.

In spite of negative predictions about Internet and electronic commerce in Europe, the report said, there are real signs that the market is changing. Internet penetration across Europe will reach 17% by year's end, the market research company said. It added that in order for the Internet to act as a viable sales channel, Net penetration needs to reach 20%.

Many of the Nordic countries have hit the 20% threshold already. And in other European countries, including the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, Net penetration is nearing that level, Dataquest said. Germany had the highest number of Internet users in Europe, going from more than 5 million in 1997 to more than 8 million last year.

In countries such as France and Italy, which have traditionally been slow to accept the Web, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, Net growth is now fast-paced, Dataquest said. In France, Internet usage more than doubled, going from 1.3 million in 1997 to 2.9 million last year, a growth rate of 127%. In Italy, usage doubled, from more than 884,000 to 1.7 million between 1997 and 1998, according to the report. In Central Europe, the number of Internet users grew 138%.

Competition among Internet service providers has been a major factor in driving Internet penetration, Dataquest said. The emergence of global players, cheap broadband services and free Internet access services are feeding such growth, the market research company added.

Dataquest is expected to provide further details on the report's findings at the company's annual European conference, Predicts 99, to be held in Paris next week.

This story, "Europeans flocked online in '98" was originally published by Computerworld.

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