The Internet is still very much a niche medium in the UK, even though it has achieved mass market in many other countries.
According to a poll conducted by researchers Mori, only eight per cent of UK adults access the Internet, compared to 23 per cent in the US.
The Iris Network Internet Usage Survey is based on over 13,000 interviews conducted in 15 countries early this year. It found that, in the UK in 1997, four per cent of adults logged on to the Internet from home, with an additional four per cent accessing the Net from both the home and office. This compares to a total of six per cent in 1996.
In many countries the main growth in Net usage has been in the home. In Australia, figures show that 25 per cent of the population now access the Web from home (compared to 14 per cent in 1996), while in Sweden the figure has more than doubled from 10 per cent to 21 per cent.
The uptake of ecommerce in the UK is desperately low, with only two per cent of the UK?s adult population reported as having made an online purchase, compared to one in 10 in the US.
On the positive side, hardware ownership has grown in the UK as 32 per cent of households now have a home PC, although only 14 per cent own a modem.
The survey results come just days after the government pledged to make the UK a world leader in ecommerce. The Trade and Industry minister, Peter Mandelson, said last week that, with new legislation, Britain would become the "digital laboratory" of Europe (see Newswire 11 September).
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