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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
UK set for internet growth
Graph of internet penetration by country
Britain, Germany and Italy have been singled out as promising internet growth areas by analysts who have undertaken a pioneering global study of net use.

Researchers at AC Nielsen eRatings.com, who claim there are at least 295 million internet users worldwide, say that more than half of Europeans accessing the web from home are based in the three countries.

The UK, where 19 million people access the web from home, ranks as the world's third most populous internet market, the researchers say in a report on net usage in 20 European, North American and South East Asian countries.

Germany has 14.8 million home users and Italy 11.1 million, out of a total of 82 million in Western Europe.

'Worth watching'

"[Britain, Germany and Italy] are well worth watching in the coming months as they continue to emerge on the global scene," David Day, director of analytics at AC Nielsen eRatings.com, said following publication of the briefing.

League of e-friendly nations
1: Norway, 53%
2: Singapore, 50%
3: Sweden, 49%
4: Holland, 48%
5: Denmark, 47%

(% adults with home links to net. Excludes US and Japan)

But the report reveals that few internet users are accessing the web to make online purchases.

Outside America and Japan, which ranked top in the internet penetration league, only in Sweden can more than one in nine of the population be classified as online shoppers.

Spain, where 1% of the population has made online purchases, ranked bottom of the e-tail league, just below Ireland and France, with rates of 2%.

High ratio

One in 11 Britons made an online purchase during the period covered by the report, a figure considered high when compared to the number of UK users who surfed e-tail sites.

The e-tail table
1: Sweden, 17%
2=: Australia, 11%
2=: Denmark, 11%
2=: Switzlnd, 11%

(% adults purchasing online. Excludes US and Japan)

"The UK had the highest browse-to-purchase ratio of all the European countries," the report says.

The figures follow a series of security scares in Britain over e-commerce operations, including a fraud discovered at online bank Egg in August.

In July, Barclays temporarily shut its internet banking service after a software fault enabled some users to see other customers' accounts.

Many e-commerce sites have also folded, including Reading-based food and drinks exchange Efdex which, while said to have raised 40m in funding, announced on Thursday that it was going into liquidation.

Workers access from home

Internet usage is higher at home than at work in all countries polled except Switzerland, the AC Nielsen eRatings.com briefing says.

Scandinavian nations lead Europe in rates of access, with more than half of Norwegian households connected to the internet.

The report blames a dearth of internet users in France on the success of Minitel, a pioneering information service France Telecom has run since the 1980s.

"We will continue to see growth in online access in France trailing the rest of Europe while potential online users' needs are being met elsewhere," Mr Day said.

Countries covered by the survey included the G7 nations, Australia and Singapore. Nations such as Russia, China and South Africa were not surveyed.

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See also:

24 Aug 00 | Business
Egg fraud fears grow
23 Aug 00 | Business
Internet bank fraud probe widens
02 Aug 00 | Business
Barclays admits new security breach
20 Mar 00 | Business
Banking on the net
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