The number of Net users is on the rise 

WASHINGTON, February 1 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) – The internet is becoming part and parcel of everyday life in a growing number of countries worldwide with people increasingly spending more time online looking for information at the expense of watching television and other media, a university study said.

About 61 percent find the Net “very” or “extremely” important as an information source, CNN reported Friday, January 31, according to the third annual nationwide survey conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

The survey of 2,000 households also found Internet users are spending more time online than before and watching less television than non-users.

The study found that Internet users are averaging 11 hours per week online, an hour up than last year, and watched 4.5 hours per week less of television than non-users.

That’s roughly the same as the importance Net users place in books and newspapers. By comparison, just half of them find television important, 40 percent think that of radio and 29 percent of magazines.

Among the most experienced users, 73 percent found the Internet important, exceeding the 67 percent for books and 57 percent for newspapers.

“It’s open 24 hours a day. You can look up what you want,” said Julie Von Haase, 31, an executive assistant in San Francisco. “With television you can only look up what they happen to be reporting.”

The study said the number of Net users is on the rise every year.

“We really are seeing the end of the digital divide. It still exists and there’s still a difference between those online and those off, but it’s less every year,” CNN quoted one IT expert as saying.

Bad News for E-Businesses

The study, however, showed that the number of people shopping at internet sites was slightly down, with most expressing deep concern about using their credit cards on the web.

Nearly a quarter of those concerned about using credit cards online say nothing can ease their fears.

“The extent of the decline was somewhat surprising,” said Jeff Cole, director of UCLA’s Centre for Communication Policy, explaining it was due to the general economic downturn, the collapse of many online merchants, higher prices and security concerns.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission said complaints about identity theft doubled last year, with victims reporting hijacked credit cards, drained bank accounts and tarnished reputations.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see this medium become the equivalent of advertising, where people take everything they see with a grain of salt,” CNN quoted Beau Brendler, director of the nonprofit Consumer WebWatch online credibility project.

Cole’s center conducted the telephone survey in English and Spanish from April to June and included follow-up interviews with respondents to previous UCLA Internet studies. The study has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.