Thriving internet market poised to overtake US

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2008, 12:00am

China will soon overtake the US to become the world's largest internet market by users, but the benchmark may not generate as much in the way of economic benefits as it implies.

The China Internet Survey Report revealed yesterday that the internet population on the mainland had reached 182 million last year, up 23.6 per cent from 2006. The figure is forecast to hit 244 million by the end of this year, exceeding the number of internet users in the United States.

Guangdong accounted for 13.1 per cent of the mainland's internet population - the highest among all provinces - followed by Shandong and Jiangsu .

The study, conducted annually by the Internet Society of China and the Data Centre of the China Internet, also found the web penetration rate was 13.8 per cent.

The consumption habits of mainland internet users, however, could be factors that undermine the economic impact brought by rapid internet growth.

The survey found the average surfer spent only 182.6 yuan a month, up 7.7 per cent from 2006. The average expenditure for video downloading was 2.4 yuan a month, while 93.5 per cent of web users paid nothing.

Findings were similar for music downloading and online shopping.

Online games, one of the most popular internet activities for mainland surfers, attracted only 24.9 yuan a month on average.

Hu Yanping , the society's director for communication and development, said electronic commerce could take three to five years to prosper.

'Certain e-businesses such as Alibaba have established quite a positive result and have been beyond the expectations of many people in the industry,' he said.

Wired up

The percentage of mainland internet users connected to broadband is 85%

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