A statistical snapshot has revealed that Hong Kong's home computer use continues to rise steeply, with half of households now connected to the Internet. Census and Statistics Department figures for home computer ownership and home Internet access were up more than 10 percentage points on last year. Experts attributed the rise to pressure on parents to provide computers for their children, coupled with falling prices. According to the department's Household Survey, 1,258,400 households (61 per cent) had a personal computer at home last year. Eighty per cent of those (49 per cent of households) were connected to the Internet. In 1999, only 50 per cent of households had a PC at home, with 36 per cent on the Internet. In addition, about 40 per cent had knowledge in Chinese input. The new figures are consistent with a recent commercial report that found Hong Kong came eighth in the world for home-computer use. The rate of Internet use revealed in the survey - based on interviews with 27,500 people this year - drops dramatically in older age brackets. About four in five children and teenagers had used the Internet in the past 12-months, double the rate of those aged 35 to 44 and quadruple the rate of adults aged 45 to 54. The figures for the elderly were lower still - only six per cent of those aged 55 to 64 had used the Internet and less than one per cent of those over 65. People with tertiary education were more likely to use the Internet, (87 per cent), than those with a secondary education, (50 per cent), or a primary education, (11 per cent). Those in temporary housing were less likely to have a home computer (26 per cent) than those in public rental housing (50 per cent), subsidised sale flats (70.5 per cent) or permanent private housing (64 per cent). Professor of Computer Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Samuel Chanson urged the Government to continue in its efforts to make computers more widely available and to consider new measures, for example providing low-cost computers for the poor or including high-speed Internet connections in new public housing estates. The Government's director of information technology services, Alan Wong Chi-kong, acknowledged computer penetration rates for some groups of people in Hong Kong were low. The Government planned to provide free computer awareness courses and expand its Community Cyber Points project to provide more free public Internet access, Mr Wong said. Professor Chanson said Hong Kong's computer penetration was relatively high, but sales over the Internet were a fraction of other countries such as the United States. The survey found that less than six per cent of people over 15 had shopped online in the past year and the median amount spent was just $500, which he attributed to security fears. However, Hong Kong people adopted other forms of e-business services with enthusiasm. About 89 per cent of people over 15 had used such services, including the Octopus card, ATMs and payment by phone. But only 3.9 per cent had used services provided by the Government Electronic Delivery scheme, such as the renewal of driving licences online. A companion survey on businesses found 50 per cent used personal computers and 37 per cent had an Internet connection, but that only 11 per cent had a Web page.