Sat, Jan 20, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Domestic Internet market indicates greater penetration

By Tim Culpan  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The Taiwan Internet market is reaching a new level of maturity, but that maturity is not translating into online sales, according to new figures released yesterday.

A survey by Internet research company iamasia indicates that Taiwan's Internet population stood at 6.4 million at the end of 2000, accounting for 33 percent of the population above 5-years-old.

Iamasia figures show China leading the greater China market with 15.2 million users at a penetration rate of 7 percent, while Hong Kong's 2.2 million users give it a 34 percent penetration rate.

Those figures put the greater China Internet population at 24 million. Iamasia calculates its China penetration rate based on an urban population figure of 209 million.

Demographic research shows that both the Taiwan and Hong Kong Internet populations are starting to closely resemble the overall population, an indication that Internet usage is no longer restricted to certain groups such as younger, richer users.

However, iamasia noted that Taiwan users are less-inclined to enagage in e-commerce transactions, with only 10 percent of users having ever bought online. The figure is notable for the fact that the average household income of Internet users in Taiwan is US$34,080 per year, while China also has a 10 percent e-commerce uptake but an Internet household income of just US$5,780 per year. Hong Kong leads the way on both counts with an annual household income of US$51,650 and an e-commerce uptake of 13 percent.

According to iamasia's research, Taiwanese Internet users have a generally negative attitude to e-commerce with 55 percent saying they are "uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" with spending money over the Net. The figures are especially worrying for Taiwan e-commerce companies since 59 percent of those surveyed said they were unlikely to try e-commerce in the next 12 months.

The average Taiwanese Internet surfer is male -- 55 percent of all users -- and between 15 and 29 years of age, while 71 percent choose their homes for cyber surfing (71 percent), followed by school (40 percent). China's Internet growth prospects appear to be much brighter than Taiwan's and Hong Kong's.

"The number of China Internet users is anticipated to increase quickly, while only steady growth is expected in Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Joanne Liao, iamasia's general manager for Taiwan.

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