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    Internet Usage

    (February 22, 2002) - 143 million people, or 54 percent of the total population, are now online in the US, up 26 percent on last year. This is according to a new report from the Department of Commerce that says that there were an average of 2 million new Internet users in the US every month last year.

    The digital divide seems to be narrowing in the US. Usage among households earning less than $15K per annum increased by 25 percent a year between December 1999 and September 2001, while the rate of growth among households earning $75K or more was just 11 percent. Black and Hispanic households are also going online at a more rapid rate than white and Asian-American households. Furthermore, the number of rural households getting Net access for the first time is increasing at a faster rate than the number of urban households.

    The report also found that email continues to be the most popular online activity. It is now used by 45 percent of the total population, up from 35 percent in 2000.

    You might also be interested in reading a copy of "Digital Economy 2002", also from the Department of Commerce. It illuminates the enduring characteristics of the IT sector and charts growth in related jobs. The study points out that IT spending only decreased by about 3% during 2001 and that it was a decrease over a profoundly high year in 2000. Overall, the report suggests that IT is producing real returns (finally) on the massive investments we've made in the last decade or so. As a result, we have a stable platform for growth into the recovery. 

    Interestingly, the report points to between 7,000 and 10,000 companies that received formal venture funding during the run up. Only 10% of these firms have been shuttered completely. All in all, that is a remarkable success rate in the venture arena and belies much of the hand-wringing that occupies the time of financial commentators in the traditional media. While pointing out risks, the study is upbeat and optimistic about the remainder of 2002.

    - John Sumser

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