Study: Net usage in Asia catching up with U.S.

Household Internet penetration in Singapore and Taiwan is catching up with the U.S., Hong Kong users lead the world in instant messaging usage, while South Koreans spend the most time online and are the most ardent users of streaming audio and video applications. When it comes to shopping online and e-mail usage, however, even the most sophisticated Asian markets lag the United States, according to a summary of a study released by Paris-based market researcher NetValue SA.

While the more sophisticated Asian Internet markets are closing the gap with the United States in broad terms, in some areas it is the United States and the rest of the world that has some catching up to do.

South Korea’s leadership in broadband connections, for example, has resulted in Net users in the Northeast Asian country spending more time online, averaging 18.1 hours per month, than elsewhere, as well as being the most likely to taking advantage of streaming media applications, NetValue said in a statement summarizing a new report based on surveys of the research company’s home user panels during November of last year.

More than 50 per cent of Korean users access the Internet over a broadband connection, as compared to 11 per cent of U.S. users and less than 10 per cent in other Asian countries. This is probably what has made Korea the leader in the usage of streaming audio and video applications, NetValue said. More than 65 per cent of Korean Net surfers use the Web to access streaming media applications, as compared to 25.5 per cent in the United States.

Hong Kong users, meanwhile, are addicted to instant messaging, with more than 62 per cent of users hooked on this technology, according to the NetValue survey results. The U.S. instant messaging usage rate of 34.4 per cent, is also surpassed by Singapore’s 52.5 percent. In other Asian markets, such as China and Korea, instant messaging has not become a hit. Only five per cent of users in Korea and 8.6 per cent in China are interested in instant messaging.

Singapore and Taiwan are narrowing the gap with the United States and other worldwide leaders, such as Denmark, when it comes to Internet penetration, according to NetValue’s survey results. While approximately 52 per cent of households in the United States and Denmark had Internet connections in November, Singapore was approaching a similar penetration level with more than 47 per cent of households online. Of the other Asian markets in the survey, Taiwan boasted the second-highest household penetration rate at 41.6 per cent.

When it comes to electronic commerce and e-mail usage, Asian markets lag the United States and leading European Internet markets. While 55 per cent to 66 per cent of Internet users throughout Asia visit retail Web sites, the level is still significantly lower than the U.S., where 73.1 per cent of Internet users visit an e-commerce site, and also behind European markets such as France and Germany, NetValue said.

Singapore and Taiwan have the most active users of e-mail in Asia, with more than 45 e-mail messages either sent or received per Internet user per month. On average, however, Asia falls short of e-mail usage in the United States, where users send and receive an average of 64.6 e-mail messages per month, but exceeds e-mail usage in France (32.5), the U.K. (38.9 emails) or Germany (41.6), according to the survey results.

The data in the report was based on surveys of NetValue’s home user panelists in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingodm and the United States for the month of November 2000, the market researcher said in the statement summarizing the survey results.

NetValue, in Paris, can be contacted at