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Beijing now nation's 'most wired'
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-13 23:20

The Chinese capital has the highest rate of Internet use in the nation, with 28 per cent of Beijingers going online last year.

There were about 80 million netizens in the country by the end of 2003. [newsphoto/file]

But the number of total Chinese Internet users, known as netizens, was only 6.2 per cent at the end of 2003, the China Internet Network Information Centre's latest report (CNNIC) reveals.

Following Beijing in terms of netizen proportions is Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangdong, with rates of 26.6 per cent, 14.4 per cent, 12.1 per cent, respectively. In January, the government-funded CNNIC made public its 13th semiannual report, the most authoritative data on the Chinese Internet industry. The release Tuesday was the first time that the centre has unveiled a province-based report.

China's Internet community has increased 128-fold in a little more than six years.

There were about 80 million netizens in the country by the end of 2003, a drastic jump from the 620,000 users recorded in 1997.

About 11.5 million new users were recorded in the second half of last year, well about the growth of 8.9 million recorded in the first six months of 2003.

Despite the growth, analysts fear the development of information technology and its applications in China are hugely disproportionate.

About one-third of the population in Beijing and Shanghai are netizens, but in poorer areas such as Henan, Guizhou and Inner Mongolia, it is only around the 3 or 4 per cent mark.

The gap between rich and poor is also reflected in the figures. Farmers, for example, account for less than 0.8 per cent of the country's online users.

According to Tuesday's report, Beijing had more than 3.8 million Internet users by the end of last year, which was more than 5 per cent of the Chinese total.

Guangdong Province and Shanghai have about 9.5 million and 4.3 million Internet users, respectively. Earlier reports said that the number of users in Guangdong will be in excess of 10 million by the end of December.

"The Internet service has become the fastest growing industry and has the most growth potential in cities like Beijing and Shanghai," said CNNIC official Wang Enhai.

About 60 per cent of the Chinese capital's Internet users are students, technicians and business and governmental staff. Most are under 35.

About 30 per cent of Beijing's computer savvy citizens surf the Net for information, while the remainder use computers for study and other purposes.

Beijing has about 2 million computers connected to the Internet, accounting for 6.4 per cent of the country's total.

Families on average spend about 150 yuan (US$18) on Internet services per month.

The capital's rapid growth in the field has come though government efforts to promote information technology, e-government and e-commerce.

Meanwhile, a Xinhua report says that the number of Internet users is increasing rapidly in East China.

Besides Shanghai, there were 6.27 million Internet users in Shandong Province last year, according to the CNNIC report.

On-line users aged from 18 to 24 account for 33.2 per cent of Internet users in Shanghai, and under 18 account for 23.3 per cent, and 25 to 30, 17.7 per cent.

Married citizens and those with higher education are more liable to have access to the Internet in Shandong, the report says.

Netizens pay around 100 yuan (US$12) for the Internet service every month in both Shanghai and Shandong, and people spend an average of 14 hours each week surfing on the network.

On-line users from both Shanghai and Shandong agree that the most important function of the Internet is to provide information, which is frequently free. Nine Netizens out of ten believed the Internet enhances their work efficiency, study and daily life, says the report.

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China's Internet population hit 68 million by the end of June, the second highest number in the world, following the United States, according to a survey by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) released on July 21, 2003. [newsphoto.com.cn]
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