SAN FRANCISCO - FEWER young Americans have Internet access than their peers in the Czech Republic, Canada, Macao and Britain, a survey of 13 countries around the world showed.
Among 12 to 14 year olds, 100 per cent of British youth use the Internet, followed by Israel at 98 per cent, the Czech Republic and Macao and 96 per cent and Canada at 95 per cent, according to the World Internet report by the Centre for the Digital Future.
By contrast, only 88 per cent of Americans of the same age had access, trailed by Hungary and Singapore, where more than seven in 10 young people use the Internet.
Separately, a bulletin by a software company showed mobile phone access to the Internet burgeoning outside the United States, especially in South-east Asia.
For the report by the Centre for the Digital Future, headed by Professor Jeff Cole at the University of Southern California, researchers in 13 countries talked to more than 25,000 people in Asia, Australia, North and South America and Europe in late 2007 and early 2008.
Universal service lacking
The Centre report showed the United States trails other countries in older groups, too. US Internet usage by those over 18 runs behind Sweden, New Zealand and Canada.
Recently, US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin unsuccessfully proposed a universal service fund to promote high-speed Internet access, similar to the one for telephone service.
Prof Martin also advocates new spectrum for wireless in the United States to facilitate Internet access and held a joint news conference with Larry Page, a founder of Google, to promote the idea.
The Centre report, issued annually in the United States and for the first time worldwide, said mobile phones are used for Internet access 'by a very small percentage of users, with the exception of the United Kingdom'. But that may be out of date. A monthly bulletin issued by Norwegian software maker Opera Software shows mobile phone Internet access exploding.
Opera said that, during 2008, use of its Mini browser on mobile phones more than tripled, reaching 5 billion page views in October. The increase is especially marked in South-east Asia and also showed spikes in Africa and the Middle East.
In Indonesia, user growth tripled. Page views there increased eight-fold and in the Philippines by 10-fold.
'In many of these South-east Asian countries the mobile Web exists not because it complements existing means of access, but rather because it replaces them,' Opera added. -- REUTERS