In 2002, only two percent of the world population now has Internet access. They are, for the most part, wealthy, white and Western.
Internet access remains relatively expensive particularly because local calls remain generally in the hands of the former telecommunications monopolies. The price of Internet access is the key determinant of usage. Country comparisons show that there is a strong relationship between usage price and Internet penetration. A study which analysed this relationship concluded "virtually all countries with high access costs have low penetration." Therefore, reducing prices through increased competition is a priority.
Up to now, access to the Internet has mainly been by using a PC but this is about to change. Technological developments are leading to wider and simpler access. Small mobile devices are already on the market which can be connected quickly and allow information to be available anywhere, anytime. These devices are just the start. The technology will permit a wide range of new equipment to be linked to the Internet. Examples include in-car travel information systems linked to central congestion data; medical devices that can monitor the body and Â£report' the results to doctors.