China has leapfrogged the US as the nation with the most Internet users – 233-million as of the end of March, compared with the latest figure of 216-million American users recorded at the end of last year.
Associated Press, quoting figures from Biejing-based research organisation BDA China, says that although China's user figures have soared, Internet penetration still lags significantly behind that of the US. About 71% of the US's 304-million population has access to the Internet, compared to only 17% of China's 1,3-billion people.
But, says BDA chairman Dick Clark, China's growth rate far outstrips that of the US. The March figure for China, he says, is up from 220-million recorded at the end of February. And its user figures of 210-million at the end of last year represented a 53% jump over the previous year.
Clark told AP that the rapid growth is powered in part by China's economic boom. While the government "continues to filter the Net and encourage self-censorship, it also has a mandate to promote cheaper technology and the knowledge economy."
And there is strong government backing for companies such as China Netcom, he adds, which offers broadband service at $10 a month.