While Internet-savvy countries are moving forward with advanced technologies for Web traffic analysis, e-procurement, sales force automation, and a host of other sophisticated Internet uses, it’s easy to forget the rest of the world isn’t moving at the same pace.

Take the emerging markets of the Middle East, Russia, and Africa, for example. Lack of telecommunications infrastructure and IT workers are causing a slow growth of the Internet in these countries, but experts predict it will continue to grow.
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In the Middle East, in 1999, Israel led with 10.8 percent of the population online, but all other countries were at a significantly lower percentage, according to a Nua study citing DIT Group and IDC Research. Jordan had only 1.1 percent online, and Saudi Arabia had 0.52 percent online. However, since these figures were published last year, Nuasays there has been an almost 50 percent increase in Internet use in the Middle East. The research group attributes this to a desire by political leaders to avoid falling behind in the new Internet economy.

Nua reports there are almost 2 million Internet users in the Middle East as of March 2000. Partially updated figures for March 2000 include the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) at 17.06 percent of the population, a significant jump from 8.71 in May 1999. New figures also show an increase in Jordan (to 1.92 percent); Bahrain (5.96 percent); Kuwait (5.02 percent); Lebanon (6.39 percent); Oman (2.04 percent); Qatar (6.22 percent); Saudi Arabia (1.4 percent); Syria (for its first listing, at 0.12 percent); and Yemen (0.07 percent). At this writing, figures for Israel were not updated.

In Russia, it’s estimated that 3 million people will be online by 2001, but that’s where the whole of Europe was several years earlier. According to IDC, “the major obstacles to growth are a small home market, high access costs, and security issues.” In all of Eastern Europe, IDC expects new technologies and solutions to break loose in 2001. In other words, as the Internet-savvy countries develop and learn to use new technologies, they’ll filter down to less savvy nations. Lack of telecom infrastructures, an IT worker shortage, and the haunting Y2K bug still plague many of these countries. However, there’s also the promise of a worldwide e-commerce market of $1.3 trillion. Only time will tell how quickly these countries move forward to take advantage of that.

The African Internet experience is reflective of its poor economic conditions. In nations where even telephones are rare, the lack of a telecom infrastructure puts Internet access behind as well. Only one out of every 1,500 residents of the African continent has Internet access. Half of Africa’s 400,000 users are in South Africa, the most prosperous and developed country in Africa, according to Interactive Week .
Previous StatCenters examined the Internet in various countries:

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