Internet is a global
network of computers linked by high-speed data lines and wireless
It was established in 1969 as a military communications system.
It allows individuals to access information from many sources using
The use of the Internet more than doubled in size in 1995 and has
done so every year since 1988, becoming the fastest-growing communications
the real Internet population, its use disaggregated by sex, the size of
the potential demand and the trends for growth is difficult, and results
are often contradictory.
The special nature of the medium and its rapid development throw up
new figures every day.
Some sources have estimated that a new web site is launched on the
Internet every four seconds.
is difficult to gauge reliably the size and demographic profile of users,
because user-tracking software remains inadequate, and it is not possible,
for example, to distinguish new "hits" from repeat visits to a
site. Nevertheless it is estimated that the Internet links 50 million users in more
than 80 countries world-wide.
Some consider that this will increase to around 300 million in the
next five years.
WWW is the fastest-growing segment of the Internet, growing at rate of
3000 per cent every year.
It allows exchange of multimedia data (text, audio, video, graphics
and animation) between users connected to the Internet using hypertext
the United States, which has taken the lead in the market, data suggest
that there are between 16.4 million and 37 million people (in the U.S. and
Canada) who have access to the Internet, spending an average of 5 hours 28
minutes per week on line.
Users in Europe are 5 to 8 million or more.
In Japan, there are approximately 4 million users.
In Latin America, electronic mail is rapidly replacing regular
mail, as it is much more efficient.
In Africa, new Internet domains have been registered in the last
year in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Madagascar.
In countries such as Kenya, Namibia and Senegal, the number of
domains is rising rapidly.
Kenya has around 133, compared with South Africa's more than
Internet Society expects 120 million hosts to be connected to the Internet
by the end of the decade, up from 9.5 million in 1996.
Markets for Internet-related products may be largely a function of
countries in the developing world do not have access to computers; some do
not have reliable electricity or telephone service to support the CNTs,
and in places where the capacity exists or is growing, there is need for
training, and for resources for time on line.
technology transfer from industrialised to developing countries, some
assistance is being given by international organisations, bilateral donors
and computer companies for acquisition of computers and training.
For example, since 1994 the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa has increased the number of electronic domains - mother computers
under which host computers are hooked into the Internet in Africa.
The UNDP Sustainable Development Networking Programme is heading an
effort to bring connectivity to developing countries in a participatory
manner that would enable women's and other groups to have access to the
USAID, with the Leland initiative, is another significant player -
focused on Africa.
of the Internet is spreading rapidly because of the relatively low cost of
the basic infrastructure.
However, the information revolution has continued to perpetuate
The majority of people around the world do not participate on an
equal basis, either as participants or as producers.
the potential of the new medium has been recognised, it is clear that
until its use has spread to developing countries, and to all groups in
society, including women, it reinforces existing inequalities.
Mr. Mathe Diseko, First Secretary of the South African Permanent
Mission to the United Nations, stated in a speech to the United Nations
Economic and Social Council on 16 July 1996 that :
those in possession of information technology, power, influence,
privileged status and domination are further enhanced and assured.
The reverse is true for those without access to informatics.
But it has also great chances of contributing to equity,
development and progress, permitting those lagging behind to leap-frog to
more advanced stages of development.
Informatics has enormous potential to redress the disparities and
material inequalities of our world the cheapest and fastest way.
But in it are also great possibilities of accentuating our material
inequalities, the powerlessness of the have - nots and the misery of
millions bypassed by the information superhighway.
Taub Urban Research Center at New York University published a study based
on data gathered by two consulting firms in the United States.
and Losers on the Internet", it addresses the impact of the
Internet on urbanization.
It notes that while many predicted that global computer networking
could decentralize work and living patterns, to date the impact of the
Internet has been mainly to reinforce the economic and intellectual
leadership of a handful of urban centres and nearby suburbs.
Computer science Professor David Gelernter of Yale University, in
commenting on the study, said that it showed that Internet connections
were spreading beyond university - and computer - based origins into
centres of affluent, well-educated people.
He expressed doubts, however, about the economic and cultural
advantages of having many Internet connections.
The introduction of CNTs is raising new questions about the theory
of technology led urban decline in industrialized societies.
For developing countries, it may become another of the factors
attracting people to urban areas.
the new medium includes the potential for democratizing information and
communications as a result of its interactive and participatory nature,
evidence suggests that fewer women than men use the new technologies and
that the computer environment is often hostile or denigrating to women and
includes forms of sexual harassment.
Women, nevertheless, are a fast-growing segment of the Internet's
estimate that 82 per cent of Internet users worldwide are male; others
estimate that 34 per cent of Internet users are women.
Most of the female users seem to be located in North America,
especially in the United States.
Even in the United States, the estimate of female Internet users
varies from 29 per cent to 36 per cent.
have shown that men are much more likely than women to use the WWW.
However, women are slightly more likely than men to use Internet
mailing lists, underscoring a strong predisposition among women toward
Internet communications features.
Women are also more likely than men to use the Internet
exclusively, men are more likely to use it from multiple locations,
including after-hours use from home.
Navigation needs to be more intuitive with men, the computer tends to be
perceived as a gadget.... women see the computer more as an efficiency
Deleon, Microsoft Network Product Manager, quoted in
"What Women want On-Line", Interactive Media & Marketing, 6
contribution of women to Internet tools such as the UseNet newsgroups is
"typically not very high, but the actual numbers are subject to
In the unmoderated feminist newgroups, approximately 80 per cent of
the messages are posted by men.
In the moderated feminist groups, there is usually about a 50/50
balance between women."
Different networks attract different audiences.
a consumer-oriented on-line-service available on America On-line that
caters to the 'mature market' reports that their audience mix is 51 per
cent female and 49 per cent male.
For other services such as CompuServe, Genie and Prodigy
"between 60-90 per cent of the customers are male."