NEWS

Number of Greek users steady

For over a year and a half, the number of Greek Internet users has not changed, according to data released last week by GfK Market Analysis. In fact, the survey found only slight fluctuations within the bounds of statistical error. The impressive thing is that this is not due to any pre-existing saturation of the market. According to the survey, only 30 percent of the population (37.6 percent in urban areas) have access to the Web, and just 28 percent (34.8 percent in urban areas) actually use it. Another survey by Focus WebID between February and March 2004 reached similar conclusions. User profiles cover a small sector of society – mostly the young, those in higher income brackets and with a tertiary education. People aged 18-24 comprise 49 percent of users, those with a higher education 52 percent and those in higher income brackets 46 percent. Even within these groups, the percentage of users is low. After all, one would expect that nearly all 18-24-year-olds would be accessing the Internet, but this is far from the case. According to Forthnet officials, what counts is the number of subscribers, which is no more than 500,000-600,000 families or businesses. The main problem is the lack of content, according to responses to the question as to the reasons those polled access the Internet. The most frequent response (89 percent) was «information,» then «entertainment» (for 44 percent, or 64 percent of those aged 30-34 percent). Another draw is e-mail, used by 36 percent. Work was the reason given by just 4 percent, shopping by 18 percent, up from 9 percent in March. Downloading files was important to only 16 percent of users. One main conclusion is that there is a dearth of people using the Internet for educational or medical purposes or in transactions with the State, indicating a lack of such infrastructure and corresponding content. Both the GfK and the Focus surveys found potential for development, since 8-9 percent of the respondents said they planned to subscribe within the next year, a percentage that rises fo 21 percent for the 18-24-year-olds. Nikos Vassilakos of the Union of Greek Internet Users (www.eexi.gr) believes that irrespective of the number of users (estimated at around 2,700,000 people) there has been an increase in accessing the Internet recently. «It is not only a question of those who subscribe, but the extent to which they use it,» he said. «The most important thing is that there is an increasing demand, but a very low provision of content, weak infrastructure and high prices. Soon there is likely to be a bottleneck.» The Greek domain – that is, Internet addresses ending in «.gr» – is growing, but the real explosion is yet to come when a domain is created with Greek characters. There has also been an increase in advertising packages of Greek interest on Google and other international search engines. Users apparently want simple things, yet these seem difficult to achieve. «People want more lines of better quality for lower prices, but with no delays,» said Vassilakos. One thing that should be emphasized is that dial-up links, such as ISDN, should not be forgotten. Tens of thousands have these links, many of them problematic, and the fees remain high. For example, the fixed charges for ISDN are still 30 euros for two months, but there are reports that OTE is squeezing many more links into the same pool, bringing quality down.