Internet not yet central to UK business

European companies are far from integrating the Internet into their business models

More than half of the European workforce has to share a Internet-connected PC to get online, indicating that the Net is yet to become a central business tool.

Ninety-two million people have access to the Internet in the UK, France and Germany, but less than a third have Internet access at work. A new report from the research company Jupiter MMXI reveals that the nearly half of European employees -- 40 percent in Germany, 45 percent in France and 44 percent in the UK -- have to rely on a PC that is shared between three or more people if they want to access the Internet.

"The Internet has not become an integrated part of company strategy. For huge companies, the Internet is merely a tool -- their business does not surround itself around the Net," said Mari Kim Coleman, senior vice president of measurement at Jupiter MMXI.

The findings do not bode well for the government's UK Online initiative, which aims to have all businesses online by 2005. The indication that traditional British companies are still a long way from making the Internet a central part of their business strategy is worrying, and suggests that Blair's goal may be unrealistic.

"There will always be a certain number of the workforce who will never need a PC, let alone Internet access," said Coleman. "We will never see a 99 percent number for PC penetration in the workplace -- the only point at which a 100 percent Internet penetration figure would be possible."

The report confirms that the home computer is still the most popular way of accessing the Internet, but ownership of a PC is still a barrier to Europeans getting online. In the UK, 61 percent of Internet users have access from home, in Germany 57 percent and in France 51 percent. But a combination of "other locations" such as a friend's home, libraries, Internet cafes and schools bump up European Internet penetration figures by a third. Over four million Britons, 5.6 million Germans and 4.4 million French people are surfing the Internet from someone else's house.

See the Internet News Section for full coverage.

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