- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

The Internet is an increasingly important tool for information and commerce in the United States, although gains are limited by security and privacy concerns, according to a survey released Friday.
The third annual University of California at Los Angeles Internet report, based on a survey of 2,000 U.S. households, said more than 70 percent of those who use the Internet consider Web sites to be their most important source of information.
When asked to rank the importance of major media, 61.1 percent of users said the Internet was very important or extremely important, surpassing books at 60.3 percent, newspapers at 57.8 percent, TV at 50.2 percent, radio at 40 percent and magazines at 28.7 percent.
The survey found that the number of Americans using the Internet was little changed in 2002 there was a statistically insignificant decline to 71.1 percent from 72.3 percent in 2001 but that people spent more time online.
The average number of hours spent online grew to 11.1 per week from 9.8 in 2001, according to the survey.
Among those who did not use the Internet, the study found, "The primary reason was lack of technology; 31.9 percent of nonusers said they do not have a computer or their current computer is not adequate." Lack of interest in the Internet was the second-most cited issue.
Growing Internet use was linked to a drop in television viewing, the study found: In 2002, Internet users watched about five fewer hours of television per week than did nonusers.
The report showed that Internet users are slowly reconciling the convenience of shopping and buying online with worries about hackers and other worries; although the number of those shopping online decreased in 2002, those who did shop online made more purchases on average.
"People are becoming more comfortable shopping without face to-face interaction," said Jeff Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, which conducted the survey.
"In consumer behavior and elsewhere, we're seeing people becoming more comfortable with the Internet experience."
Many consumers (92.4 percent) remained concerned about using credit cards on the Internet, and 88.8 percent of respondents expressed some concern about the privacy of their personal information when they buy on the Internet.
Still, more than 71 percent of respondents indicated they will probably make more purchases online, up from 66 percent in 2001 and 54 percent in 2000.
Although the Internet is increasing as a source of news and information, users reported growing doubts about the accuracy of online information. The survey showed that 52.8 percent of users believed that most or all of the information online is reliable and accurate, a decline from 58 percent in 2001. Nonusers had even stronger doubts.
"As the Internet has grown, we as a society have often heard lofty promises about how it would change our day-to-day lives," said Greg Monaco of the National Science Foundation, which funds the study.
"Today, the Internet has become a regular part of life. This study is important because it can show us how the Internet has lived up to the promises made and where there's room for improvement."

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