Citizens of The Netherlands lead the world in computer literacy, reports a new survey of 17,766 people in seventeen nations. Eighty-two percent of Dutch residents said they used a computer "at least occasionally" at home or at work, and 72% accessed the internet.

In second and third positions are Canada (79% and 71% respectively) and the USA (76% and 70%). The survey also found that internet use had increased most rapidly in Britain, rising from 47% in 2002 to 71% in 2005.

The Truly a Worldwide Web survey, released Tuesday, was conducted in April and May 2005 by US non-profit organization The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Holland's cyber love affair is attributable to a most unlikely Cupid - the Dutch government - leading Netherlanders to fall in love with computers and the internet for reasons closer to their wallets than their hearts.

Under a tax break program, which ran from 1997 through August 2004, the cost of buying PCs was effectively reduced by 40%. Home PCs were tax-deductible if also used for business, and the savings effectively allowed a new computer to be bought every three years.

But tax breaks were not the only incentive. Explains analyst Paul Jackson: "The Netherlands has one of the most competitive broadband markets in Europe. Early on there was competition in broadband from cable TV operators, which sent prices plummeting and helped boost the use of broadband."

Broadband is also cheaper in Holland, with an average monthly subscription costing €17 ($20.25; £11.60) a month for unlimited broadband - significantly below the European average of €37.

Notable by its absence from the Pew survey is Sweden, where home computer penetration is among the world's highest (79% ownership, 77% internet usage). The reason for this curious omission? "The original sample was chosen for a broader study."

To view the complete Pew report click here.

Data sourced from International Herald Tribune Online; additional content by WARC staff