eEurope Action Plan, a progress report prepared for next week’s meeting in Nice, France, of European Union heads of government, reveals a major upsurge in use of the internet by Europeans - both in the commercial and consumer sectors.

Consumer usage, which stood at 12% in October 1999, rose to 18% in March 2000 and 28.4% last month. However, Europe still lags well behind the US where more than 40% of all homes are online.

Small to medium commercial enterprises, hitherto snail-like in their adoption of the web, have suddenly moved into overdrive with some 70% of such companies now using the internet - 40% with their own websites.

EC commissioner responsible for information technology Erkki Liikanen told a conference of businessmen and bureaucrats yesterday that Europe is catching up fast with the USA. Furthermore, the percentage of Europeans venturing online via mobile phones and digital interactive TV remains well ahead of America.

EU governments, however, must do more to encourage consumer confidence in e-commerce and the internet, said Liikanen. He cited recent hacker-attacks on certain computer networks, saying that these highlighted the need for more effective protection.

News source: Wall Street Journal