Surveying the Digital Future, an ongoing survey by the University of California on the impact of the internet on US society, politics and the economy, was published yesterday – the first of an annual series.

Based on over 2,000 US households and external data, the UCLA opus reveals that two-thirds of all US citizens have access to online technology, up from 19 million in 1997, while around 55,000 new users in the US sign up daily with an ISP for a personal account. Sixty-seven per cent considered the net an "important" source of information.

Says the report: "The internet has become the fastest growing electronic communication tool. It has the potential to provide more communications power, purchasing capability and knowledge gathering outreach than print and electronic media combined."

There is, however, a downside: the study indicates widespread anxiety over privacy and internet security. Under 55% of users believe that all online information is reliable and accurate, while over 60% of users feel their privacy is at risk.

Other key points from the study show that:

* Web-surfing, email and news, entertainment and hobby/information-seeking rank as the most popular uses of the internet.

* More than 16% of Americans who don't use the internet say they wouldn't buy a computer at any price, but only 9.1% believe internet access is "too expensive." Internet users watch significantly less television than non-users.

* Users believe the internet helps them create and maintain relationships.

Meantime, profits from the internet remain ethereal with the once hot dotcom sector continuing to lose both money and stock market value.

News source: Financial Times