By Ron Wolfe

Are you familiar with the age-old expression, "Let your fingers do the walking?" It has been and still is an effective tool to bring "buyers" and "sellers" together. Of course, Iím referring to the yellow pages published by the telephone company.

Slowly but surely, more persons are adopting the expression, "Let your mouse-clicks do the walking." The increasing use of the Internet has the potential of changing the purchasing and marketing habits of both buyers and sellers.

It was not until 1994 that meaningful statistics were compiled and the data is hard to come by. Therefore, the figures I am going to present might be looked upon as a composite from a number of reliable sources, with a degree of extrapolation on my part.

Using the definition of an Internet user as an adult who (both male and female) is 18 years or older, and confining it to the United States, the following represents the estimated percentage of Internet users.

Year   % of Users   % of Increase

1994   13   N/A

1997   22   69.2

1998   34   54.5

2000   46   35.3

2001   56   21.7

2002   68   21.4

These figures show the percentage of the adult US population online in the respective years.

The effective use of the world- wide web is opening the doors to international business opportunities for small and medium sized companies, as well as large corporations.

The art of estimating how many are online throughout the world is an inexact one at best. However, based upon the research conducted, the following represents an "educated guess" as to how many are online worldwide as of the end of 2002. (Expressed in millions)

Europe   191
Asia/Pacific  187
Canada/USA   183
Latin America  33 
Africa  6 
Middle East  5

International marketers must be salivating over the prospect of reaching 605 million persons with their business message over the Internet.

Moving closer to home; how many SouthShore residents are on line? What are the demographics of these Internet users? Over the next few weeks, I plan to dig into this to assess the potential of using the Internet to bring "SouthShore Sellers and SouthShore Buyers Together."

Send letters to: THE VOICE of SouthShore, P.O. Box 476, Ruskin, FL 33575-0476. Phone: 813-273-8976.


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