Context and Aims
In July 1998 a committee of inquiry of the German Parliament on the "Future of media in economics and society. Germany's route into the information society" presented its final report. It also contains results of one of its working groups, entitled "Society 21" (led by Dr. Sonntag-Wolgast, SPD, Hamburg). The project on "The current state of private use of online services and the Internet" prepared an expertise for this working group. The document prepared deals among other things with the state of private usage of Internet and online-services; the characteristics of users, and their reasons and motives to use the Internet. An important question was whether a new social segmentation was emerging with a division between the information rich and the information poor. A remarkable feature of the project was that users as well as non-users were taken into account. The project report tried to answer these questions by analyzing at eleven empirical studies.
Unfortunately, the politically most urgent question about new social segmentations could not be clearly answered on the basis of the eleven studies under scrutiny. The required time series data were not provided. As to the question of how many users one may count, the figures varied a lot: The Allensbach Institute reported in its ACTA '97 study a number of roughly 4 Mio people using the Internet or at least one online-service in spring 1997 (which included about 2.9 Mio. private users aged between 14 - 54 years). In a more recent survey of January 1998 the Nurnberg based GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung) reported roughly 5.8 Mio. users in total (aged between 14 - 59 years).
These figures are too modest if one is to speak of a mass medium; but the amount of usage of Internet and online-services has reached a level calling for careful observation of further developments or even for special Internet politics.
Zum Stand der privaten Nutzung von Online-Diensten. Karlsruhe: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe 1998
(Wissenschaftliche Berichte, FZKA 6152)
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