Vast amounts of new data are published almost every week regarding the number of internet users in Hungary. However, a comparison of these figures reveals major discrepancies across the board. There is an urgent need for reliable data, not only to satisfy interested parties but also because they are indispensable for companies planning their business strategies for the coming year. GKIeNET’s new research report clears up this situation by publishing a regular monthly research report titled “Report on the Internet Economy.” The research summaries provide a precise snapshot of the development of the information and communication technology sector in Hungary, and they also demystify the statistical methodology for the readers.
Internet penetration is documented by several sets of statistics every year. The figures in these data often vary widely, which can be attributed to the manifold interpretations of the concept of internet penetration as well as to the differences in measurement methodology. Theoretically, internet penetration is defined as the number of internet users as a percentage of the population in a certain country, continent or the world. A person who conducts any “online” activity for at least one hour per month is considered an internet user. In practice, however, the concept is often misinterpreted as the percentage of people with internet access, which includes people that have internet access but do not use it (for example parents and grandparents in multigenerational families, where the household subscribes to internet service solely for the benefit of children).
By the end of the first half of 2008, a little over 49% of the population aged 14 and over had some type of internet connection in Hungary, reflecting an annual increase similar to the trend of the previous years. Thus, the number of people that are theoretically able to take advantage of the internet is nearly 4.2 million in the population aged 14 and over.
The data reflect the percentage of the population with internet access at home, at work, at school, at public facilities (libraries, internet cafés) or at any other places. The statistics were produced on the basis of nationwide representative sampling (Szonda Ipsos – Gfk: MOM), therefore may contain errors within the confidence interval (95% significance level) – this explains, for example, that internet access declined between Q2 and Q4 in 2003 as shown by the figures (which, given the margin of error, was in fact a flat period). In addition to the census every ten years, nationwide representative interviews are the best tool for keeping track of the number of people with internet access; online survey panels are not serving the purpose (as they can only be conducted among internet users).
Figure 1. Internet Access as a Percentage of the Population Aged 14 and Over, 2001 – first half of 2008
Source: GKIeNET – T-Home – T-Mobile: Report on the Internet Economy (Szonda-Gfk: MOM)
As pointed out earlier, the above data also include people that do not take advantage of the internet access available to them. An investigation of the frequency of internet use reveals that almost 16% of the population with available internet access have not used the web by the end of the second half of 2008.
Figure 2 Frequency of Internet Use in Hungary Among People with Internet Access, 2001 – first half of 2008
Forrás: GKIeNET – T-Home – T-Mobile: Jelentés az internetgazdaságról (Szonda-Gfk: MOM)
According to the above data, 3.09 million people of the population aged fourteen and above in Hungary used the internet for a minimum of one hour per month at the end of the second quarter of 2008. Hence, the actual internet penetration rate is 36% (36 out of 100 Hungarian citizens can be considered ’actual’ internet users). There would be a small shift in the data if students in computer science classes were included in the statistics, however, this is not common practice anywhere due to methodological factors.
It is hard to decide whether a child, not yet able to read and write, playing online games at a home computer should be considered an internet user. At the same time, it is almost impossible to collect accurate data on the online activities of children. Consequently, to avoid comparison and measurement problems, internet penetration figures are based on the population aged fourteen years and over all over the world.
Internet users – an international comparison
The Q1 2008 data indicate that of the 800 million population (aged 14+) of Europe in geographical terms (with 52 states, including Russia with a population of 141 million) approximately 385 million people have some type of access to the internet. In the EU 27 approximately half of the population has web access. All aggregate internet penetration statistics compiled on the basis of data from international (ITU, US Census Bureau, Nielsen NetRatings ) and local institutions have a margin of error. Romania’s internet penetration rate of 53.9% as published by the ITU and Portugal’s rate of 72.9% as reported by the OECD in the summer of 2008 clearly reflect some inaccuracy in the data, as these rates are presumably not precise considering the telecommunications infrastructure of the two countries. (The high penetration rates are likely attributable to the overrepresentation of internet access data in the statistics.) Therefore, comparative studies on international internet penetration should be viewed with caution. The internet penetration figures for Hungary put out by the European Commission in early 2008 are lower than those of Latvia, the Czech Republic, Estonia or even Croatia, however, as demonstrated earlier, the Hungarian data contain inaccuracies, too.
Figure 3 Internet Use in Selected Countries in the Population aged 14 and Over, End of Q1 2008 (%)
Source: European Commission – based on data collected by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Across the globe, Asian countries top the list in terms of the number of internet users: With 253 million internet users, China is – not surprisingly — number one, followed by Japan and South Korea with 94 million and 60 million, respectively.
Figure 4 Internet Users by Continent as a Percentage of the Global Figure, Q1 2008 (%)
Source: Internet World Stats
Based on internet penetration data, Hungary is in the midrange among the EU 27 countries, far from lagging behind. During the course of 2008 there was a marked surge in the number of mobile internet users, indicating that Hungary is also seeing an increasing demand for ubiquitous network devices. Consequently, the number of people with internet access will continue to grow over the next year.
GKI, in cooperation with T-Mobile, has published a quarterly research summary titled “Report on the Internet Economy” since 2001, containing comprehensive analyses on the progress of the internet economy. The publication has been revised in 2008, with each new quarterly issue designed to focus on a specific topic. There will be three concise briefings for the press and for interested parties based on each quarterly issue, summarizing the key findings of the quarterly reports. A total of three press releases will be sent out in each quarter, which will also be available on the website of GKIeNET.