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<p>LOS ANGELES – A recent report on Internet use from a major research university can tell decision makers a lot about those who matter most to the nation’s credit unions – individual households and the consumers living there. The study is the UCLA Internet Report 2001 – “Surveying the Digital Future”. Among its findings are that it isn’t just our imagination – Internet use is growing fast and filling more of our daily lives. For instance, 72.3% of Americans went online in 2001, an increase from 66.9% in 2000, the first year of the study. And the average amount of time users spend online each week increased to 9.8 hours per week, up from 9.4 hours the year before. (It’s worth noting: Internet users on average watched 4.5 hours less TV per week than non-users, and that includes children.) The UCLA Internet Report 2001 compares new users (less than one year) to Internet veterans of five years or more, as well as users vs. non-users. It’s from the same organization – the Center for Communication Policy at UCLA – that co-sponsored the first “Information Superhighway” conference with then-Vice President Al Gore in 1994. The 95-page report is publicly available at www.ccp.ucla.edu and it makes for some interesting reading. For instance, credit unions’ most valuable asset is perhaps trust. Along those lines, the study concludes: “Many users translate their inherent trust . to the information they see on the Internet.” And the prohibition against credit unions sharing member information may be a powerful tool in their favor. “Privacy is the paramount issue of concern about the Internet for users and non-users alike. Credit-card security is only part of the story; whether one buys online, or simply accesses the Internet for information, or is not a user at all, concerns about privacy remain at the root of a wide range of issues that affect the Internet,” the authors observed. The UCLA study also found that the debate over states collecting sales tax on Internet purchases is far from simply academic: Of current Internet purchasers, 43.3% agreed or strongly agreed that having to pay sales tax for online purchases would reduce their buying on the Internet. (The study also found that in general, Internet shoppers don’t believe they’re saving money simply by buying online.) The study’s authors believe that overcoming privacy and security fears remain the biggest obstacle to e-commerce. Those include perceptions that may not necessarily reflect reality but are quite real themselves, and prevalent. “Most important are continuing broad concerns about using credit cards online,” the authors say. “Consumers have widely divergent views about credit card security when used in traditional purchasing compared to online shopping. “Restaurant patrons who think nothing of leaving a signed credit-card receipt on a table in a busy caf? are nevertheless extremely concerned about online security. Without question, broad shifts in perceptions about Internet security must occur before online purchasing can truly flourish.” Indeed, the report found that 98.6%, or nearly all, new Internet users (less than one year) expressed varying levels of concern about credit card information when buying online. That number only fell to 89.1% of the most experienced Web-surfers. The surveyors also asked some broad-based questions, such as whether communication technology has made the world a better place. The results? Sixty-two percent said yes, down 4 percentage points from the 2000 study. (It should be noted the survey was completed before Sept. 11.) The bottom line? The online revolution is real, and it is unprecedented. “Worth repeating here is a point made in the 2000 report: the Internet has become the fastest-growing electronic technology in world history,” the authors say. At the time of the now-historic 1994 “Information Superhighway” conference, the Internet had little or no relevance to most Americans. “Now, seven years later, a large majority of Americans use online technology, most users have e-mail, buying online is routine and the Internet is viewed by new and experienced users alike as a key source of information.” The center’s World Internet Project produced the report with sponsorship from such heavy hitters as the National Science Foundation, AOL Time Warner, Walt Disney Co., Sony, Verizon, Pacific Bell, DirecTV, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, Merrill Lynch and the National Cable Television Association. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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