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Russia is Becoming an Internet Superpower


While the big news may be China's active participation in the global networked economy, there's yet another interesting storyline unfolding. By the end of 2008, Russia will be the second largest Internet market in Europe.

eMarketer predicts that Russia will have more than 40 million Internet users by the end of the year. In Europe, only Germany will have a larger online population. Russia is projected to have nearly 43 percent of its population using the Web by 2012 -- up 72 percent from the 2007 level.

"Russia, Poland and the other Eastern European countries are the growth drivers for Internet adoption in Europe," said Ben Macklin, senior analyst at eMarketer. The rapid increase in Internet adoption has apparently taken many researchers by surprise.

Macklin said that although the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have reached Internet usage saturation within their populations, Central and Eastern Europe were the next growth markets to watch.

"Telecommunications upgrades and economic growth in Central and Eastern Europe will ensure a second phase of European Internet growth over the next few years," he said.

In September 2007, comScore World Metrix put Russian Internet penetration at only 12 percent. comScore counts users age 15 and older, while eMarketer counts those 3 and older. eMarketer's number is also for all of 2007, while comScore's count was made before the fourth quarter and therefore excludes users added during that period. Finally, comScore does not count access from Internet cafes or mobile devices (which would actually increase penetration estimates).

The Russian-based Public Opinion Foundation released Internet penetration data for the country at the end of 2007. The group said that 23 percent of the Russian adult population used the Internet at least monthly, putting its counts closer to the eMarketer estimate.

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