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Network as the Platform for Economic Power


Do you find yourself online more often? Well, you're not alone. Americans are spending more time online, on both a daily and weekly basis. Home Internet access far outstripped work access time in 2008, according to the latest market study by Harris Interactive.

Both trends could continue in 2009, as America's growing pool of unemployed people use the Internet to search for new jobs, financial aid and 21st century skills training opportunities.

However, Americans are not the trailblazers in usage. That distinction goes to Internet users in China, who invested 44 percent of their leisure time on the Internet in 2008, according to TNS Global.

Americans now rank fifth worldwide, with 30 percent of their leisure time spent online -- virtually tied with Italy (31 percent), Spain and Australia (29 percent each).

The U.S. could potentially move up in the world rankings in coming years, especially if the Obama administration is successful in reversing the declining status of American network infrastructure within the Global Networked Economy.

Since 2001, the average amount of time U.S. adults spent online per week doubled, from 7 hours to 14 hours. Harris Interactive annual telephone poll revealed that average Internet hours grew slowly between 2001 and 2006, but took off in 2007 and increased even more rapidly in 2008.

At-home usage saw a more dramatic surge during that time, according to the USC Annenberg School "Center for the Digital Future." Their yearly survey found that U.S. Internet users spent an average of 15.3 hours per week online in 2007, compared with about 9 hours the year before.

There's reason to be hopeful that the $6 to $9 billion funding for broadband in the stimulus package proposal is a good starting point, or appropriate down payment, on the long-term investment strategy that the U.S. must undertake -- in order to achieve real progress that will turn the tide on economic competitiveness.

It's somewhat ironic that the largest communist legacy nation in the world has surpassed the world's most recognized democratic nation. Clearly, forward-looking public policy can deliver powerful results in the Global Networked Economy -- regardless of the political ideology of a country's leadership.

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