3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

March 15, 2004 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 15, 2004.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us


Internet in France, 2004


Periodically it is interesting to check out how the Internet "is doing". So many of us take the Internet so much for granted, now, that we forget that the vast majority of the planet still does not even use it.

Internet "omnipresence" and "invisibility" are not even facts of life, yet, in well over 1/2 of the so-very-wired USofA -- as the Howard Dean presidential election campaign recently discovered, to its very great cost -- and "household penetration rates", and effective use of the new digital media, are not very advanced at all, in too many other places. Digital information is getting there, and is a lot further along than it was just a short time ago, but it's not "there" yet.

So, how is the Internet doing in France?... Latest numbers, from Network Wizards: their "top 20", as of January, 2004 --

The above are the total numbers of IP addresses which have been assigned a name: the list is the "Distribution of Top-Level Domain Names by Host Count" -- and for discussion purposes here I have added in .gov, and China and India...


There are so many problems with these statistics, as Network Wizards and so many others have acknowledged and explained, for so long. First come the definitions of "what is a host?" Then come methodological problems of "pinging" and of assessing responses. The Internet was not tailor-made for statistics-gathering. (See: http://www.isc.org/index.pl?/ops/ds/)

And old problems of the "generics" abound: .net, .com, .edu, ..org, .gov... Breaking these down into "national" categories is one of the most illustrative impossibilities of The New Globalization: the Internet not only is international but it is trans-national -- it spans all of the arbitrary "nation-state" boundaries spawned originally by the old Peace of Westphalia. The Internet is a sort of giant, and perhaps even the quintessential, Non-Governmental Organization/NGO.

[See, amid the voluminous international relations literature on the general point: Keohane & Nye, Transnational Relations and World Politics (Harvard, 1972) and Power and Interdependence (several editions), and Nye, The Paradox of American Power : why the world's only superpower can't go it alone (Oxford, 2002).]

So nowadays there is no telling, really, how many "French" hosts there are, in those ".net" and ".com" and ".edu" and ".org" categories. It's like the bad old good old days of the ORTF monopoly in France: when offshore radio and television stations, "located" officially, in Belgium and Switzerland and elsewhere, dominated French airwaves. Voltaire-at-Ferney, redux...

And now new trans-national categories are being implemented, in addition, confusing the statistical picture even more: .aero, ..biz, .coop, .info, .int, .museum, .name, .pro... no idea how "French", or non-"French", any of these are, now... statistical cacaphony... But then perhaps our Brave New & Globalized world is ready for the Demise of the Nation-State, now? Although so far the new domains are showing tiny registrations: as of January --

-- and such meager totals perhaps can be ignored here, so far.

And there is, still, the oldest Internet statistics problem, that of translating "hosts" into "individual users": a single .museum host in fact can represent hundreds of thousands of individual Internet users. The Louvre or the British Museum, for example, each with enormous staff and many thousands of both physical and online visitors, all over the world... while a single .fr host might represent only one little guy, holed up in a small apartment in Lille... and said single "Internet user" in fact might own several .fr "hosts"...

So, how to generalize? What do we know, when we know that there are only 9 ".museum" Internet hosts, or 2,770,836 ".fr" Internet hosts? Not a lot, perhaps...


But comparisons, particularly those made over time, may help:

So, in the six years between 1998's "beginning of the Dotcom Boom" era, and 2004's "Internet maturity" phase -- the overall rate of increase slowed a bit, during 2001 and 2002, but then picked up again strongly in 2003 -- a number of interesting "national" things have happened, perhaps... "perhaps", given all of the qualifications mentioned above, plus several more...

France, it seems, has added 831% to its stock of Internet "hosts", over the past six years -- to its stock of Internet hosts denominated ".fr", at any rate. This growth has been at a rate double that of Germany/.de or the UK/.uk, and almost equal to that of very well-wired Denmark/.dk.

And yet much more has been done too, apparently, in other places: Mexico/.mx appears to have added a phenomenal number of Internet hosts, 3201% over the period -- as have Belgium/.be (1654%) and Brazil/.br (2699%) and, very interestingly for those in France, their neighboring Italy/.it (2250%).

And the largest gains in all senses, it would seem, may have been achieved in Japan: where domain ".jp" not only is the leading non-USA "national" domain once again, but it also has added a phenomenal 1110% to its already-enormous base of hosts.

Again, the labels are unreliable: plenty of people who are "in Japan" are hard at work on .mil and .net and .edu and .com sites, and for that matter on some .fr sites as well, perhaps -- and plenty of people who are physically located far from the Far East spend plenty of time online on .jp hosts.

But the numbers may be generally indicative, at least: of places where growth may have been occurring, and where it may have been occurring faster than others. The Internet in France has been growing, then: faster than in some places, slower than in others.


Another consideration in assessing Internet statistics, though, is national population: what point is there in counting "lots of Internet hosts", in a nation, if there are not "lots of Internet users" there to use them?

As mentioned already, here, there can be lone individuals who maintain one or several personal Internet hosts -- and, at the other extreme, a well-used Internet host may cater to hundreds of thousands or even more Internet users.

The recent numbers here suggest a few startling developments, plus a few which are distressing:

So France, first of all, appears to enjoy a sort of approximate parity with some of its European neighbors, now, in terms of total population per available Internet hosts: 22 people per host, in France, as against 24 now in Germany, or 16 in the UK.

The remarkable statistic here, however, is that of Italy: which appears not only to have achieved phenomenal Internet growth, recently, but also to have done so with a comparatively small population -- so that today there seems to be one Internet host for every 11 Italians. I'm curious to know how they've done this?

Then, too, there are the well-known extremes, which have been true for several years: the heavy Internet concentrations in the Netherlands (5 people per host), Australia (7), Taiwan (8), Sweden (6), Belgium (7). These folks are among the "wired" of the world: the most famous long have been the Finns and the Danes and Norway, where there are 4 people per Internet, and above all little Iceland, where there are 3 -- "It's cold, in Scandinavia", a Norwegian friend once explained...

And the "distressing" news? Well, China and India, which together account for over 1/3 of the world's people now, and which have enjoyed some phenomenal rates of increase in domestic Internet growth recently, still have a very long way to go... in spite of all the current alarmist election-year noise, in the USofA, over "offshoring" and "business product outsourcing" and "callcenters in Bangalore" and "Globalization" and so on, which supposedly are going to enrich them both and impoverish the US, overnight...


Any good analysis, and policy, also must add income and other disparities to all of this population-talk, though. Total national population - per - anything makes very little sense if only a small minority of that total in fact have access to the "thing".

East Germany may account for that higher figure of people - per - host reported by Germany as compared to France: fewer Internet hosts in populous East Germany than in the wealthier West, perhaps... Mezzogiorno Italy may have far fewer hosts available than the wealthy North there possesses, too -- and recent improvements in Italian distribution statistics always could reflect some new national policy to beef up their poorer region?

Anywhere, though, the national population figures can be parsed to reveal anomalies: the economic backwardness of Andalucia, perhaps, for ".es" -- the wealth in the Southeast, in the UK/.uk, far over-balancing the rest -- the US South, and hardcore tracts of its inner cities, and the increasing US prison populations and "underclass".

And the disparities are not all economic: politics and culture and other factors can do much to separate masses, anywhere, from the Internet and other luxuries enjoyed by small elites -- one wonders how much real access there is, for example, among the 68+ million people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, now, to the 496 Internet hosts which they have managed to develop there.

For income disparities at least, though, there are figures readily available now: the follwing is for various years in the 1990s... This is basically the difference between income of the richest and that of the poorest families: the higher the figure the greater the disparity, and the less accessible an Internet connection might be, if you are poor. In order by number of Internet hosts in the domain --

So Brazil's position perhaps is weakened: in spite of having many Internet hosts, and a theoretical ability at least to provide one for every 58 citizens, the fact that Brazil's income distribution is among the worst in the world would indicate that the poor there perhaps are not "online" -- and that it may be a long while before the Mexican poor, as well, become truly "wired".

The US too, though, in spite of its Big Brother status generally in allthingsdigital -- when .net and .com and the other generic domains get included, the US position soars into the stratosphere of the above list -- the US may have income disparity troubles too, similar to those of Brazil and Mexico...

The US anomaly precludes statistical analysis here, in such a short piece: not only must the various domains dominated by the US and its users be aggregated together, but extensive US use of overseas hosts -- ".fr" and ".uk" and all the rest -- as well as increasing overseas use of US hosts, somehow must be divided out.

At a Gini coefficient for income disparity of 41, however, the US cannot pretend that its "poor" have the same access to any goods and services, very much including Internet access, which "poor" citizens of France and Sweden and Denmark enjoy.

Per the above, US income disparities put the poorer US citizen more on a par with a citizen in India, or China, if not (yet?) as disadvantaged as someone "poor" might be in Mexico, or in Brazil... And current fiscal and other policies appear to be increasing the rich / poor divide, in the US. Income disparity is not the only source of disadvantage, so in other social and political areas the US still may be ahead of some; but it does take money, to use the Internet.


So, interesting statistics... France comes out well in 2004, I think: not among the world leaders in Internet growth, any longer, at least on a percentage basis for "host" development -- with the notable exception of Italy, that position seems reserved now for the non-US and non-European nations, particularly Japan. But France still is providing well for its population: both in terms of the number of Internet hosts made available, and in the economic access of the average French citizen to them. Some are doing better than France; many are doing considerably worse.


My greatest hope is that others here will become interested in all of this, and either will direct me to recent analyses which fully answer all of the questions posed here, or will undertake such analyses themselves... As in all things digital, there is too much data available now about all of this: the challenge is to ask the right questions of it, I believe -- and I don't see those questions being asked too often, myself.





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Last update: April 5, 2004