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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 18, 2006

Growth of Internet use in Hawai'i slows

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

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The growth of Internet use in Hawai'i is slowing, with about three of every four adults in the Islands going online, according to an SMS Research survey released yesterday.

About 76 percent of Hawai'i adults had Internet access in 2005, down slightly from the peak of 79 percent in 2003.

The frequency of Internet use and access to e-mail grew last year, but at a slower pace than in previous years, SMS said. The number of Hawai'i residents who used the Internet within the last 30 days grew from 51 percent in 1999 to about 73 percent in 2005. More adults also have personal e-mail 62 percent last year compared to 28 percent in 1999.

The annual SMS Hawaii Market Study is based on about 2,500 interviews with a random sample of adults statewide.

SMS said the slower growth is partly because the demographic characteristics of those who do not use the Internet point to groups who are slower to convert to new technology. Many Hawai'i adults without Internet access are older, earn less than $39,999 annually, and are less educated.

Ruby Shimabukuro, an account manager from Makakilo, uses the Internet often for many reasons, including doing research at work, reserving books at the library, conducting banking business and paying bills. Her husband also books travel online.

"It's permeated every aspect of our lives," Shimabukuro said. "Even Christmas greetings we don't send out a card, we send out a newsletter through the Internet."

For Tony Schmidt, a 34-year-old Manoa resident, the Internet is part of everyday life at home and the office. He said everyone he knows has Internet access of some kind.

"I use it for my business, so I use it every day to be able to check e-mail, check Web sites that are relevant to my industry to see what's happening not only in Hawai'i but in the U.S. and internationally," he said. "We also use it for planning trips, making travel reservations ... and also for research, either health issues or looking up schools for the children to go to."

Hawai'i residents are very tech-savvy, said Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida.

"Many are early-adopters, which is why we've had higher-than-average Internet usage for years," she said. "While overall Internet usage may have nearly peaked, we're seeing strong growth in conversion from dial-up to high-speed as users become more sophisticated and resourceful in how they use the Internet."

A recent study by Scarborough Research found that Ho-nolulu was one of the top three cities nationwide in broadband usage.

For most Hawai'i residents who use the Internet, major online activities include sending and receiving e-mail and browsing the Web. The survey also found 34 percent of local adults have made personal purchases through the Internet, and 11 percent bought an item for business.

Nearly a quarter of Hawai'i residents booked trips online, and more than 10 percent got car or real-estate information through the Internet.

The top three Internet providers were Time Warner Oceanic Cable's RoadRunner (32 percent), Hawaiian Telcom (15 percent) and America Online (14 percent).

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.