On January 17, the China National Network Information Center (CNNIC) issued its seventh report on the development of Internet in China. According to the report, the total number of Internet users in China has reached 22.5 million.
The statistics published recently by Iamasia, a Hong Kong-based company engaging in Internet survey, show that the number of Internet users in Chinese mainland is some 15.2 million. But according to Mr. Wang Ning, assistant general manager of IDC (China), the IDC statistics show that the mainland Internet users number around 16.9 million.
Yang Fenglei, director of the Information Service Department of CNNIC responsible for the survey of Internet users, ascribes the difference in these three figures to the different definition of Internet users and different methods used in the survey by the three organizations.
Iamasia has refused to explain why its statistical figure is so far from CNNIC’s, but reiterated that its figure is the most precise one concerning the utilization of Internet in the mainland and its sample survey covered 31,210 people from 13 large cities.
IDC classified Internet users into two categories. One is accidental type of users. IDC considers that this category is of no commercial value to Internet. Consequently, the Internet users defined in the IDC statistical report refer to those regular users. The definition of Internet users adopted universally rules out the net surfers in Internet bars. But as the case is special in China since quite a number of people actually use Internet regularly through Internet bars, IDC also counted this crowd as Internet users.
To Mao Wei, director of CNNIC, IDC itself is a business company and therefore its definition of Internet users naturally takes commercial value into consideration. But CNNIC is a non-profit-making institution and the survey it made is a kind of social investigation. As a result, the Internet users in the eyes of CNNIC do not necessarily have commercial value, they just need to have access to and use the Internet, Mao said.
Wan Ning considers that CNNIC’s method is too simplified. IDC made detailed classification of the Chinese groups having demand for Internet and then conducted both online and written survey of the each group to draw the proportion of people surfing Internet in this group. The total number of Chinese Internet users was therefore obtained by calculating the proportion of this group in total Chinese population. Wan thinks that it is because CNNIC lacks detailed objects of reference that makes its figure look impossible. That is to say, it is definition as well as analytic method that lead to disparity in these statistics of Internet users.