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A wide regional digital divide exists in Japan despite government efforts to spread Internet use, according to a recent telecom ministry survey on household consumption.

Households with Internet devices comprised 48.1 percent of those surveyed.

The region with the highest concentration was Kanto, centered around Tokyo, with 53.7 percent of households reporting such devices. Okinawa and the southwestern area of Kyushu reported the lowest concentrations, at 35.7 percent.

Kanto was followed by the Tokai region, consisting of the prefectures around Nagoya, at 50.9 percent. The Kinki region, around Osaka, was next at 49.9 percent, followed by the Chugoku region, around Hiroshima, at 49 percent.

Also coming in on the low end was the Shikoku region, at 38.7 percent.

When asked whether there is an Internet user in the family, 41.7 percent of households in Kanto said yes. Only 23.6 percent in Kyushu and Okinawa said so.

An official said the ministry was “not sure at this point” about reasons for the regional digital divide in Japan.

The survey results will serve as a reference for the government when setting targets for plans under its “e-Japan project.” The project aims to make the country a world leader in the use of IT by fiscal 2005 through such means as building broadband networks.

The survey also shows that city size affected the number of Internet users. Households in bigger cities were more accustomed to and interested in IT than households in regions with smaller populations.

In cities with over 1 million people, 39.9 percent of households reported Internet use, compared with 23.4 percent of households in less populated towns.

Asked if they hoped to use the Internet within one year, 43.2 percent of households in big cities said yes, compared with 33.1 percent of those in towns and villages.

The January-March survey by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications included questions on information technology for the first time.

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