Online in Sweden

Article excerpt

I often lecture about online in Sweden. At a conference in 1987, the organisers had titled my speech: "The Database Industry--A New Branch of Business." This made me open my speech by enlightening the audience that the "business" was neither "new" nor yet deserved to be labelled an "industry."

First, Sweden entered the database scene early. In 1967 the prominent SDI service, EPOS/VIRA, containing some 25 databases (COMPENDEX, INSPEC, etc.) was started. As early as 1972 the first online service, MIC/MEDLARS, hosting databases mainly within medical disciplines was set up. At the same time online searching, using hosts such as ESA/IRS and DIALOG, got a start. Already at the end of the decade online searching was well established in science and technology. In 1979 total Swedish online use was about 9,000 hours. This may seem low but was in those days quite a lot.

In 1983, the number of search hours had grown to about 26,000 of which 55% emanated from the use of foreign hosts. Figure 1 shows Swedish online use from 1979 to 1991 in the textual database sector, distributed between domestic and foreign hosts.

Second, in my opinion, still in 1987 the business did not justify being called an industry," even taking into consideration the rise of videotex and financial services. In 1986 the use of Swedish hosts in the textual database sector was approximately 35,000 hours. In my 1987 speech I estimated the revenues from this to be a modest $3 million.

Since 1987 the online market in Sweden, as in most other countries, has experienced both a large expansion and a consolidation. In the textual database sector, the 1991 revenues from use of Swedish hosts were around $9 million and the number of users almost 20,000. Inclusive of all sectors, revenues from all Swedish online use were as high as 130-$150 million, and the number of users reached 100,000. So nowadays the term "industry" is quite OK for me!

SWEDISH ONLINE REVENUES

Sweden has a small population of 8.5 million and is a highly industrialized country. It is, therefore, of great importance for the country to utilize databases. As a result the online usage has always been high, accounting for one percent or more of worldwide usage.

Dependence on foreign services has always been large, and in 1991 use of foreign services generated almost half the total revenues. This is mainly due to the domination of Reuters in the large financial (real-time) sector, estimated at $70 million (Figure 2). Reuters alone generated almost one-third of all revenues from Swedish online use.

In the textual database sector, with revenues in the region of $12 million, the use of foreign hosts such as DIALOG, Data-Star, FT Profile, STN, ESA/ IRS, etc., accounted for about one-quarter of total online use. On the other hand foreign users generated only two or three percent of the income of the Swedish online services.

The revenue from credit information online was in the region of $30-$40 million, government registers $10-$13 million, and videotex $10 million.

SWEDISH ONLINE USERS

The 1991 Swedish online population was almost 100,000 persons. Figure 3 attempts to show the distribution of those by online sectors--a delicate task since many users are in more than one sector.

The number of videotex users today is estimated at about 70,000. There are about 4,000 users in the financial sector, 4,000-7,000 in the credit information sector, 5,000-10,000 in the government register sector, and about 18,000 in the textual database sector. Taking overlaps into account the total number of users in the non-videotex sectors can be estimated at 30,000-35,000.

Obviously end-users are in an overwhelming majority. There are about 4,000 intermediaries, by far the greater number of whom are textual database users. Except for some ten percent of the videotex users, few persons use online in private life. …