Jean Gurunlian, director of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), said, "Next year, Europe is expected to be fairly close to the US and Canada in terms of the number of Internet users, and by the end of 2004, it will have fully caught up."
By that time there will be 220 million Internet users on each continent, he predicted.
There are already e-commerce parallels to be drawn between Europe and the US, according to the report.
Researchers found, for example, that many purchasing decisions in both Europe and America are strongly influenced by information collected from the Internet.
UN officials have also identified e-government as providing a major impetus for the growth of e-commerce.
The report said, "E-gov-ernment will provide an example and an incentive for firms [especially SMEs] to adopt e-business practices, thus spreading efficiency gains to the economy as a whole."
The report also argued that e-government is an opportunity for the public and private sectors to work together.