The number of Internet users worldwide is expected to reach 655 million by the end of 2002, representing 30% growth over 2001, according to the yearly "E-Commerce and Development Report," issued by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Additionally, the value of goods and services bought and sold over the Internet could reach £1.46bn this year, a 50% rise from last year, while the value of e-commerce could climb to £2.5bn at the end of 2003, the UNCTAD report said.
At present growth rates, the report estimated that around 18% of all purchasing by firms and individuals could be done over the Web by 2006.
M-commerce is forecast to generate worldwide revenues of almost £31.6bn in 2002, with western Europe and North America leading that market for the next three years. By 2005, sales in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to jump to 40% of total global m-commerce revenue, valued at £142.5bn, UNCTAD said.
The report considers short messaging service (SMS), or text messaging, as the dominant contributor to m-commerce revenues, followed by micro-payments, financial services, logistics, information services and wireless customer relationship management.
However, it warned that difficulties in making electronic payments and concerns over the security and privacy of transactions are "limiting the conduct of m-commerce".
Read more on Business applications
An online system might improve the flow of goods into the West Bank after the Palestinian customs authorities upgraded the technology running the process.