Washington According to a U.S. report, nearly half the nation's workers by 2006 will be involved with information technology.
A Commerce Department report finds the digital economy was responsible for over a third of the nation's real economic growth between 1995 and 1998.
The study issued Tuesday by Vice President Al Gore said electronic commerce and information technology industries were growing at breathtaking speed and outpacing the most optimistic projections.
For example, in early 1998, experts expected Internet retailing would reach $7 billion by the year 2000. But by late 1998, online sales had reached between $7 billion and $15 billion, a summary of the report said.
The producers of computers, communications hardware, software and services that make electronic commerce possible were playing a critical role in growth, the report said.
The fast-expanding technology sector accounted for just 8 percent of the whole economy between 1995-98 but accounted for more than one third of growth after adjusting for inflation.
"Six and a half years ago, there were just 50 Web sites around the world. Today, there are more than six million," Gore said in a prepared statement.
By 2006 almost half of all American workers would be employed by industries that either produced information technologies (IT) or were extensive users of IT.
High technology workers earned more than other workers and the gap was growing, the report said. In 1997, IT workers earned an average $52,920 annually, 78 percent more than the $29,787 a year for all workers. In 1989, IT workers earned 56 percent more than the average worker.
Gore, campaigning to become president, also announced the United States would partner with 10 developing countries to increase Internet use in those nations. They were Guatemala, Jamaica, Bulgaria, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique.