US and European authorities said they seized 132 websites in a transatlantic law enforcement crackdown on online sellers of counterfeit merchandise.

Cape Town - Turning 21 is a major occasion for South Africans, and on Monday that special celebration will be marked by the world wide web which – just more two decades ago – was made accessible to the public.

The web’s worldwide influence has reached millions of people who use the service daily for business and pleasure.

Tobie van Zyl, chief executive of online financial service MoneySmart, said the web had “empowered us to connect, share and serve each other with knowledge and information, to make our lives more effective and efficient”.

In terms of financial services, consumers were now better integrated and in touch with their finances.

“We shift paradigms this way in favour of consumers, and seeing that there is no chief executive of the web, we have a collective responsibility to improve our situation, our society and our communities.”

This had enabled MoneySmart and various other online services to make financial numbers more intelligent, so allowing businesses a visual hook and perspective on consumers’ finances.

“The web empowers people; the more information is provided, the more we can develop better services or products,” Van Zyl said.

But statistics suggest SA is lagging behind in terms of use of the web, when compared to countries such as the US and Britain – also pointing to huge growth potential.

John Ginsberg, marketing manager of online service company Ensight, said that while the web’s impact on business and social lives had undoubtedly been far greater in other parts of the world, “the figures and trends we are seeing all point to a coming renaissance for South African users, as they enjoy what the rest of the world has taken for granted”.

He said much more could be done to increase the overall utilisation of the web in SA, and the responsibility for this lay with the national government.

“The government has certainly made strides here. But there has never been a better time to increase this investment, given a quarter of the population now has some form of access to the web.”

Ginsberg said on a business level, the market was primed for a boost in e-commerce over the next five years.

“There will soon be an entire generation of web users here.” - Weekend Argus