Close to half of Europeans use the internet every day but one third have never used the web, according to a new report (PDF) published by the European Commission. The study, which took a deep dive into the digital landscape in Europe over the last five years, demonstrated that new technologies are spreading fast across the continent but deep divisions remain and that particularly the elder and unemployed remain largely unaware of the existence of websites such as TechCrunch and FAILblog.org.
The commission’s study showed that 56 percent of Europeans had become regular Internet users by 2008, a jump of one third since 2004. Forty three percent of those EU citizens currently use the web every day, while 75 percent use it regularly (“at least once a week”) compared to only 43 percent in 2005. Half of all households and more than 80 percent of businesses had a broadband connection last year and with 114 million subscribers the EU is in fact the largest world market for fixed broadband access.
The biggest increases in internet use were visible in Ireland, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania. Italy, Cyprus, Romania and Portugal lagged far behind in a what the report called a “source of concern.” Low usage rates in these and other countries like Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain are primarily seen among low-income families, the elderly (65 to 74), unemployed and EU citizens with low levels of education.
The commission’s report also highlighted the rise of so-called “digital natives” (aged 16 to 24) as the most active and creative internet users. Nearly 70 percent of people under the age of 24 use the internet every day – compared to the EU average of 43 percent – and this group regularly uses advanced services to create and share online content (double the European average).