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The digital divide in Europe

The digital divide in Europe. (Statistics in focus, 38/2005)

During the past decade, Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have become available, i.e. accessible and affordable, for the general public. However, a gap remains between users and non-users or between haves and have-nots. There are several reasons for this digital divide: from missing infrastructure or access, to missing incentives to use ICTs, to a lack of computer literacy or skills necessary to take part in the information society.

  • The digital divide is mainly a matter of age and education, whereas the gender gap is small. Among 16 to 24 year olds the proportion of computer or Internet users is three times higher than among persons aged 55 to 74. A similar degree of inequality is observed when comparing persons with higher education with the less educated.
  • Looking at the degree of urbanisation, penetration by computers and Internet remains lower in thinly populated, rural areas of the EU.
  • The presence of children in a household is a major factor in access to ICTs: the proportion of homes with a personal computer is 50% higher among households with children than for childless households. The same applies to home Internet connections and broadband.
  • Despite increasing levels of ICT usage in all sections of society, the divide is not being bridged.
  • Small businesses are catching up with larger enterprises when it comes to Internet access, mainly because penetration is reaching saturation point among the latter group.

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