In recent years, the share of the European Union population that access the Internet at least once a week has grown continuously, from 36% in 2004 to 56% in 2008. But the disparity between lower- and higher-educated users remains unchanged. In 2008, only one third of the lower-educated - compared to a little over four-fifths of the higher-educated - accessed the Internet.
The lower-educated are also less likely to participate in further education or training, more inclined to lose their job, and less likely afford technical equipment. In the end, such information deficits lead to greater exclusion. Not having access to information today means permanent social exclusion tomorrow.
In an age where the Internet has become the most powerful source of information, society should not only provide the technology for limitless access to information - it should also make it possible for everyone to access the Internet. This means raising the knowledge and skills of the lower-educated, and offering them a place to go and use the Internet at low cost.
In the southern and few New Member States, there is a pronounced gap in Internet use between lower- and higher-educated people. In Greece, only nine out of 100 lower-educated people access the Internet; for the higher-educated it is at least 65, but this is still the second lowest share in the EU. Denmark, registers the highest participation of the lower-educated: 68 % access the Internet at least once a week. Here, as in the other Nordic countries and other Member States such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany, it becomes clear that using the Internet does not have to be the privilege of the higher-educated.
Outside the EU, Iceland tops the league, and here, too, the difference due to educational attainment is negligible: in 2007, 77 % of the lower-educated and almost all higher - educated Icelanders access the Internet at least once a week (no 2008 data yet).
For more details see table:
Internet use by educational attainment
The data come from the Community survey of ICT usage in households and by individuals and are subject to its methodology.