Internet usage trends in the EU

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 28 April 2006

I posted last week about Greece having the lowest level of regular internet usage in the EU, according to some research published by Eurostat. Looking at the findings in the report across the whole of the EU, a couple of things stood out.

It perhaps isn't any surprise that the newer members states of the EU on the whole have lower levels of internet access than the more established 'EU15', or that the businesses most likely to have a web presence were classified in the sectors of real estate, hotels, and motion picture/video, radio and television activities.

Business websites were defined in the study as to whether they offered four distinct types of online service - marketing products, access to catalogues and prices, after sales service, and 'customised page for repeat clients'. I don't have access to how the study assessed the 'customised page for repeat clients', but only 18% of enterprises offered this, and only 24% offered after sales service over the web. Obviously it isn't clear from these figures what the overlap is between those two categories, but it looks like it could be that only around a quarter of enterprise websites in the EU are actually 'interactive' with their customers in the online services they provide. That looks like a real European-wide missed opportunity to me.

Graph illustrating different levels of enterprise website service in the EU

Regarding e-commerce, the statistics claim that 23% of private individuals in the EU ordered something online in 2005. It was notable that the survey finds that "Although young people aged 16-24 years are the most frequent internet users (84%), it is private individuals aged 25 to 55 years who account for the highest number of purchases". When I look at figures like that I am never quite sure whether that is due to the 25-to-55 age group having more spending power, or the 16-to-24 age group having more savvy about getting stuff for nothing via the internet.

There is a symmetry in the figures, which claim that 43% of EU citizens use the internet every week, and that 43% of EU citizens have never used the internet. The next couple of years will tell, but internet evangelists have spent the last few years preaching either that 50% of people getting access, or the wider spread of broadband, will provide a tipping point that pushes us all towards 100% access. The figures at the moment seem to show that EU wide broadband subscriptions (23% of households) are increasing at a fast rate, but don't seem to be increasing the basic provision of internet access at the same rate.

The summary of the statistics from Eurostat can be found in a PDF document at the Eurostat site

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