Digital economy and society statistics - enterprises

Data extracted in March 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: February 2018.
Figure 1: Enterprises connecting to the internet via fixed broadband and enterprises having a website, EU-28, 2011–2016
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_it_en2) and (isoc_ciweb)
Figure 2: Enterprises using social media, by type of social media, EU-28, 2013 and 2016
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt)
Figure 3: Enterprises using social networks, 2013 and 2016
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt)
Figure 4: Enterprises having a website and paying for web advertisements, 2016
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cismt) and (isoc_ciweb)
Figure 5: Enterprises using cloud computing services, 2014 and 2016
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 6: Enterprises using cloud computing services, by purpose, EU-28, 2014 and 2016
(% of enterprises using cloud services)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 7: Enterprises that recruited or tried to recruit ICT specialists, with and without difficulties in filling vacancies, 2015
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ske_itrcrn2)
Figure 8: Enterprises where ICT functions are performed by external suppliers or own employees, EU-28, 2015
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ske_fct)
Figure 9: Enterprises making e-sales and turnover from e-sales, EU-28, 2008–2015
(% of enterprises, % of turnover)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_eu_en2)
Figure 10: Enterprises making e-sales, 2015
(% of enterprises)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ec_eseln2)
Figure 11: Turnover from e-sales, by type of order, 2015
(% of total turnover)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ec_evaln2)

This article presents recent statistical data on several different aspects of the digital economy and society in the European Union (EU), focusing on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by enterprises.

Progress in the development of the digital economy is regarded as critical to improve the competitiveness of the EU’s economy. ICTs have quickly become an integral part of how enterprises function: indeed, their extensive use has had a profound impact on how businesses are run, touching upon a range of aspects such as how they organise their internal communications, share their information with business partners, or communicate with their customers.

This article presents recent statistics on the use of the internet by enterprises, covering fixed broadband access, speed of connections, use of social media and internet presence (in the form of a website, homepage or advertising), followed by data concerning the use of cloud computing (either in terms of the cloud infrastructure or software applications). The widespread use of ICTs in the workplace has resulted in an increased demand for ICT specialists and the article also provides information pertaining to their recruitment, in particular the difficulties faced by some enterprises in filling vacancies. Related to this is an analysis of the use of own employees or external suppliers to perform a variety of ICT related activities. The article closes with information on e-commerce, which continues to develop in a range of industries.

Main statistical findings

Enterprises’ presence on the internet

Enterprises connected to the internet

In 2016, the vast majority (92 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 with at least 10 persons employed made use of a fixed broadband connection to access the internet (see Figure 1). This share remained between 92 % and 93 % during the latest three years, suggesting that the uptake of this technology was at saturation point. With almost all enterprises connected to the internet, the attention of policymakers has more recently switched to the uptake of mobile internet connections (as enterprises increasingly equip their staff with portable computers, smartphones and other mobile devices) and to the speed of fixed broadband connections.

Relatively modest growth in fast internet connections

In 2016, approximately one quarter (28 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 had an internet connection speed that was within the range of ≥ 2 Mb/s but < 10 Mb/s, with a similar but slightly smaller share (26 %) having a connection that was in the range of ≥ 10 Mb/s but < 30 Mb/s. Approximately one fifth (19 %) had a connection in the range of ≥ 30 Mb/s but < 100 Mb/s. As can be seen from Figure 1, the share of enterprises using slower connections fell during successive periods between 2011 and 2016 while the share using faster connections increased, albeit at a relatively modest pace, increasing by 2 or 3 percentage points each year.

The use of ICTs has the potential to make significant changes to the way that enterprises are run, the adoption of ICT-based solutions within business processes is often referred to using the generic term of ‘e-business’. Figure 1 presents information in relation to one of the most basic types of e-business that is used by enterprises, namely having a website or homepage. In 2016, more than three quarters (77 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 gave importance to their visibility on the internet and had either a website or homepage. This share was eight percentage points higher than it had been in 2011, when 69 % of enterprises had a website or homepage. Although the rate of growth for the proportion of enterprises with a website or homepage has slowed, in the range of 1–2 percentage points for the years shown in Figure 1, some enterprises attach increasing importance to their internet presence, as witnessed through the development of increasingly complex online functionalities, for example, online sales, order-tracking, product customisation and/or links to social media.

Enterprises using social media

Over the last decade there has been a shift away from static webpages towards web applications which draw on user data. Enterprises have not only progressively embraced this new generation of dynamic web applications, but have also adopted new behaviours. Those with websites have sought to enhance their internet presence by exploiting these possibilities and have, for example, integrated social media into the way they run their business, as well as using these tools to organise internal communications and interact with customers.

In 2016, some 45 % of EU-28 enterprises made use of any type of social media. This proportion rose at a relatively fast pace, growing by 15 percentage points between 2013 and 2016. Social media refers to internet-based applications, for example, social networks, blogs, multimedia content-sharing sites or wikis. Most enterprises that use social media tend to do so for image building and/or marketing products, in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Corporate blogs are websites that are updated frequently, up to several times a day, with posts that contain text, images, audio or videos. Blogs can be used either inside an enterprise or for communicating with outside parties such as customers, business partners or other organisations. A wiki is a website that, in principle, allows multiple users to create and collaboratively edit interlinked webpages using an internet browser. Wiki-based communication platforms may be open to a global audience or may be restricted to a selected network or community of partners.

The most popular form of social media among enterprises is social networks

The four most widely used categories of social media are shown in Figure 2. In 2016, more than two fifths (42 %) of EU-28 enterprises used social networks. Some 15 % of enterprises used multimedia content-sharing websites, while a similar share (14 %) used blogs and microblogs. The share of enterprises using wiki-based knowledge-sharing tools was considerably lower, at 5 %. By contrast, between 2013 and 2016, the use of social networks increased at a faster pace than for any of the other types of social media, rising by 14 percentage points, while the gains for multimedia content-sharing websites and blogs or microblogs were less marked (up 4 percentage points each).

There were nine EU Member States where more than half of all enterprises made use of social networks in 2016, with this share peaking at 70 % in Malta. Although the use of social networks increased at a more rapid pace than the use of any other type of social media between 2013 and 2016, there were some considerable disparities between the EU Member States (see Figure 3). Just over half (15) of the Member States recorded an increase in their enterprise use of social networks that was at least as fast as the EU-28 average (up 14 percentage points); this group of 15 Member States included all nine of the Member States where more than half of the enterprise population made use of social networks. The most rapid increases in enterprise use of social networks between 2013 and 2016 were recorded for Cyprus and Denmark (both up 26 percentage points), followed by Finland (23 points). By contrast, the proportion of enterprises using social networks in Bulgaria increased by just 1 percentage point between 2013 and 2016 to reach 31 %, although there were five Member States that recorded lower shares for enterprise use of social networks (30 % or less in 2016): the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Latvia and Poland.

Use of internet ads by businesses

The internet has become an essential component of communication across the globe between marketers, advertisers and customers. More specifically, for many customers websites have become the primary source of information and are often the place where they seek to purchase goods or services. Consequently, many enterprises have increased their web presence and modified their advertising practices so that current and prospective customers receive news, advertisements and promotions with content that is relevant and meaningful to them.

As already noted, more than three quarters (77 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 had a website in 2016, while one quarter (25 %) paid for web advertisements. In broad terms, in Member States where the share of enterprises with a website was high the share of enterprises paying for web advertisements was also high, with the reverse also true (see Figure 4). Malta was somewhat of an exception, as the share of Maltese enterprises having paid for web advertisements was particularly high (46 %) compared with the overall share of enterprises with a website. By contrast, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy and France reported relatively low shares of enterprises having paid for web advertisements.

Use of cloud computing

In principle, cloud computing involves two components, a cloud infrastructure and software applications. The first consists of the hardware resources required to support the cloud services being provided and typically includes server, storage and network components. The second component refers to software applications and computing power for running business applications, as provided via the internet by third parties.

Cloud computing can be seen as the technological extension of server-based computing: the cloud (internet) functions as an enormous networked server, allowing enterprises (and other users) to use the services by accessing the internet using relatively low-cost devices, such as desktop computers or mobile devices. The principal advantage for users is lower investment in developing and maintaining their own IT infrastructure and software applications. For the purpose of the ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises survey used to collect the data presented in Figures 5 and 6, cloud computing services have the following four characteristics:

  • delivered from servers of service providers;
  • on-demand self-service (users may request computing resources without human interaction with the service provider);
  • elasticity of provision (services may be easily scaled up or down in response to demand); and
  • payable services.

The use of cloud computing is increasingly common among large enterprises

Although nearly all enterprises in the EU-28 had access to the internet in 2016, only just over one fifth (21 %) used cloud computing. Large enterprises (with 250 or more persons employed) were much more likely to make use of cloud computing services, with 45 % doing so in 2016, compared with 29 % for medium-sized enterprises (with 50 to 249 persons employed) and 19 % for small enterprises (with 10 to 49 persons employed).

The proportion of enterprises in the EU-28 using cloud services increased only slightly between 2014 and 2016, up 2 percentage points from 19 %. However, this small increase mainly reflected a similar increase (2 percentage points) among the very large number of small enterprises; over the same period the proportion increased 5 percentage points among medium-sized enterprises and 10 percentage points among large enterprises.

Substantial differences in the use of cloud computing were observed among the EU Member States. In the Nordic Member States more than two fifths of enterprises used cloud computing, with this share peaking at close to three fifths (57 %) in Finland. By contrast, fewer than 10 % of enterprises in Greece, Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania used cloud computing. Comparing the incidence of the use of cloud computing in 2016 with that in 2014, the largest increases in percentage point terms were reported for Malta and the United Kingdom, both up 11 percentage points.

Services for e-mail and file storage were the most commonly used cloud computing services

The two most common uses of cloud computing services in the EU-28 were for hosting e-mail and storing files in electronic form; these services were used by more than three fifths of enterprises using cloud computing services (see Figure 6). Just over two fifths of enterprises using cloud computing did so for hosting their own databases (44 %) and for using office software (41 %), while this share dropped to around one third (32 %) for cloud services relating to financial and accounting software applications. Cloud computing was also used for more advanced services, with more than one quarter (27 %) of enterprises using cloud services making use of customer relationship management software. In addition, more than one fifth (21 %) of enterprises using cloud services did so in order to access computing power to run their own software.

The different types of usage of cloud services in the EU-28 (as presented in Figure 6) were more widely used in 2016 than in 2014, with the exception of e-mail where the share was approximately stable. In percentage point terms, the largest increase was in the use of the cloud for file storage, up 9 percentage points between 2014 and 2016. In relative terms, the fastest growth was recorded for the use of cloud computing for customer relationship management software, as the share of enterprises using cloud services who made use of this service increased by more than a quarter.

ICT specialists

Recruitment of ICT specialists

It has become increasingly common (especially in relatively large enterprises) to have a dedicated IT team or department. ICT-enabled solutions that require specialists to develop, adapt, maintain or support IT systems may include: web solutions for enterprise websites and e-commerce; enterprise resource planning; supply chain management; customer relationship management (CRM) applications; or the use of cloud computing services. For the data presented in Figures 7 and 8, ICT specialists are defined as people whose main job involves ICT and who are capable of dealing with a wide range of tasks concerning corporate IT systems.

One fifth (20 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 employed ICT specialists in 2016, a share that remained more or less unchanged between 2012 and 2016. In 2015 [1], some 9 % of EU-28 enterprises recruited or tried to recruit personnel for jobs requiring specialist ICT skills, while 5 % of enterprises reported that it was hard to fill vacancies for jobs requiring specialist ICT skills. These figures are heavily skewed by the large number of small enterprises in the population of enterprise with at least 10 persons employed. More than two fifths (41 %) of large enterprises recruited or tried to recruit personnel for jobs requiring specialist ICT skills in 2015, while 20 % of large enterprises reported that they had hard-to-fill vacancies for jobs requiring specialist ICT skills. By contrast, the corresponding shares for medium-sized enterprises were 16 % and 6 % respectively, and for small enterprises they were 6 % and 2 % respectively.

Enterprises in the Czech Republic and Slovenia were more likely to report difficulties in recruiting ICT specialists

The proportion of enterprises that recruit ICT specialists reflects, among others, differences at a national level in: the size and structure of enterprises; industrial specialisations; or the propensity to outsource various business functions. Compared with the EU-28 average — 9 % of enterprises in 2015 — the highest shares of enterprises that recruited or tried to recruit personnel for jobs requiring specialist ICT skills were recorded in Malta (15 %), Spain, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (all 13 %).

Among those enterprises that recruited or tried to recruit ICT specialists in 2016, the ratio of those facing difficulties in filling vacancies to those that did not face difficulties was lowest in Spain, Romania and Greece. In these EU Member States, as well as in the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy and Poland, at least twice as many enterprises recruiting ICT specialists had no hard-to-fill vacancies as the number who had hard-to-fill vacancies. By contrast, in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, the situation was reversed, with twice as many enterprises having hard-to-fill vacancies as the number who did not.

Performing ICT functions in enterprises

The alternative to employing ICT specialists is to outsource the provision of ICT services. Figure 8 indicates the extent to which enterprises in the EU-28 performed ICT functions mainly themselves (with their own employees) or relied mainly on external suppliers in 2015 [2]: the figure shows the situation for all enterprises and also the situation for large enterprises across seven specific functions/operations that were surveyed.

Outsourcing of ICT operations is less common among large enterprises

Half (50 %) of all EU-28 enterprises mainly relied on the outsourcing of ICT operations to external suppliers, whereas in just under one fifth (19 %) of enterprises ICT operations were mainly conducted by own employees, the remaining enterprises indicating no clear position as one, more or all of the operations were not relevant. For large enterprises in the EU-28 the situation was reversed, with the share that made use of their own employees more than twice as large (44 %) as the average for all enterprises (19 %) and a much lower share (28 %) making use of outsourcing to external suppliers.

When analysed by individual types of operation for which ICT skills were required, the data showed that in 2015 enterprises in the EU-28 reported the highest share of outsourcing for the maintenance of ICT infrastructure (57 %), closely followed by functions related to security and data protection (53 %), the development of web solutions (50 %) and support for web solutions (49%). For only one of the surveyed functions, the support for office software (such as word processors or spreadsheets), was the share of enterprises that mainly used own employees (45 %) higher than the share who mainly used external suppliers (39 %). However, among large enterprises the situation was quite different. Four of the seven ICT functions were more likely to be performed mainly by own employees. For the remaining three functions — the development of web solutions, support for web solutions and the development of business management software/systems — the share of enterprises mainly using external suppliers was higher, although the gap in favour of mainly using external suppliers was considerably narrower for large enterprises than for all enterprises.

Enterprises engaged in e-commerce

For the purpose of the analysis presented here, e-commerce refers to the trading of goods or services over computer networks such as the internet. E-sales concern the receipt of orders by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving orders, either via electronic data interchange (EDI) or through websites or apps; orders received by way of manually typed e-mail messages are not included.

Figure 9 shows that e-sales accounted for 16 % of the total turnover generated by EU-28 enterprises in 2015 [3], marginally down on the record 17 % share recorded in 2014. Overall, the share of e-sales in total turnover rose by four percentage points between 2008 and 2015, as the share had been 12 % at the start of the period under consideration.

The share of enterprises in the EU-28 making e-sales reached 20 % in 2015

One fifth (20 %) of enterprises in the EU-28 made e-commerce sales in 2015, reflecting a rise of seven percentage points compared with 2008. As with many other ICT indicators for enterprises, the incidence of e-sales is skewed according to enterprise size: 42 % of large enterprises made e-sales in 2015, with this share dropping to 28 % for medium-sized enterprises and to 18 % for small enterprises, in other words less than half the share for large enterprises.

In 2015, the percentage of enterprises making e-sales was 10 % or less in Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania while it reached 25 % or higher in the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany and Denmark, peaking at 30 % in Ireland.

A high proportion of enterprises making e-sales used a website or apps for their transactions — however, the share of turnover from EDI-type sales was greater than that from web sales

Enterprises which receive e-commerce orders may be divided at a basic level into those making e-sales via a website or apps (web sales) and those making e-sales via EDI. Although a far higher proportion (16 %) of enterprises used websites to make e-sales in 2015 than used EDI-type sales (7 %), the share of web sales in the total turnover generated by EU-28 enterprises was relatively low, standing at 5 % in 2015 in comparison with 11 % for EDI-type sales (see Figure 11).

In relative terms, the split in turnover between that generated from e-sales via EDI-type messages and that generated by web sales was most pronounced in Slovenia, where EDI-type sales were 6.5 times as high as web sales in 2015. In Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Finland (2014 data), Italy and Bulgaria, EDI-type sales also accounted for a share of total turnover that was at least three times as high as that recorded for web sales. By contrast, in the Baltic Member States and Greece the share of total turnover generated by web sales was higher than the share generated via EDI-type sales.

Data sources and availability

Rapid technological changes in areas related to the internet and other new applications of ICTs pose challenges for statistics. As such, there has been a considerable degree of development in this area, with statistical tools being adapted to satisfy new demands for data. Indeed, statistics within this domain are reassessed on an annual basis in order to meet user needs and reflect the rapid pace of technological change.

The information presented in this article is based on the results of a 2016 Community survey on ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises. The statistics were obtained from enterprise surveys conducted by national statistical authorities. The results of this annual survey are used to benchmark ICT-driven developments, both by following developments for core variables over time and by looking in greater depth at other aspects at a specific point in time.

While the survey on ICT usage in enterprises initially concentrated on e-commerce, internet access and connectivity issues, its scope has subsequently been extended to cover a wider variety of subjects (for example, cloud computing, social media, mobile connections to the internet, ICT specialists and outsourcing of ICT functions).

Coverage

The statistical observation unit is the enterprise, as defined in Regulation (EEC) No 696/93. The annual survey on ICT usage in enterprises covers enterprises that have at least 10 persons employed.

The activity coverage of the survey is restricted to those enterprises whose principal activity is within NACE Rev. 2 Sections C to N excluding Section K and Division 75, but including Group 95.1: manufacturing; electricity, gas, steam and water supply, sewerage and waste management; construction; wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; transportation and storage; accommodation and food service activities; information and communication; real estate; professional, scientific and technical activities (excluding veterinary activities); administrative and support activities; and the repair of computers and communication equipment.

The data collected can be analysed according to enterprise size classes (defined in terms of persons employed), with data presented for small (10–49 persons employed), medium-sized (50–249 persons employed) and large (250 or more persons employed) enterprises.

The data are organised in Eurostat's online database see Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database below according to the year in which the survey was conducted. Most data refer to the situation during the early part of the same year as the survey, in other words the early part of 2016 for the survey conducted in 2016. However, data on ICT specialists, ICT functions performed by own staff or external suppliers, as well as data on e-commerce refer to the year preceding the survey year, in other words during 2015 for the survey conducted in 2016.

Context

In May 2015, the European Commission adopted a digital single market strategy (COM(2015) 192 final) as one of its top 10 political priorities. The strategy had 16 initiatives that covered three broad pillars: promoting better online access to goods and services across Europe; designing an optimal environment for digital networks and services to develop; ensuring that the European economy and industry takes full advantage of the digital economy as a potential driver for growth. In the European Commission’s work programme for 2017Delivering a Europe that protects, empowers and defends’ (COM(2016) 710), the European Commission proposed to advance swiftly on proposals that had already been put forward and to undertake a review of the progress made towards completing the digital single market.

Broadband technologies are considered to be important when measuring access to and use of the internet, as they offer users the possibility to rapidly transfer large volumes of data and keep access lines open. Indeed, the take-up of high-speed and superfast broadband are considered as key indicators within the domain of ICT policymaking. While digital subscriber lines (DSL) remain the main form of delivery for broadband technology in the EU, alternatives such as cable, satellite, fibre optics and wireless local loops are becoming more widespread.

The European Commission is working on a number of initiatives to boost ICT skills in the workforce, as part of a broader agenda for better skills upgrading, anticipating skills demand and matching skills supply to demand. In order to increase the supply of ICT specialists, the European Commission has launched a Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, an EU-wide partnership that seeks to use European structural and investment funds to alleviate difficulties related to the recruitment of ICT specialists.

On 10 June 2016, the European Commission adopted a new Skills Agenda for Europe which seeks to promote a number of actions to ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is made available to people in the EU so that they are equipped with skills that are needed in a modern working environment, including the promotion of digital skills.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

ICT usage in enterprises (t_isoc_e)
Digital skills (t_isoc_sk)
ICT sector (t_isoc_se)

Database

ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)
Summary of EU aggregates (isoc_ci_eu_en2)
E-commerce (isoc_ec)
Connection to the internet (isoc_ci)
Websites and use of social media (isoc-cism)
E-business (isoc_eb)
Digital skills (isoc_sk)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links

Notes

  1. Data on ICT specialists refer to the year preceding the survey: the survey conducted in 2016 collected data about ICT recruitment that took place during 2015.
  2. Data on the performance of ICT functions refer to the year preceding the survey: the survey conducted in 2016 collected data about ICT functions that were performed during 2015.
  3. Data on e-commerce refer to the year preceding the survey: the 2016 survey collected data about e-commerce that took place during 2015.