Digital economy and society statistics - households and individuals

Data extracted in February 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: February 2018.
Figure 1: Internet access and broadband internet connections of households, EU-28, 2007–2016
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h) and (isoc_ci_it_h)
Figure 2: Internet access of households, 2011 and 2016
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h)
Figure 3: Internet access in households by degree of urbanisation, 2016
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h)
Figure 4: Frequency of internet use, 2016
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_ifp_iu) and (isoc_ci_ifp_fu)
Figure 5: Individuals who used a portable computer or a handheld device to access the internet away from home or work, 2012 and 2016
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_im_i)
Figure 6: Individuals who used the internet for participation in social networking, 2016
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_bde15cua)
Figure 7: Proportion of individuals who did not provide any personal information over the internet, 2016
(% of individuals who used internet within the last year)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cisci_prv)
Figure 8: Use of cookies and browser settings, 2016
(% of individuals who used internet within the last year)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cisci_prv)
Figure 9: Individuals who ordered goods or services over the internet for private use in the 12 months prior to the survey, 2012 and 2016
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ec_ibuy)

This article presents recent statistical data on several different aspects of the information society in the European Union (EU), focusing on the availability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their use by individuals and within households. The development of the information society is regarded as critical to meet the demands of society and the EU economy.

Information and communication technologies affect people’s everyday lives in many ways, both at work and in the home, for example, when communicating or buying goods or services online. EU policies range from regulating entire areas such as e-commerce to trying to protect an individual’s privacy.

Main statistical findings

Internet access

ICTs have become widely available to the general public, both in terms of accessibility as well as cost. A boundary was crossed in 2007, when a majority (55 %) of households in the EU-28 had internet access. This proportion continued to increase, passing three quarters in 2012 and four fifths in 2014. In 2016, the share of EU-28 households with internet access rose by 2 additional percentage points compared with 2015 to reach 85 %, 30 percentage points higher than in 2007.

Widespread and affordable broadband access is one of the means of promoting a knowledge-based and informed society. Broadband was by far the most common form of internet access in all EU Member States: it was used by 83 % of the households in the EU-28 in 2016, approximately double the share recorded in 2007 (42 %) — see Figure 1.

The highest proportion (97 %) of households with internet access in 2016 was recorded in Luxembourg and in the Netherlands (see Figure 2), while Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland also reported that more than 9 out of every 10 households had internet access in 2016. The lowest rate of internet access among the EU Member States was observed in Bulgaria (64 %). However, Bulgaria, together with Spain and Greece, recorded a rapid expansion of the proportion of households having access to the internet with an increase of 19 percentage points between 2011 and 2016; this was the highest increase among the EU Member States (excluding Romania, which reported a break in series), although it was exceeded by Turkey which recorded an increase of 29 percentage points between 2012 and 2016. Unsurprisingly, relatively small increases were recorded in several Member States where household access to the internet was already close to saturation, such as Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg; this was also the case in Norway and Iceland (where the latest data refer to 2014). By contrast, Slovenia reported the fourth lowest increase between 2011 and 2016 (5 percentage points), despite having a relatively low proportion of internet access (78 % in 2016).

Figure 3 shows that there is, to some extent, an urban–rural divide within the EU-28 in terms of internet access. Whereas households in cities as well as towns and suburbs had comparatively high access rates — 88 % in cities and 86 % in towns and suburbs — internet access was somewhat lower in rural areas (80 %). In 21 EU Member States, the proportion of households in rural areas having internet access was smaller than the equivalent proportion of households in cities or in towns and suburbs. The divide between rural areas and the two other types of areas was particularly strong in Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Lithuania. In Estonia and Latvia, although the access to internet was higher in cities, there was no difference in the proportion of households having access to the internet between those in towns and suburbs and those in rural areas. In Luxembourg, Belgium and the United Kingdom the situation was opposite to the general pattern, as the proportion of households with internet access in rural areas was higher than in cities or in towns and suburbs. In the Netherlands and Denmark, comparably high proportions were observed for all three types of areas.

Internet usage

As of the beginning of 2016, more than four fifths (82 %) of all individuals in the EU-28, aged between 16 and 74 years, used the internet (at least once within the three months prior to the survey date). At least 9 out of 10 individuals in Denmark, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany used the internet. By comparison, slightly more than two thirds of all individuals aged 16 to 74 used the internet in Portugal (70 %), Greece and Italy (both 69 %), with this share falling to 60 % in Romania and 59 % in Bulgaria.

The proportion of the EU-28’s population that had never used the internet was 14 % in 2016 (2 percentage points less than the year before), down from 37 % in 2007 and 24 % in 2011.

In 2016, more than two thirds (71 %) of individuals in the EU-28 accessed the internet on a daily basis — see Figure 4 — with a further 8 % using it at least once a week (but not daily). As such, 79 % of individuals were regular users (at least weekly) of the internet. The proportion of daily users among internet users (those who had used the internet within the previous three months) averaged 87 % in the EU-28 and ranged among the EU Member States from 71 % in Romania, 78 % in Poland and 79 % in the Czech Republic, to 92 % in Denmark, 93 % in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, 95 % in Luxembourg and 96 % in Italy. Norway (95 %) and Iceland (95 %, 2014 data) also reported a high share of daily internet users among all internet users.

Figure 5 looks at the use of the internet while on the move, in other words when away from home or work and using the internet on a portable computer or handheld device via mobile or wireless connections. The figure compares 2012 data, when 36 % of individuals aged 16 to 74 within the EU-28 used a mobile device to connect to the internet, with 2016 data, by which time this share had risen to 59 %. The most common mobile devices for internet connections were mobile or smart phones, laptops, and tablet computers.

Denmark, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland recorded the highest proportion of mobile internet use in 2016, with more than three quarters of individuals aged 16 to 74 using the internet while on the move, peaking at 82 % in Denmark; the proportion in Norway was similar (80 %). By comparison, less than half of individuals in Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania used the internet away from home or work, while the proportion was as low as 32 % in Poland and 29 % in Italy.

One of the most common online activities in the EU-28 in 2016 was participation in social networking, see Figure 6. More than half (52 %) of individuals aged 16 to 74 used the internet for social networking, for example using sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

Around two thirds (66–70 %) of people in Hungary, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Sweden used social networking sites, in Denmark the proportion reached 74 %, in Norway 76 % and in Iceland it was 83 % (2014 data). At the other end of the scale, there were two EU Member States where at most 4 in 10 people used such sites, namely France (40 %) and Slovenia (38 %).

Privacy and protection of personal identity

Disparities between the EU Member States can be observed in the way internet users managed access to their personal information on the internet in 2016. More than one quarter (28 %) of EU-28 internet users did not provide personal information over the internet, a share that ranged from just 8 % in Luxembourg to half or more in Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania (see Figure 7). As such, more than 70 % of EU-28 internet users did provide some kind of personal information online, many of them undertaking different actions to control access to this personal information on the internet. Almost half (46 %) of all internet users refused to allow the use of personal information for advertising and two fifths (40 %) limited access to their profile or content on social networking sites. In addition, more than one third (37 %) of internet users read privacy policy statements before providing personal information, while just under one third (31 %) restricted access to their geographical location.

In 2016, 71 % of people aged 16-74 in the EU-28 who had used the internet in the previous 12 months knew that cookies can be used to trace people on the internet. Awareness of this issue was slightly higher (74 %) among younger users (aged 16–24) and lower (64 %) among older users (aged 55–74). Just over one third (35 %) of users aged 16-74 reported that they had changed their internet browser settings to prevent or limit cookie use (see Figure 8).

Among the EU Member States, internet users in the Netherlands (89 %), Germany and Finland (both 85 %) had the greatest awareness that cookies could be used to trace their online activities. Awareness was also high in Denmark (81 %), Croatia (78 %), Italy (77 %), Luxembourg and Austria (both 76 %). By contrast, less than half of internet users were aware of this in Romania (38 %), Latvia (47 %) and Cyprus (48 %); low awareness was also reported for Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (both 30 %). The proportion of internet users that had changed their internet browser settings to prevent or limit cookie use exceeded half (54 %) in just one Member State, namely Luxembourg. By contrast, less than one fifth of internet users had taken such action in the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Latvia, as was also the case in Turkey.

Ordering or buying goods and services

The proportion of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU-28 who ordered or bought goods or services over the internet for private use continued to rise: in 2016, it reached 55 %, an increase of 11 percentage points compared with 2012 (see Figure 9). Around three quarters of individuals in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden ordered or bought goods or services over the internet in 2016 and this share was higher still in Luxembourg (78 %), Denmark (82 %) and the United Kingdom (83 %). By contrast, the proportion was less than 30 % in Italy and Cyprus, 17 % in Bulgaria and 12 % in Romania.

Excluding four EU Member States (that reported a break in series), the largest increase in the proportion of individuals who ordered or bought goods or services over the internet between 2012 and 2016 was observed in the Czech Republic (15 percentage points). Unsurprisingly, the smallest increases (2 percentage points) were observed in Finland and Sweden where the percentages of individuals ordering or buying goods or services online were already relatively high in comparison with other Member States; this was also the case in Norway.

Data sources and availability

Rapid technological change 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 change.

This approach is replicated in Eurostat’s survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals. This annual survey is 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 initially concentrated on access and connectivity issues, its scope has subsequently been extended to cover a variety of subjects (for example, e-government and e-commerce) and socioeconomic analysis (such as regional diversity, gender specificity, differences in age, education and the employment situation). The scope of the survey with respect to different technologies is also adapted so as to cover new product groups and means of delivering communication technologies to end-users.

The reference period for the survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals is the first quarter of each year; in most countries the survey is conducted in the second quarter of each year. A module on privacy and the protection of personal identity formed part of the 2016 survey.

Coverage and definitions

The household survey covers those households having at least one member in the age group 16 to 74 years old. Internet access of households refers to the percentage of households that have an internet access, so that anyone in the household could use the internet at home, if so desired, even simply to send an e-mail.

Internet users are defined as all individuals aged 16 to 74 who had used the internet in the three months prior to the survey. Regular internet users are individuals who used the internet, on average, at least once a week in the three months prior to the survey.

The wired technologies most commonly used to access the internet are divided between broadband and dial-up access over a normal or an ISDN telephone line. Broadband includes digital subscriber lines (DSL) and uses technology that transports data at high speeds. Broadband lines are defined as having a capacity higher than ISDN, meaning equal to or higher than 144 kbit/s. Popular devices to access the internet at home include desktop and portable computers, while more recently there has been an expansion in other internet-enabled technologies.

Mobile internet usage is defined as using the internet away from home or work on portable computers or handheld devices via mobile phone networks or wireless connections.

The ordering of goods and services by individuals refers to the 12-month period prior to the survey and includes confirmed reservations for accommodation or travel, purchasing financial investments, telecommunication services, video games or software, as well as information services from the internet that are directly paid for. Goods and services that are obtained via the internet for free are excluded. Orders made by manually typed e-mails, SMS or MMS are also excluded.


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 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


Main tables


ICT usage in households and by individuals (isoc_i)
Connection to the internet and computer use (isoc_ici)
Households - level of internet access (isoc_ci_in_h)
Households - type of connection to the internet (isoc_ci_it_h)
Individuals - mobile internet access (isoc_ci_im_i)
Internet use (isoc_iiu)
Individuals - internet use (isoc_ci_ifp_iu)
Individuals - frequency of internet use (isoc_ci_ifp_fu)
E-commerce (isoc_iec)
Internet purchases by individuals (isoc_ec_ibuy)
ICT trust, security and privacy (isoc_ci_sci)
Privacy and protection of personal information (isoc_cisci_prv)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links