Digital economy and society statistics - households and individuals

Data extracted in June 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: January 2017.
Figure 1: Internet access and broadband internet connections of households, EU-28, 2007–15
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h) and (isoc_ci_it_h)
Figure 2: Internet access of households, 2010 and 2015
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_in_h)
Figure 3: Internet access in households by income quartile, 2015 (1)
(% of all households)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_bde15b_h)
Figure 4: Frequency of internet use, 2015
(% 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 2015 (1)
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_ci_im_i)
Figure 6: Individuals who used the internet for participation in social networking, 2015
(% of individuals aged 16 to 74)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_bde15cua)
Figure 7: Internet users who experienced security related problems, 2015 (1)
(% of individuals who used internet within the last year)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cisci_pb)
Figure 8: Internet users who faced security concerns which limited or kept them from doing internet activities, 2015 (1)
(% of individuals who used internet within the last year)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_cisci_ax)
Figure 9: Individuals who ordered goods or services over the internet for private use in the 12 months prior to the survey, 2012 and 2015
(% 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 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 and in 2015 rising by an additional 2 percentage points compared with 2014 to reach 83 %, 28 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 80 % of the households in the EU-28 in 2015, an increase of 38 percentage points since 2007 — see Figure 1.

The highest proportion (97 %) of households with internet access in 2015 was recorded in Luxembourg (see Figure 2), just ahead of the Netherlands (96 %), while Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland also reported that at least 9 out of every 10 households had internet access in 2015. The lowest rate of internet access among the EU Member States was recorded in Bulgaria (59 %). However, there was a rapid expansion in household access to the internet in Bulgaria, as the proportion of households with internet access rose by 26 percentage points between 2010 and 2015, an increase matched only in Romania among the EU Member States; the increase in Turkey was slightly larger, at 28 percentage points. Greece, Estonia, Spain and Croatia also recorded increases of more than 20 percentage points over the same period, as did the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Unsurprisingly, relatively small increases were recorded in several Member States that were 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, Lithuania reported the joint fourth lowest increase between 2010 and 2015 (7 percentage points), despite having a relatively low proportion of internet access (68 % in 2015).

Figure 3 shows that the level of income can influence the level of internet access by households. For the EU-28, the proportion of households with internet access in 2015 ranged from 62 % among households in the first income quartile (the 25 % of households with the lowest income), increasing through the second and third income quartiles, to reach 97 % among households in the fourth income quartile (the 25 % of households with the highest income). Nearly every EU Member State displayed this same basic pattern, with the lowest proportion of internet access recorded for the first income quartile and increases through each quartile to peak for the fourth income quartile; the exceptions were the Netherlands, where internet access was equally common for people in the first two income quartiles, and Denmark, where internet access was more common among people in the first income quartile than among those in the second income quartile. In general, Member States with high overall internet access, such as Luxembourg, reported relatively little difference in internet access between income quartiles. By contrast, larger differences were generally noted among those Member States with lower overall levels of internet access, mainly in southern and eastern EU Member States and some of the Baltic Member States.

Among households in the fourth income quartile, the diversity among the EU Member States in relation to the proportion of households with internet access was relatively low, ranging from 90 % in Italy to 100 % in Luxembourg. Among households in the first income quartile, the diversity among the Member States in relation to the proportion of households with internet access was much higher, ranging from 17 % in Bulgaria to 93 % in the Netherlands.

Internet usage

As of the beginning of 2015, nearly four fifths (79 %) 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 every 10 individuals in Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom and Sweden used the internet. By comparison, around two thirds of all individuals aged 16 to 74 used the internet in Poland, Greece and Italy, with the share falling to 57 % in Bulgaria and 56 % in Romania.

The proportion of the EU-28’s population that had never used the internet was 16 % in 2015, down 2 percentage points from the year before and down from 37 % in 2007 and 27 % in 2010. The digital agenda set a target that by 2015 not more than 15 % of the EU-28 population should have never used the internet and this was nearly achieved.

In 2015, two thirds (67 %) of individuals accessed the internet on a daily basis — see Figure 4 — with a further 9 % using it at least once a week (but not daily). As such, 76 % of individuals were regular users (at least weekly) of the internet, a level of use just surpassing the digital agenda target of 75 % for 2015. The proportion of daily users among internet users (those who had used the internet within the previous three months) ranged among the EU Member States from 66 % in Romania, 76 % in Poland and 77 % in Slovakia, to 91 % in Denmark, Malta, the Netherlands and Finland to 94 % in Italy and 95 % in Luxembourg. Norway (92 %) and Iceland (96 %, 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 away from home or work and using the internet on a portable computer or handheld device via mobile or wireless connections. The figure compares data for 2012, when 36 % of individuals aged 16 to 74 within the EU-28 used a mobile device to connect to the internet, with data for 2015, by which time this share had risen to 57 %. The most common mobile devices for internet connections were mobile or smart phones, laptops, notebooks, netbooks or tablet computers. Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland recorded the highest proportion of mobile internet use in 2015, with around three quarters to four fifths of individuals aged 16 to 74 using the internet while on the move; the proportion in Norway was even higher, reaching 83 %. By comparison, just under two fifths (38 %) of individuals in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania used the internet away from home or work, while the proportion was as low as 26 % in Italy.

One of the most common online activities in the EU-28 in 2015 was participation in social networking, see Figure 6. Half (50 %) of individuals aged 16 to 74 used the internet for social networking, for example using sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

Around two thirds (66–68 %) of people in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Luxembourg used social networking sites, in Norway the proportion reached 73 % and in Iceland it was 83 % (2014 data). At the other end of the scale, there were three EU Member States where less than 4 in 10 people used such sites, namely France, Italy and Slovenia.

Internet users experiencing security related problems

In the EU-28, the proportion of internet users having experienced certain common security issues over the internet — such as viruses affecting devices, abuse of personal information, financial losses or children accessing inappropriate websites — stood at 25 % in 2015. In other words, three-quarters (75 %) of internet users (reported that they) had encountered no such online security problems during the 12 months prior to the 2015 survey. Across the EU Member States, fewer than 15 % of internet users experienced security related problems in 2015 in the Czech Republic (10 %), the Netherlands (11 %), Slovakia (13 %) and Ireland (14 %). At the opposite end of the range were Croatia (42 %), Hungary (39 %), Portugal (36 %), Malta (34 %) and France (33 %), while among the non-member countries shown in Figure 7, this share reached 74 % in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Security concerns limited or kept some internet users in the EU-28 from doing certain activities over the internet. Figure 8 looks at the share of internet users who faced security concerns which limited or kept them from doing at least one of the following internet activities: ordering or buying goods or services for private use; carrying out banking activities such as account management; providing personal information to online communities for social and professional networking; communicating with public services and administrations; downloading software, music, video files, games or other data files; using the internet with mobile device (for example, a laptop) via wireless connection from places other than home. In the EU-28 as a whole, just under half (48 %) of internet users had been limited or kept from at least one of these activities due to security concerns during the 12 months prior to the 2015 survey. Among the EU Member States, this share exceeded three fifths in Finland (63 %) and Sweden (70 %) and peaked at 100 % in Romania; a relatively high share (63 %) was also reported in Norway. By contrast, the lowest shares were in Cyprus (20 %), the Czech Republic (18 %) and Lithuania (15 %).

Ordering goods and services

The proportion of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU-28 who ordered goods or services over the internet for private use continued to rise: in 2015, it reached 53 %, an increase of 9 percentage points compared with 2012 (see Figure 9). The digital agenda target to have 50 % of the population buying online had already been achieved in 2014 and was surpassed in the target year (2015). More than 70 % of individuals in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden ordered goods or services over the internet in 2015, whereas the proportion was nearer one person in four in Italy and Cyprus, less than one in five in Bulgaria and around 1 in 10 in Romania. Excluding Estonia (that reported a break in series), the largest increase in individuals who ordered goods or services over the internet between 2012 and 2015 among the EU Member States was observed in the Czech Republic (13 percentage points). It is interesting to note that the share of the population buying goods or services online in Sweden fell between 2012 and 2015 by three percentage points (although it remained relatively high compared with most other EU Member States); there was, over the same period, no change in the proportion of people buying online 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 technological 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 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 internet security formed part of the 2015 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 are desktop and portable computers.

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.


The Digital Agenda for Europe (COM(2010) 245 final) is one of the seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It outlines policies and actions aimed at maximising the benefit of the digital era to all sections of society and the economy. The agenda focuses on seven priority areas for action: creating a digital single market, greater interoperability, boosting internet trust and security, providing much faster internet access, encouraging investment in research and development, enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion, and applying ICTs to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.

In May 2015, the European Commission adopted a digital single market strategy (COM(2015) 192 final) as one of its 10 top political priorities. The strategy has 16 initiatives that should be delivered by the end of 2016 and covers 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.

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 — it is estimated that there will be 756 thousand unfilled vacancies for ICT specialists by 2020.

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)
Internet use (isoc_iiu)
Individuals - internet use (isoc_ci_ifp_iu)
Individuals - frequency of internet use (isoc_ci_ifp_fu)
Individuals - internet activities (isoc_ci_ac_i)
Individuals - use of cloud services (isoc_cicci_use)
E-commerce (isoc_iec)
Internet purchases by individuals (isoc_ec_ibuy)
Historical data (isoc_h)
Individuals - mobile use of the internet (2012) (isoc_cimobi_dev)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links