Information society statistics at regional level

Data extracted in March 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2016.

Maps can be explored interactively using Eurostat’s Statistical Atlas (see user manual).

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat regional yearbook publication. It emphasises the geographic aspects of the digital divide by presenting statistical data for a range of issues linked to the use of the internet across the regions of the European Union (EU).

Map 1: Broadband connections in households, by NUTS level 2 region, 2014 (¹)
(% of households with a broadband connection)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_broad_h) and (isoc_ci_eu_h)

Main statistical findings

Map 2: People who never used the internet, by NUTS level 2 region, 2014 (¹)
(% of persons who never accessed the internet)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_iuse_i) and (isoc_ci_eu_i)
Map 3: Regular use of the internet, by NUTS level 2 region, 2014 (¹)
(% of persons who accessed the internet on average at least once every week)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_iuse_i) and (isoc_ci_eu_i)
Figure 1: Regional disparities in regular use of the internet, by NUTS level 2 region, 2014 (¹)
(% of persons who accessed the internet on average at least once every week)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_iuse_i) and (isoc_ci_eu_i)
Map 4: Use of the internet for interaction with public authorities, by NUTS level 2 region, 2014 (¹)
(% of persons)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_gov_i) and (isoc_bde15ei)
Table 1: Top 10 regions in the EU for selected information society indicators, by NUTS level 2 region, 2012–14 (¹)
Source: Eurostat (isoc_r_broad_h), (isoc_ci_eu_h), (isoc_r_iuse_i), (isoc_ci_eu_i), (isoc_r_gov_i) and (isoc_bde15ei)

The digital agenda for Europe is one of seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy. It aims to take advantage of the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs), through the development of an inclusive digital society and digital single market, designed to foster innovation, thereby helping to generate ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’.

Broadband connections

Policymakers have made efforts to expand both the geographic reach and the speed of broadband internet. In 2014, some 78 % of all households (with at least one member being aged 16–74) in the EU-28 had a broadband connection. In some regions, broadband connectivity continued to grow in recent years and connection rates have approached saturation (see Table 1).

Rolling out fast and superfast broadband across the EU

The digital agenda for Europe foresaw the entire EU being covered by broadband services by 2013. It is important to note that this benchmark is defined in relation to the technological possibilities of accessing broadband and not in terms of the take-up of broadband connections by households (as shown in Map 1).

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology estimates that almost all homes in the EU have the possibility to access at least a basic, fixed broadband service (running at 2 Mbps) if they choose to do so; a report on the situation of broadband coverage as of 1 July 2014 estimated that fixed broadband was available to around 97 % of homes within the EU.

The digital agenda has also set a target for the entire EU to be covered by fast broadband (operating at speeds of at least 30 Mbps) by 2020. Technologies capable of providing these download speeds were estimated to be covering more than half (56.9 %) of all households in the EU-28 by 1 July 2014 — principally through cable technologies (43.0 %), but also using very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber lines (VDSL) and fibre to the premises (FTTP). The next generation of broadband technology, ultrafast broadband (which runs at speeds of at least 100 Mbps), is also making advances, with an estimated 44.8 % of households in the EU thought to have the possibility of connecting to such networks.

Highest share of households with broadband connectivity recorded in the Netherlands

Map 1 shows the proportion of households with a fixed and / or mobile broadband connection in 2014. There was a high share of broadband access across many regions in the north and west of the EU, particularly in the Netherlands, the Nordic Member States, Germany and the United Kingdom. There were 19 regions in the EU-28 (note that data for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom are only available for NUTS level 1 regions) where the broadband connection rate was at least 90 % in 2014, including all 12 Dutch regions.

The highest share (98 %) of households with a broadband connection was in the westernmost Dutch region of Zeeland, while a further eight regions from the Netherlands recorded rates of 94–96 %. Outside of regions in the Netherlands, broadband connectivity peaked at 93 % in Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail) and Helsinki-Uusimaa, followed by London (92 %), South East (England) and Hamburg (both 91 %), while the western Swedish region of Västsverige and South West (England) both had rates of 90 %.

Among the EFTA countries, four regions — Iceland (one region at this level of detail), Zürich in Switzerland, and the Norwegian regions of Nord Norge and Oslo og Akershus — also reported that at least 90 % of their households had a broadband connection in 2014.

Less than 50 % of the households in the Bulgarian region of Severozapaden had a broadband connection

Broadband connectivity rates were particularly low in some eastern and southern regions of the EU. This was especially the case for the Bulgarian region of Severozapaden, the only NUTS level 2 region to report a connection rate of less than 50 %. There were 11 additional regions with rates of less than 58 % (the lightest shade in Map 1), including five from Romania, three from Bulgaria, two from Portugal, and one French overseas region.

Relatively low broadband connection rates were also recorded across most regions in Turkey (data are only available for NUTS level 1 regions), as the proportion of households with a broadband connection rate rose above 60 % in just two regions (İstanbul and Doğu Marmara).

People who never used the internet

At the start of the digital revolution, access to the internet was restricted to those who worked with or owned a desktop computer. Thereafter, a number of technological (and commercial) developments occurred, such that a wider range of alternative devices can now be used to go online, particularly when people are on the move. Possibly, the introduction of smartphones and tablet computers has helped bridge some of the digital divide, providing internet access to a variety of groups who previously had difficulties in accessing the internet, for example, those with low educational attainment, or those with low incomes.

Almost one in five Europeans has never used the internet

Although it may seem difficult to believe for those of us who spend hours each day in front of a computer screen or tied to a smartphone or tablet, almost one in five persons in the EU has never used the internet.

The digital agenda has a target for 2015, by when policymakers hope to see the proportion of the EU population that has never used the internet falling to 15 %. The latest information available for 2014 shows that some 18 % of the EU-28 population (aged 16–74) had never used the internet, some 2 percentage points lower than in 2013.

The share of the population who had never used the internet was more than one third in several eastern (exclusively in Bulgaria and Romania) and southern regions (exclusively in Greece, Italy and Portugal), as shown by the darkest shade in Map 2. Across the NUTS level 2 regions of the EU in 2014, the highest shares of the population never having used the internet were recorded in the two southern, neighbouring Romanian regions of Sud - Muntenia and Sud-Vest Oltenia, where almost half (47 %) of the population had never used the internet. By contrast, there were 18 northern and western regions where less than 1 out of every 20 residents had never used the internet, a share that fell to just 2 % of the population in two Danish (Hovedstaden and Syddanmark) and two Dutch (Friesland and Groningen) regions.

Regular use of the internet

The digital agenda for Europe set a target of increasing the regular use of the internet by individuals (defined here as at least once a week) to 75 % by 2015. This target was reached with a year to spare, as three quarters of the EU-28’s population were using the internet on a regular basis in 2014. Although the proportion continued to rise (annual growth of 3 percentage points in 2014), its rate of increase has slowed since 2010.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE REGIONS

Östra Mellansverige, Sweden

SE12 pownibe shutterstock 244424527.jpg

In 2014, three quarters (75 %) of the EU-28 population made regular use of the internet (defined here as those who accessed the internet, on average, at least once a week). This share was much higher in many northern European regions (including Iceland and Norway), as well as in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In the EU, the share of people making regular use of the internet peaked at 94 % in six NUTS level 2 regions, one of which was the Swedish region of Östra Mellansverige (which surrounds the capital region of Stockholm).

©: Pownibe / Shutterstock.com

Looking in more detail at the regional results, there were 112 regions out of the 205 in the EU for which data are available, where at least 75 % of the population made regular use of the internet in 2014 (thereby meeting the digital agenda target).

Particularly high proportions of regular internet use in Danish and Dutch regions

The share of the population making regular use of the internet peaked at 94 % in three Dutch regions (Overijssel, Utrecht and Zeeland), the Danish capital region of Hovedstaden, the Swedish region of Östra Mellansverige, and London (a NUTS level 1 region).

The proportion of the population making regular use of the internet was at least 90 % in 24 regions of the EU that were concentrated in the north and west of the EU (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 3); all these regions also had a high proportion of households with broadband connections. Eight of the 24 regions were from the Netherlands, five from Sweden, four from Denmark, four were NUTS level 1 regions from the United Kingdom; while the remaining three regions included the capital region of Helsinki-Uusimaa, the German city of Hamburg, and Luxembourg (one region at this level of detail).

The capital region of Bucureşti - Ilfov as well as Vest were the only Romanian regions where more than half the population used the internet on a regular basis

By contrast, there were 12 regions across the EU where less than half of the population made regular use of the internet in 2014. Among these were six of the eight NUTS level 2 regions that compose Romania (the two exceptions being Vest (59 %) and the capital region of Bucureşti - Ilfov (70 %)), and three regions each from Bulgaria (Severozapaden, Yuzhen tsentralen and Yugoiztochen) and the south of Italy (Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia).

It is perhaps not surprising to find that the two regions with the lowest shares of their population making regular use of the internet were the same two that recorded the highest shares of their population having never used the internet. In the Romanian regions of Sud - Muntenia (38 %) and Sud-Vest Oltenia (37 %), just under 4 out of every 10 people accessed the internet at least once a week.

Regular internet use often peaked in capital regions

Capital regions often recorded the highest regional share of regular internet users. In several EU Member States their shares were considerably higher than in any other region (Figure 1). For example, the proportion of individuals that made regular use of the internet in the Romanian capital region of Bucureşti - Ilfov was 22 percentage points higher than the national average, while in Praha and Lisboa the proportion of the population making regular use of the internet was 12 percentage points higher than their respective national averages.

Belgium was the only EU Member State where the share of the population living in the capital region and making regular use of the internet was below the national average. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Croatia and Poland were the only other multi-region EU Member States where the capital region did not record the highest proportion of regular internet users in 2014.

Figure 1 also shows that there was a relatively wide disparity in the regular use of the internet between the regions of Romania, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy and Portugal; there was also a wide range between the regions of Turkey (data are only available for NUTS level 1 regions). The relatively wide gap in regular internet use between French regions may be attributed to a much lower proportion of regular internet users in the four Départements d’outre-mer (overseas regions), compared with relatively high shares across all metropolitan regions of France.

Internet use: interaction with public authorities

There are considerable differences between the populations of the EU Member States in terms of the use that is made of online services allowing interaction with public authorities. The indicator reflects interaction in the form of obtaining information from public authorities’ websites, downloading official forms, and, with or without prior download, submitting completed forms.

The digital agenda includes measures to promote e-government and exploit the benefits of information and communication technologies to help the public sector develop innovative ways of delivering services with fewer resources.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE REGIONS

Hovedstaden, Denmark

DK01 alarico shutterstock 197116904.jpg

An increasing share of the EU’s population makes use of the internet for interaction with public authorities (for example, to submit a tax declaration, apply for an identification card or residence permit, or to request a birth / death certificate). Almost half (47 %) of the EU-28 population used the internet for interacting with public authorities in 2014, a proportion that peaked at 89 % in the Danish capital region of Hovedstaden.

©: Alarico / Shutterstock.com

There was a steady increase in the proportion of individuals in the EU-28 that interacted with public authorities via the internet through to 2010; thereafter, the share of the population interacting with public authorities stagnated and even fell in 2013. The most recent results for 2014 show a reversal of this pattern, as an increase of 6 percentage points saw the proportion of the population making use of the internet to interact with public authorities rising to 47 % in 2014. The level in 2014 was just 3 percentage points below a target set as part of the digital agenda for 2015, when policymakers hope to see the share of the population that uses eGovernment services in the EU reach at least 50 %.

The highest degree of internet interaction with public authorities was recorded among those living in Nordic regions

Map 4 shows that the highest proportions of regional populations using the internet to interact with public authorities tended to be reported across the Nordic Member States and the Netherlands. The share of the population that interacted with public authorities was also relatively high in France, a cluster of regions in the north, west and capital region of Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium, and a band of regions running from Switzerland through Austria and into Slovenia, Slovakia and Hungary. By contrast, a relatively low share of the population interacted via the internet with public authorities in most Italian, Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian regions; this was also the case across Turkey (data are only available for NUTS level 1 regions).

The Danish capital region of Hovedstaden was the EU region with the highest level of online interaction with public authorities, as 89 % of its population made use of the internet in this way in 2014. All four of the remaining Danish regions, as well as four Swedish regions (Mellersta Norrland, Östra Mellansverige, Stockholm and Västsverige), two Finnish region (Etelä-Suomi and Helsinki-Uusimaa) and two Dutch regions (Zeeland and Utrecht) reported that at least 80 % of their populations made use of the internet for interacting with public authorities.

Aside from its capital region, only between 5 and 12 % of the population in the other Romanian regions made use of the internet for interacting with public authorities

Those regions characterised by low shares of their population making regular use of the internet are clearly more likely to record low levels of internet use for interacting with public authorities. Equally, the use of the internet for interacting with public authorities is also likely to be relatively low in those regions where public administrations offer a restricted range of online services.

Aside from those who prefer to have personal contact with public authorities, statistics for 2014 on reasons for not submitting completed forms online show that just over one quarter (28 %) of those in the EU-28 who had to submit forms but did not use the internet for this purpose refrained from doing so because of concerns about protection and security of personal data, while 27 % did not send forms via the internet because another person did so on their behalf (either a professional advisor or consultant, or a relative), and 23 % did not do so because they lacked the necessary skills or knowledge about how to use such services.

There were five regions in the EU where in 2014 the share of the population using the internet to interact with public authorities was low and varied between 5 and 7%. All of these — Nord-Est, Nord-Vest, Sud-Est, Sud - Muntenia and Vest — were located in Romania. Two of the three remaining NUTS level 2 regions in Romania — Centru and Sud-Vest Oltenia — also recorded very low shares (11 and 12 % respectively). The only exception to this pattern was the Romanian capital region of Bucureşti - Ilfov, where 27 % of the population made use of the internet for interacting with public authorities.

Less than one in four of the population made use of the internet to interact with public authorities in 23 regions spread across eastern and southern regions of the EU (as shown by the lightest shade in Map 4). Aside from the seven regions already identified in Romania, among these 23 were three regions from Bulgaria (Severozapaden, Yugoiztochen and Yuzhen tsentralen) and two NUTS level 1 regions from Poland (Region Pólnocno-Zachodni and Region Wschodni). All of the remaining 11 regions were located in Italy and while these were predominantly in the south of the country (Sicilia, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Campania and Molise), they also stretched northwards, to the central regions of Abruzzo and Umbria and the northern regions of Emilia-Romagna, Liguria and the Valle d'Aosta / Vallée d'Aoste.

Rankings of selected ICT indicators

Table 1 provides a summary for each of the indicators covered so far in this article. It confirms that regions from the Netherlands and the Nordic Member States have some of the highest connection rates, while individuals living in these regions also made far greater use of the internet, both on a regular basis in general and specifically for interacting with public authorities).

ICT access and usage rates particularly high in Helsinki and Utrecht

An analysis of the regions that appear more than once in the table shows that the Finnish capital region of Helsinki-Uusimaa and the Dutch region of Utrecht both feature for all three indicators that provide confirmation of a high degree of connectivity and internet use, while the Danish capital region of Hovedstaden, Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail), the Dutch regions of Friesland, Overijssel and Zeeland, and the Swedish region of Östra Mellansverige each appeared twice.

It is interesting to note that of the 12 NUTS level 2 regions with the highest levels of broadband connectivity in 2014, only Helsinki-Uusimaa recorded a growth rate for broadband connectivity over the period 2012–14 that was below the EU-28 average, thereby suggesting that the digital divide between regions was becoming wider. There was further confirmation of the increasing divide between regions when looking at the 10 regions in the EU with the largest shares of their populations never having used the internet. In each of these regions, the reduction in the share of the population that had never used the internet over the period 2012–14 was systematically at a slower pace than the EU-28 average, while in the Bulgarian region of Yugoiztochen the proportion of the population that had never used the internet actually rose by 2 percentage points between 2012 and 2014.

Data sources and availability

Regional statistics on ICT for the EU Member States are generally available for NUTS level 2 regions. However, the latest information for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom is only provided for NUTS level 1 regions. ICT statistics are also presented for Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey; of these, only Norway, Switzerland and Turkey provide a regional breakdown (the latter only for NUTS level 1 regions).

EU statistics on the use of ICT are based on Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society. The regulation concerns statistics on the use of ICT in enterprises and statistics on ICT use in households and by individuals — only the latter are presented in this article. Since 2005, European Commission implementing regulations have been passed annually, specifying particular areas of interest for data collection, thereby allowing policymakers to compile data that aim to measure the impact of new technologies and services in this rapidly changing domain. The majority of the data shown in this article is based on implementing Regulation 859/2013 concerning Community statistics on the information society.

European ICT surveys aim to provide timely statistics on individuals and households relating to their use of ICTs. Many of these statistics are used in the benchmarking framework associated with Europe’s digital agenda. Selected ICT data are also used for monitoring other EU policies, for example, on cohesion or consumer conditions.

The statistical unit for regional data on ICTs is either the household or the individual. The population of households consists of all households having at least one member in the age group 16–74 years. The population of individuals consists of all individuals aged 16–74. Questions on access to ICTs are addressed to households, while questions on the use of ICTs are answered by individuals within the household. As well as a core part of the questionnaire (which is repeated each year), the questionnaire includes special focus areas which are changed each year. Questions may be adapted to ensure that all developments concerning the use of ICTs are captured. As a result, some indicators have relatively short time series.

In general, the data presented were collected in the second quarter of the survey year (2014). EU-28 aggregates are compiled when the information available for Member States represents at least 60 % of the EU’s population and at least 55 % of the 28 Member States that make-up the EU aggregate. If additional national data become available, these are included in revised aggregates or they are used to construct aggregates which were previously not available (due to poor coverage). As such, ICT statistics are revised on a regular basis to reflect the supply of additional statistics.

Indicator definitions

The ICT survey of individuals asks those aged 16–74 when they last used the internet. This question is asked to all respondents, irrespective of whether they have used a computer (as it is possible to access the internet through a variety of other devices). An internet user, in this context, is defined as a person making use of the internet in whatever way: whether at home, at work, or anywhere else; whether for private or professional purposes; regardless of the device (computer, laptop, netbook or tablet, smartphone, games console or e-book reader) or type of connection being used. Regular internet users are those who used the internet, on average, at least once a week within the first three months of the calendar year (the reference period used for the survey).

Public authorities’ websites include both local, regional and central government, as well as service providers which may be considered as ‘semi-governmental’, for example, public libraries, hospitals, or universities. The share of the population making use of the internet to interact with public authorities covers three different levels of interaction, namely: those individuals going on a website to look for information; those downloading official forms; and those submitting completed forms via the internet (the latter category excludes forms that are downloaded, printed, filled in and sent by post).

Context

The diffusion of ICTs across the EU is considered by many as fundamental for improving both productivity levels and the competitiveness of regions. ICTs are credited with delivering greater flexibility in the working environment (for example, working from home or other remote locations). These developments have created new dimensions of not only economic, but also social and political participation for individuals and groups. Indeed, the universal presence and reach of ICTs has had a profound effect on transforming society, allowing completely new ways of working, socialising and sharing information, irrespective of geographical location.

A fast connection to the internet (coupled with knowledge and relevant skills) makes it easy to carry out a range of activities online: for example, obtaining information about almost any topic; communicating via message, chat or video services; accessing work files; consuming media; buying or selling goods and services. These activities can be carried out through a growing range of devices (such as a smartphones, tablets and computers), while technological development continues apace, for example, in the development of wearable connected devices.

Although the internet is an almost constant part of the daily lives of many Europeans, some parts of the population continue to be excluded from the digital world. As an increasing share of our daily tasks are carried out online, digital skills become increasingly important as a means of allowing everyone to participate in society.

The digital agenda for Europe is one of seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’. In 2010, the European Commission adopted a communication concerning ‘A Digital Agenda for Europe’ (COM(2010) 245), which presents its strategy for promoting a thriving digital economy in the EU by 2020, with particular importance given to policy measures which may bridge the digital divide so that all EU inhabitants may profit from accessing and using ICTs.

The digital agenda contains 101 specific policy actions: 78 to be taken by the European Commission (including 31 legal proposals) and 23 for EU Member States. These actions are grouped into the following areas:

  • creating a digital single market;
  • providing 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.


The digital agenda scoreboard — benchmarking ICT developments across the EU

The digital agenda scoreboard identifies 13 key performance targets for measuring the progress of the digital agenda initiative. A scoreboard with these key indicators — supported by a wide range of additional indicators — is released on an annual basis. These 13 key targets foresee:

  • the entire EU to be covered by broadband by 2013;
  • the entire EU to be covered by broadband above 30 Mbps by 2020;
  • at least 50 % of the EU to subscribe to broadband above100 Mbps by 2020;
  • at least 50 % of the population to buy online by 2015;
  • at least 20 % of the population to buy online and cross-border by 2015;
  • at least 33 % of small and medium-sized enterprises to make online sales by 2015;
  • the difference between roaming and national tariffs to approach zero by 2015;
  • an increase in regular internet usage from 60 % to 75 % by 2015, and from 41 % to 60 % among disadvantaged people;
  • the proportion of the population that has never used the internet to halve from 30 % to 15 % by 2015;
  • at least 50 % of the EU’s population using eGovernment services by 2015, with more than half of these returning completed forms;
  • key cross-border public services to be available online by 2015;
  • a doubling of public investment in ICT research and development to EUR 11 billion by 2020;
  • a reduction in the energy use of lighting by 20 % by 2020.

For more information: Digital Agenda for Europe — scoreboard

The European Commission reviewed the digital agenda in 2012, by when close to half (45 %) of the 101 policy actions had been completed. While the full implementation of the original 101 actions remains a priority, seven areas for new initiatives linked to the digital economy were also identified for their potential to deliver an economic stimulus. The seven new areas included:

  • creating a new and stable broadband regulatory environment;
  • developing public digital service infrastructure (through the Connecting Europe facility);
  • launching a grand coalition on digital skills and jobs;
  • proposing an EU cyber-security strategy and Directive;
  • updating the EU's copyright framework;
  • accelerating the development of cloud computing through public sector buying power;
  • launching an electronics industrial strategy.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation

Publications

Main tables

Regional information society statistics (t_isoc_reg)
Regional information society statistics (t_reg_isoc)

Database

Regional information society statistics by NUTS regions (isoc_reg)
Regional information society statistics (reg_isoc)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links