Digital economy and digital society statistics at regional level
Data extracted in March 2018.
Planned article update: September 2019.
All households in Flevoland (the Netherlands) and Mellersta Norrland (Sweden) had broadband access at home.
More than three quarters of all adults (aged 16-74 years) living in Hovedstaden (Denmark), Prov. West-Vlaanderen (Belgium), Stockholm and Mellersta Norrland (Sweden) and Wales (the United Kingdom) used social media.
Information and communication technology (ICTs) affect people’s everyday lives in many ways, both at work and in the home, for example, when communicating, keeping abreast of the news, interacting with public authorities, buying goods online or being entertained. However, to be able to benefit from technological changes, people need a fast and reliable internet connection (whether fixed or mobile).
Access to ICTs is considered, by many, as fundamental for improving both productivity levels and the competitiveness of regions. ICTs are credited with delivering greater flexibility in work environments (for example, permitting people to work from home or from other remote locations), while offering a broad range of options for staying in contact with colleagues, family and friends. These developments have created new dimensions of not only economic, but also social and political participation, which allow completely new ways of working, socialising and sharing information, irrespective of geographical location.
As the internet and digital technologies transform the world, ICT innovations provide a stream of new business opportunities that are likely to underpin competitiveness, jobs and future economic growth. It is hoped that this new digital world, the internet of things — which is working its way into almost all aspects of society — will provide tools that may be applied to a range of European Union (EU) policy objectives in fields as diverse as health, security, climate, transport, energy, or modernisation of the public sector.
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 a growing share of tasks are carried out exclusively online, digital skills and access to technology become increasingly important as a means of allowing everyone to participate in the digital society.
This article emphasises the geographic aspects of this digital divide, presenting statistics for NUTS level 2 regions and by degree of urbanisation. The information shown includes the following topics: the proportion of households that have broadband access at home; the share of the population that makes daily use of the internet, participates in social networks, uses internet banking, or online telephone and video calls. The article closes with information on e-commerce.
For more information:
Eurostat’s online publication, Digital economy & society in the EU — a browse through our online world in figures — 2018 edition, may be found: here
The most popular types of broadband access to the internet are via a digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable: the first of these is almost universally available across the EU, whereas (high-speed) cable services are less widespread and are sometimes restricted to more densely-populated areas — explaining, at least in part, why the use of the internet is lower in rural areas.
The Digital Agenda for Europe set two targets for broadband access speeds, namely that everybody in the EU should have a 30 Mbps connection by 2020, while half of all households should be in a position to subscribe to a 100 Mbps service by the same date. The share of households with broadband access is closely linked to infrastructure investment and in some cases market forces do not always lead to socially desirable outcomes, with public funding initiatives sometimes being needed to ensure that fast and ultra-fast broadband services are extended to rural and peripheral regions. With this in mind, the European Commission published a set of guidelines for the application of State aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks in 2013.
In every region of the EU, more than half of all households had broadband access at home
Map 1 shows the share of households with broadband access at home in 2017; across the whole of the EU-28, this averaged 85 %. Broadband access rates ranged between 55 % and 100 % when analysing the results by NUTS level 2 regions. Note that the data presented for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom relate to NUTS level 1 regions.
In 2017, the lowest share of households with broadband access was recorded in the French overseas region of La Réunion, with access rates some two percentage points higher in Severozapaden (which had the lowest GDP per capita in the EU). At the other end of the range, the highest broadband access rates were in Mellersta Norrland (Sweden; data are of low reliability) and Flevoland (the Netherlands), both of which had complete broadband coverage, while rates of 98 % or 99 % were recorded in seven more Dutch regions and the Finnish capital city region of Helsinki-Uusimaa.At least 9 out of every 10 households had broadband access in a total of 50 different regions across the EU in 2017 (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 1). These regions were concentrated in the Nordic Member States, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail), although there were two other regions with rates of at least 90 %: Southern and Eastern (Ireland) and Steiermark (southern Austria). The highest shares of households with broadband access in the eastern regions of the EU were recorded in the capital city regions of Közép-Magyarország (Hungary) and Praha (the Czech Republic), both with shares of 89 % which was identical to the share recorded in Comunidad de Madrid, which had the highest share among southern regions of the EU.
Internet use and activities
Although internet access was initially confined largely to persons who worked with or owned a desktop computer, subsequent technological (and commercial) developments led to a broader range of devices that could be used to go online. These developments meant that people were no longer tied to a desktop computer and that internet access on the move became a norm, resulting in an expansion of internet use.
The highest shares of people making daily use of the internet were recorded in regions across the Netherlands and the Nordic Member States
An internet user 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 (desktop computer, laptop, netbook or tablet, smart phone, games console or e-book reader) or type of connection being used. In 2017, just less than three quarters (72 %) of the EU-28 population (aged 16-74 years) used the internet on a daily basis, during the three months prior to being surveyed. The proportion of the population that made daily use of the internet ranged from 40 % up to 95 % when analysing the results by NUTS level 2 regions. Note again that the data presented for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom relate to NUTS level 1 regions.
Looking in more detail at individuals’ daily use of the internet, there were widespread disparities between the EU Member States. These differences are often along broad geographical lines with northern and western Member States generally recording higher levels of internet use than the Member States located in the south or east (thereby repeating the patterns already observed for household broadband access). In 2017, there were 30 regions in the EU where fewer than 60 % of adults (aged 16-74 years) made daily use of the internet (as shown by the lightest shade in Map 2). These regions were predominantly located in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, France, southern Italy and Portugal. The five lowest shares of daily internet users in the EU regions were all located in Romania, with the lowest proportion in Nord-Est (40 %). The capital city regions of Yugozapaden and Bucuresti - Ilfov were the only regions in Bulgaria and Romania where at least 60 % of all adults made daily use of the internet. All but one of the French regions with relatively low shares of daily internet users were island regions (Corse, Martinique, La Réunion and Guadeloupe); the exception was the eastern mainland region of Franche-Comté. By contrast, all but one of the mainland regions in Portugal had a share of daily internet users that was less than 60 %; aside from the capital city region of Área Metropolitana de Lisboa, the other two Portuguese regions with higher shares of daily internet users were the Regiões Autónomas dos Açores e da Madeira.At the other end of the ranking, there were 19 regions in the EU where at least 9 out of every 10 adults were daily internet users. In 2017, the highest proportion of daily internet users (95 %) was in the Dutch region of Flevoland (where all households had broadband access). Flevoland was one of eight regions in the Netherlands to report at least 90 % of its adults made daily use of the internet, while the same was true for five different regions in Sweden, three in Denmark and one in Finland, confirming the relatively high propensity to make use of the internet in the Nordic Member States. This group of 19 regions was completed by Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail) and South East (United Kingdom — a NUTS level 1 region).
As the share of the EU-28 population that makes regular use of the internet approaches saturation, policymakers have turned their attention towards the types of activities that Europeans carry out on the internet. The use of mobile devices (such as smart phones and tablets) to access the internet away from home or work has increased greatly, complementing or replacing more traditional fixed connections. This development has resulted in changes to the ways in which people use the internet. It should be remembered that it is only a decade since the first commercially successful application stores were launched on the internet.
One of the most popular pastimes for many people who use the internet is to participate in social networks. More than half (54 %) of the EU-28 adult population (aged 16-74 years) took part in social networking during the three months prior to the latest survey in 2017, for example using sites such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. The propensity to make use of such services is closely linked to age, with a much higher proportion of younger people using social media. Younger people are also more prone to changing service, as their peers adopt new Apps and ways of exchanging information with each other.
The EU regions with the highest use of social media were principally located in Belgium, the Nordic Member States and the United Kingdom
Map 3 shows regional patterns for participation in social networks. Note once again that the information for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom relates to NUTS level 1 regions. In 2017, there were 28 regions in the EU where at least 70 % of the adult population used social media. Most of these regions were concentrated in Belgium, the Nordic Member States and the United Kingdom, with Malta (a single region at this level of detail) and the Dutch capital city region of Noord-Holland the only two exceptions. The highest proportion of adults participating in social networks was in Mellersta Norrland (85 %; data are of low reliability) — one of the two regions in the EU where all households had broadband access — followed by the Danish capital city region of Hovedstaden (79 %) and three regions that each recorded a 76 % share, namely, Prov. West-Vlaanderen (Belgium), Stockholm (Sweden) and Wales (the United Kingdom). It is interesting to note that in the United Kingdom the highest shares of people making use of social networks were recorded in Wales, Scotland, Yorkshire and the Humber and North West, whereas in the south-east of England and in Northern Ireland somewhat lower shares of the population made use of social networks, although these remained higher than the EU-28 average.
Contrary to the information presented in the first two maps, some of the highest levels of participation for social networking were recorded in eastern and southern Europe, for example, Malta (already mentioned above), or the regions of Közép-Dunántúl and Közép-Magyarország (in Hungary) and Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (in Portugal); all four of these regions reported at least 65 % of their adult populations making use of social media in 2017.At the other end of the range, the incidence of participation in social networks fell to less than 40 % in several regions of France, two regions of Italy and one German region. Alongside the French overseas region of La Réunion (which had the lowest share in the EU, at 34 %), there were four mainland French regions where fewer than two out of every five adults participated in social networks in 2017 — the largely rural areas of Basse-Normandie, Poitou-Charentes and Limousin, as well as Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur — all of these regions are retirement destinations. The only other regions in the EU where less than 40 % of the adult population participated in social networks were Calabria and Puglia in southern Italy, and Brandenburg (which encircles Berlin) in Germany.
Internet banking is defined as accessing online account information or making electronic transactions to a bank, payments or transfers. The share of people using internet banking may reflect, among others: the availability of internet banking platforms; consumer trust in internet banking; the ease with which consumers can visit a local bank branch.
Internet banking was particularly popular among people living in the capital city regions of Denmark, Finland and Sweden
The share of people who made use of internet banking was slightly lower than the share using social media, as the proportion of adults (aged 16-74 years) in the EU-28 who used internet banking during the three months prior to being surveyed in 2017 was 51 %. Map 4 shows some quite clear patterns insofar as there was a very high share of people making use of internet banking in the Nordic and Benelux Member States, as well as Estonia (a single region at this level of detail) and several regions in the south of the United Kingdom (note the information is presented for NUTS level 1 regions). The three highest proportions were recorded in the Nordic capital city regions: Hovedstaden (93 %), Helsinki-Uusimaa (92 %) and Noord-Holland (91 %). Syddanmark in Denmark, Drenthe and Groningen in the Netherlands, and Övre Norrland in Sweden were the only other regions in the EU where at least 9 out of 10 persons made use of internet banking in 2017.By contrast, there were 11 regions in the EU where less than 1 in 10 adults used internet banking in 2017, all of which were located in Bulgaria or Romania. The lowest shares were recorded in Yuzhen tsentralen (Bulgaria) and Sud-Vest Oltenia (Romania), with no more than 1 in 50 adults making use of internet banking in both of these regions. Aside from the Bulgarian and Romanian regions, the share of the adult population using internet banking was also relatively low — less than 25 % — in all but one of the Greek regions (the exception was the capital city region of Attiki; note that information is presented for NUTS level 1 regions) and in the Norte region of Portugal.
Online telephone or video calls
Telephoning over the internet is a relatively inexpensive method to communicate. Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) and peer-to-peer telephony have become important methods for making (free) calls over the internet (or to fixed/mobile lines via a pre-paid credit). These services subsequently developed to offer visual communication too, often taking advantage of built-in web cameras to deliver video calls. These features are usually made accessible by installing a program/application (such as Skype, Facetime, or WhatsApp).
Almost two thirds of people living in the cities of Bulgaria and Lithuania made use of online telephone or video calls
Figure 1 shows the proportion of people using online telephone or video calls, by degree of urbanisation. Across the EU-28, almost 4 out of every 10 adults (aged 16-74 years) made use of online telephony or video calls during the three months prior to the survey in 2017. The use of these services was higher among people living in cities (43 %) than it was for people in towns and suburbs (38 %) or rural areas (33 %).
This pattern was repeated in the vast majority of the EU Member States, with people living in cities accounting for the highest use of online telephone or video calls and people living in rural areas for the lowest shares. In the United Kingdom, a relatively high proportion of people living in rural areas (compared with people living in towns and suburbs) made use of these services, while the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta both had different patterns: for the former, the highest propensity to use online telephone or video calls was recorded for people living in towns and suburbs, whereas for the latter, these services were most often used by people living in rural areas.Although the take-up of many internet-based services and activities was quite low in eastern EU Member States, a different pattern emerges in relation to the use of online telephony or video calls. Almost two thirds of people living in the cities of Bulgaria made use of these services (both 64 %), which was the joint second highest share (with Lithuania) among the EU Member States, behind Danish city-dwellers (68 %). By contrast, the use of online telephone or video calls was particularly low in Italy, France and Spain (irrespective of where people were living).
E-commerce makes it easier for consumers to compare different retail offers and make purchases without leaving home. Indeed, some traditional retail formats/sectors are coming under increasing pressure, as witnessed through a series of high-profile store closures.
For the purpose of this publication, e-commerce is defined as the sale or purchase of goods or services through electronic transactions, including the placing of orders for goods or services over the internet (payment and the ultimate delivery of the goods or service may be conducted either online or offline; orders via manually typed e-mails are excluded). Statistics on e-commerce include purchases of goods such as books, DVDs, groceries, clothes and electrical/electronic goods, as well as purchases of services such as music and video streaming services, reservations for accommodation and travel, or lottery tickets.
People living in East of England, South West and South East — three regions in the south of the United Kingdom — had the greatest propensity to use e-commerce
As for internet banking, an individual’s choice as to whether or not they use e-commerce often comes down to a matter of trust. In 2017, 57 % of the EU-28 population aged 16-74 years, reported that they had made online purchases of goods or services in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Based on an analysis of the 2017 survey results by NUTS level 2 region, the propensity of people to use e-commerce ranged between 11 % and 88 %. Note that the data presented for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom relate to NUTS level 1 regions. There were 23 regions in the EU where at least four out of every five adults made use of e-commerce in the 12 months preceding the 2017 survey (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 5). Among these, the highest use of e-commerce was in southern regions of the United Kingdom, as at least 85 % of people used e-commerce in the East of England, South West and South East (where a peak of 88 % was recorded). Aside from eight regions in the United Kingdom, the propensity to use e-commerce also covered at least 80 % of the adult population in six out of the eight regions in Sweden, four regions in the Netherlands, two regions in each of Denmark and Germany, as well as in Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail). By contrast, all regions in Bulgaria and Romania reported that less than 30 % of their adult populations made online purchases of goods and services (as shown by the lightest shade in Map 5). They were joined by 11 additional regions, a majority of which — six regions — were located in southern Italy, while there were also two regions in each of Croatia and Portugal, and a single region in Greece.E-commerce has the potential to reconfigure the geography of consumption, for example, extending consumer choice and reducing prices in remote regions of the EU, while removing the burden of travelling considerable distances to shop for specific items. It is interesting to note that a relatively high share of the population made use of e-commerce in several rural, island and sparsely-populated regions of the EU. For example, in Sweden (where e-commerce was generally common), some of the highest shares of people making use of e-commerce were recorded in Mellersta Norrland (data are of low reliability) and Övre Norrland. In a similar vein, in Greece and Portugal (where e-commerce was generally less common), some of the highest shares of people making use of e-commerce were recorded in Nisia Aigaiou and Kriti or in Alentejo and Região Autónoma da Madeira, again regions with large rural areas.
According to the 2017 survey, just less than one third (31 %) of the EU-28’s adult population (aged 16-74 years) made use of internet-based services to book travel and/or holiday accommodation online during the 12 months prior to the survey. Figure 2 shows that the share of people using these services was considerably higher in cities (37 %), than it was in either towns and suburbs (29 %) or rural areas (24 %).The market for these services was particularly developed in western parts of the EU, with more than half the adult populations of Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands making use of such services. An analysis by degree of urbanisation reveals that city-dwellers recorded the highest propensity to make use of internet-based services to book travel and/or holiday accommodation online in the vast majority of the EU Member States; the only exceptions were the United Kingdom (where the highest share was recorded for people living in rural areas) and Malta (where the highest share was recorded for people living in towns and suburbs).
Source data for figures and maps
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 the EU’s digital scoreboard. EU statistics on the use of ICT are based on Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society. This regulation concerns statistics on the use of ICT in enterprises as well as 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 have access to data that aim to measure the impact of new technologies and services in this rapidly changing domain.
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 years. Questions on access to ICTs are addressed to households, while questions on the use of ICTs are answered by individuals within the household.
In general, the data presented were collected in the second quarter of the survey year (2017). EU-28 aggregates are compiled when the information available for EU 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; as such, these statistics may be revised to reflect the supply of additional information.
Regional statistics on ICT for the EU Member States are generally available for NUTS level 2 regions. However, the latest data for Germany, Greece, Poland and the United Kingdom are only provided for NUTS level 1 regions.
For more information:
In May 2015, the European Commission adopted a digital single market strategy (COM(2015) 192 final) as one of its top 10 political priorities for the period 2015-2019. The strategy 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. Work in this area focused on, among others: improving rules to make cross-border e-commerce easier; delivering more efficient and affordable parcel deliveries; ending geo-blocking by online sellers for commercial reasons; launching an anti-trust competition enquiry into e-commerce in the EU; delivering proposals to modernise copyright rules to facilitate wider online availability of content; or reducing VAT burdens.
At the end of 2015, the European Commission published a framework called monitoring the digital economy and society 2016-2021. This describes main policy developments and outlines data requirements for these, with a digital scoreboard introduced to measure progress in the European digital economy.
The European Commission adopted a review of the digital single market; two years on during 2016 and this was followed in May 2017 by a mid-term review of the digital single market strategy (COM(2017) 228 final) which confirmed that two thirds of Europeans thought the introduction of the most recent digital technologies had a positive impact on society, the economy and their own lives. The review also identified three emerging challenges:
- to ensure that online platforms continue to bring benefit to the economy and society — tacking illegal content online and encouraging enhanced responsibility among online platform providers;
- to develop the European data economy to its full potential — for example, by making proposals for the free flow of non-personal data within the EU; and,
- to protect Europe’s assets by tackling cybersecurity challenges — including a blueprint for rapid emergency responses in case of a large scale cyber incident.
At a regional level, over EUR 20 billion of funding has been made available through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and cohesion fund for ICT investments during the period 2014-2020. These investments are principally designed to support the European Commission’s action to create a digital single market. The ERDF prioritises: extending broadband deployment and the roll-out of high-speed networks; developing ICT products and services and e-commerce; strengthening ICT applications for e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, e-culture and e-health. As a result of regional funding initiatives, over 5 million additional people have been connected to broadband and more than 20 thousand ICT projects have received ERDF support.
For more information:
- ICT usage in households and by individuals (t_isoc_i)
- Regional information society statistics (t_isoc_reg)
- Regional digital economy and society (t_reg_isoc)
- ICT usage in households and by individuals (isoc_i)
- Regional ICT statistics (isoc_reg)
- Regional digital economy and society (reg_isoc)
- ICT usage in households and by individuals (ESMS metadata file — isoc_i_esms)
- Methodological manuals for statistics on the information society
- Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 of 21 April 2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
- Regulation (EC) No 1006/2009 of 16 September 2009 amending Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society