CSO highlights Ireland’s digital debacle

20 Dec 2006

Only 26pc of Irish households with internet access actually have broadband, a stark contrast with the European average which is 62pc.

That was the shock finding in the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) Information Society and Telecommunications 2006 report, signalling the lasting impact of Ireland’s lamentably frustrated broadband market.

However, the report did point to some growth. In the second quarter of 2005 broadband was used by just under 22pc of all subscribers to the internet, including those in the workplace. By the second quarter of 2006 this had risen to 39pc.

The number of broadband subscribers in Ireland increased from 176,300 in the second quarter of 2005 to 372,200 in the second quarter of 2006.

Traditional metered dial-up subscribers decreased from two thirds of all internet subscribers (542,000) to just half (487,000) of subscribers in 2006. The share of narrowband flat-rate subscriptions decreased slightly from 12pc to 10pc in the same period.

According to the latest figures, an estimated 867,000 households (59pc) had a home computer in spring of 2006, compared with 797,000 households (55pc) in 2005.

Just over 83pc of households with a home computer used it to connect to the internet.

Overall, 50pc of households in Ireland had an internet connection compared with the EU average of 52pc.

Leading European nations with advanced first-world infrastructure like the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had the highest percentages with over three quarters of homes connected to the internet.

An estimated 935,600 people used a computer every day or almost every day while an estimated 638,500 used the internet at least once a day.

The most popular activities for Irish people on the internet were primarily information search and services followed by communication by email and thirdly interaction with public authorities.

The most common internet purchases were travel and holiday accommodation, followed by tickets for events and thirdly books, newspapers and learning material.

In terms of business use of ICT, the CSO say that virtually all businesses in the country use computers and have access to email and the internet.

An estimated 64pc of businesses have a website and primarily use it to market their products and make catalogues and price lists available.

Some 28pc of enterprises had sales using e-commerce, which accounted for 17pc of total turnover.

Almost 60pc of businesses have made purchases using e-commerce, which accounted for 10pc of total purchases.

In terms of mobile usage, in 2005 Irish mobile users sent 4.4 billion text messages, equating to 1,053 per person.

The number of voice messages transmitted in 2006 was 5.7 billion.

In the second quarter of 2005 there were 4.4 million mobile subscribers in the Republic of Ireland, giving a mobile penetration rate of 103pc.

The total revenue of the Irish mobile telecommunications sector was €3.9bn, shared by four operators.

Speaking about the latest CSO figures on broadband, Damien Mulley from IrelandOffline stated: “These figures are a startling testimonial to the lack of urgency and motivation shown by the telecoms regulator (ComReg) and the Department of Communications when it comes to addressing the severe digital divide between Ireland and the rest of Europe.

“Instead of closing the gap between us and our EU counterparts, these figures show the gap is widening and the only action from the Government in 2006 is to delay a much needed telecoms bill for another year.”

By John Kennedy