Ireland has succeeded in moving from a disastrous situation where it was just under half the European average in 2006 to being just three points below the 2010 EU average for broadband connections.
The latest figures from Eurostat show that Ireland falls broadly into line with the EU average for 2010.
In 2006, just 13pc of homes in Ireland had a broadband connection, well below the EU average of 30pc at the time. This has risen to 58pc in 2010, close to this year’s EU average of 61pc.
Across the EU, 70pc of households had access to the internet in the first quarter of 2010, compared with 49pc in the first quarter of 2006. The share of households with broadband internet connections doubled, to reach 61pc in 2010 compared with 30pc in 2006.
However, the figures mask considerable disparities between Member States. Highest usage and access is in northern countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Southern countries in general, on the other hand, fall below EU averages for access and connections.
Today’s figures also tell a lot about the use of social media by age groups and by country. Ireland falls slightly behind the EU average for use of social media, email and Skype internet phone or video calls.
Top users of email and social media are again in northern countries but not for Skype. Highest users of the internet for Skype calls are in the some of the newer Member States, eg, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia.
The proportion of internet access is around 20 percentage points higher in households with children. The level of internet access increased in all Member States between 2006 and 2010, most notably in Romania, where it tripled, and in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia, where it doubled or almost doubled.
Highs and lows
In 2010, the highest shares of internet access were recorded in the Netherlands (91pc), Luxembourg (90pc), Sweden (88pc) and Denmark (86pc), and the lowest in Bulgaria (33pc), Romania (42pc) and Greece (46pc).
The proportion of households with a broadband connection also rose in every member State in 2010 compared with 2006. Sweden (83pc) registered the highest share of broadband connections in 2010, followed by Denmark (80pc), Finland (76pc) and Germany (75pc), while Romania (23pc), Bulgaria (26pc) and Greece (41pc) had the lowest.
In 2010, the level of internet access for households with children in the EU-27 was significantly higher than for households without children (84pc compared with 65pc). This was the case in all Member States. The shares for households with children ranged from 50pc in Romania to 99pc in the Netherlands and Finland. In 12 Member States, the share was 90pc or more for households with children.
One in five older internet users make internet phone calls.
In the EU-27, around 90pc of all internet users sent emails during the first quarter of 2010, without any significant difference between age groups.
On the other hand, there was a significant difference in the use of internet for posting messages to chat sites, blogs and social networks by age. Four-fifths of internet users aged 16-24 in the EU-27 used the internet for this purpose during 2010, compared with two-fifths of those aged 25-54 and less than one-fifth of those aged 55-74. Use of this form of communication was particularly high for all age groups in Poland, Portugal and Lithuania.
There was a less pronounced difference between age groups in the use of internet phone and video calls, with one-third of those aged 16-24, one-quarter of those aged 25-54 and one-fifth of those aged 55-74 in the EU-27 using this form of communication during 2010. Use of the internet for phone and video calls was particularly high for all age groups in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.