Despite Irish businesses being 1pc above the European average for firms connecting to the internet at 92pc, only 48pc of companies in Ireland are currently using broadband compared with the EU average of 63pc, the latest Eurostat figures indicate.
Vital data on Ireland’s situation in terms of the proportion of households with internet access and broadband connections as well as internet usage by individuals was conspicuous by its absence.
According to Eurostat, in the EU some 48pc of households had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2005 and 23pc had a broadband connections. This compares to 91pc of businesses with internet access and 63pc of businesses with a broadband connection.
Damien Mulley, chairman of broadband lobby group Ireland OffLine, admitted he was intrigued as to why Ireland didn’t feature with more data in the Eurostat survey. He also argued that a more accurate picture for Ireland’s performance could be best attained by looking at the original 15 EU countries prior to accession of the 10 extra states.
Despite the conspicuous absence of Irish data in the latest survey, Mulley said that even out of the full 25 EU countries it could be argued that Ireland is still below the European average in terms of internet access. “Recent reports from the Chambers Ireland, ISME and O2 showed that in regards to broadband we are below average. When it comes to internet access in general we are below average. According to ComReg, internet access has stood at 37pc for last few years, recently rising to 40pc of the population, while in the UK internet access stands at 60pc and of that 55pc to 60pc are on broadband.”
According to the Eurostat report, in the first quarter of 2005 the highest proportions of households with internet access were recorded in the Netherlands (78pc), Luxembourg (77pc), Denmark (75pc) and Sweden (73pc). The lowest levels were registered in Lithuania (16pc), the Czech Republic (19pc), Greece and Hungary (both 22pc) and Slovakia (23pc).
At the beginning of 2005, the highest proportions of enterprises with internet access were recorded in Finland (98pc), Denmark (97pc), Slovenia and Sweden (both 96pc). Only in Latvia (75pc), Hungary (78pc), Cyprus (85pc), Lithuania (86pc) and Poland (87pc) were fewer than 90pc of enterprises connected to the internet.
Broadband offers a much faster connection to the internet and offers the potential of changing the way the internet is used. The proportion of households with a broadband connection in 2005 was highest in the Netherlands (54pc), Denmark (51pc), Belgium (41pc) and Sweden (40pc), and lowest in Greece (1pc), Cyprus (4pc), the Czech Republic (5pc) and Slovakia (7pc). Amongst enterprises, the highest levels of broadband connections were recorded in Sweden (83pc), Denmark (82pc), Finland (81pc) and Belgium (78pc), and the lowest in Cyprus (40pc), Poland (43pc) and Greece (44pc).
In the first quarter of 2005, 43pc of individuals in the EU used the internet regularly, ie at least once a week, whether at home or at any other location. The highest levels of regular use were recorded in Sweden (76pc), the Netherlands (74pc) and Denmark (73pc) and the lowest in Greece (18pc), the Czech Republic and Cyprus (both 26pc).
At EU level a higher proportion of men used the internet regularly than women (49pc compared with 38pc) and this was true for all member states, although in Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary the gap was only one percentage point.
While more than three quarters of students (79pc) in the EU and more than half of the employed (55pc) used the internet regularly, less than a third of the unemployed (32pc) did so. While the gap between member states ranged from one to two for students (48pc in Greece to 97pc in the Netherlands) and one to three for the employed (28pc in Greece to 85pc in the Netherlands), it reached one to twelve for the unemployed (7pc in Lithuania to 87pc in the Netherlands).
The proportion of individuals who had never used the internet was the same as for regular users, 43pc in the EU. It should be noted that nearly one woman in two, and one unemployed person in two, in the EU had never used the internet compared to less than 10pc of students, less than 30pc of the employed and less than 40pc of men.
By John Kennedy