A new map highlights the continuing digital divide between rural areas of Ireland and the large urban areas, with most of the North West of Ireland having less than 10pc household penetration.
The colour-coded map based on CSO figures was compiled by internet consultancy Amas and shows Leitrim as being the county in Ireland with the lowest broadband penetration in Ireland with only 7.8pc of households using the technology.
This was followed by Cavan with 9.1pc and Roscommon with 9.3pc.
“The North West is Ireland’s broadband black spot with broadband penetration up to five times lower than Dublin,” commented Aileen O’Toole.
Leitrim’s plight contrasts with other parts of the country, particularly Leinster, where counties like Dublin have 32.2pc, Kildare has 23.7pc and Wicklow has 22.2pc broadband penetration.
“Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown has the highest penetration in the country with just under 40pc of households saying they have broadband, comparing that with Leitrim’s 7.8pc percent, the worst performer, followed by Cavan at 9.1pc and Roscommon at 9.3pc,” O’Toole said.
Ireland’s sunny South West also faired poorly on the map with only a 10pc penetration rate in Wexford.
“This map confirms Ireland’s digital divide,” said O’Toole, who also pointed out that in terms of international development of broadband Ireland is behind the pack.
“Ireland came 23rd out of 30 OECD countries in terms of average broadband speeds of 3Mbps compared with speeds of 100Mbps in Japan and Korea.”
She said while Ireland may be at 700,000 broadband connections it is little to celebrate if you consider we have far to go in terms of catching up with other nations.
“All the noise about broadband in Ireland is positive looking at progress quarter by quarter. But in reality we have the longest to go in terms of catching up, working from a low base in terms of uptake and speed.
“We’re getting better. The most recent quarter of new subscriptions is the highest but it has to be because we’re coming from a low base,” O’Toole said. “This map nails the fact that a digital divide exists.”
Asked what reasons are contributing to the digital divide O’Toole said she believed there was a combination of factors. “Infrastructure availability is a definite factor but also people in urban areas are more inclined to see the value of it. There is an awareness gap and people in rural areas don’t understand why having broadband is important.
“Finding that there’s less than 10pc usage in households in parts of Ireland is shocking. It is such a low uptake despite all recent initiatives to boost broadband,” O’Toole said.
The Amas broadband map of Ireland, which will also feature in its quarterly State Of The Net report can be downloaded at http://www.amas.ie/reports_index.html.
By John Kennedy