Members' Research Service By / December 15, 2015

Bridging the digital divide in the EU

Written by Mar Negreiro Digital technologies play an important role in the everyday life of most Europeans; the internet allows…

© Yeko Photo Studio / Fotolia

Written by Mar Negreiro

Bridging the digital divide in the EU
© Yeko Photo Studio / Fotolia

Digital technologies play an important role in the everyday life of most Europeans; the internet allows people, businesses and governments to transform the ways they communicate and engage with one another. Yet some parts of the population are still excluded from using these new methods. Improving the EU fast broadband internet infrastructure is as important as upgrading the digital skills of citizens: 10% increase in broadband penetration may raise gross domestic product (GDP) by 1-1.5%, and by 2020, 90% of jobs will require some digital skills.

The digital divide has been substantially reduced over the last decade in Europe, but the gap remains far from closed: according to the 2015 European Commission’s Digital Agenda Scoreboard, two related targets have already been met (all EU households can access basic broadband and 75% of all Europeans are regular internet users). However, there is a danger that targets related to fast and ultra-fast speed broadband will be missed, especially in rural areas. Furthermore, important challenges on internet use remain, as about half of the less-educated and the elderly in the population do not use it regularly, and about 58 million EU citizens (aged 16-74 years old) have never used it at all. The digital divide also varies across Member States.

The European Commission is working to improve the situation under the Digital Agenda for Europe and the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. Among the main EU support actions in place are proposals for legislation, different broadband funding mechanisms and support for multi-stakeholder partnerships and research projects to improve digital inclusion and assistive technologies.

Read the complete Briefing on ‘Bridging the digital divide in the EU‘ in PDF.

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