Europe’s digital divide is slowly narrowing

Despite increasing levels of ICT usage in all regions and all sections of society, the digital divide in Europe still exists, says a new report by Eurostat.

Households in all EU-10 countries examined, with the exception of Slovenia and Cyprus, have still fewer computers than the EU average, and they are less likely to have internet access. An exception is Estonia, where one household in five – the fourth highest ratio recorded in the EU – has broadband access. The result is that Estonia is, together with Slovakia, the leader in computer use among the EU’s new member states. The situation is worst in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, the EU’s accession candidates, where less than a tenth of the population have internet access. 


Percentage of households with a PC, internet connection and broadband, by member state. 

Source: Eurostat, Community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals. Graph:


Within the countries, the digital divide is predominantly a matter of age and of education level. While more than 80 percent of higher-educated EU citizens use a computer and three quarters of this population group use the internet, people with a lower level of education are only about one third as likely to use any of the two. 

The gender gap, which was considerable in the early days of the internet, is no longer so prominent. 

Computer and internet usage are still about 12 percent lower in thinly-populated areas throughout the EU, where they could often compensate for poorer infrastructure. 


Individuals’ use of computers and Internet (2004), EU-25 (as percentage of total number of individuals aged 16 to 74). 

Source and graph: Eurostat, Community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals


In all age groups, about five percent of the population start using the internet each year, but this takes place at a much lower level for senior citizens and people with a lower education level. For the latter, the growth in internet usage is more sluggish than for the general average. Growth rates are also slower for less prosperous regions than for those that already have good infrastructure. Almost all larger companies are using the internet, and the smaller ones are closing the gap at a fast pace. 


Evolution of the digital divide (2002, 2003, 2004)

Source and graphs: Eurostat, Community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals and Community survey on ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises.

The acceptance of information technology and the take-up of internet usage and of broadband, in particular by people with lower levels of education, by senior citizens and people living in rural areas, are regarded as essential in overcoming disadvantages that these groups of the population are facing on labour markets and in society. 

Eurostat took a closer look at the situation in most European Economic Area countries to determine how much of this so-called digital divide persists within the EEA, and how it is evolving. 

Subscribe to our newsletters