Fast internet connections have not become available across the world at a consistent rate. For quite a few years now Asia and the United States have led the way, with broadband networks that dwarfed much of the rest of the world. In some instances that made quite a bit of sense, as Africa and South America are building infrastructure and utilizing this technology at a much slower pace than other areas. But in Europe the disparity was truly perplexing. Across much of Europe mobile technology and home computers are just as ubiquitous as they are here in the States, yet broadband was still hard to come by. According to a new report released by the European Commission, that is no longer the case. Based on these findings, 72% of European households in 2012 now have a quality broadband connection.
Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the EC spoke to these new statistics in a speech focused on the expanding digital policy Europeans can expect in the new year. Apparently the commission has an expansive plan to grow broadband networks while also protecting copyright claims and aggressively manufacturing and designing new hardware. The goal is to maintain a similar pace and expertise as evidenced by industry leaders in North America and Asia, and it’s just in the nick of time for their constituents. 2012 saw a massive increase in the popularity of social media networks across Europe, as well as accessing e-commerce and news sites. In fact, 60% of people who access the web do so in order to get their daily dose of the news, making that the top reason Europeans use their broadband connection.
The European Commission received these detailed statistics from Eurostat, an organization out of Luxembourg that provides much of the stats used by institutions across the European Union. And the figures they came up with showed a truly remarkable change in broadband penetration. It was only six short years ago that less than a third of the European population had access to a reliable broadband network. Today, just under three quarters of the European population can jump on a broadband network. In fact, no EU country has less than 50% population access, and some of the continent’s leaders, such as Finland and Denmark show 85% penetration.
News may be the number one reason Europeans access broadband but it certainly isn’t the only reason. More than half of all Europeans with broadband connections regularly post to social media websites. But while interaction is increasing, content creation does not yet seem to be a major priority for Europeans. Less than 10% of those polled are developing websites, blogs or making any other sort of regular contribution. It appears that Twitter and Facebook are being used as portals for self expression, and very few Europeans are looking to design something different they can access. In addition, internet banking has yet to take off consistently across the board. Some countries have taken to it in significant numbers, with 90% of Icelanders taking advantage of that convenient service. But in countries like Bulgaria, less than 10% of all citizens are taking part in any amount of online banking.
Consistent service may be a key reason for such gaps. And as Kroes’ speech details, there is still a significant ‘digital disparity’ in effect. The EC does have a plan for addressing these issues, and 2013 will feature targeted pushes forward in cyber-security, cloud computing, hardware development, public works, regulation and training of the next generation of European IT professionals. Broadband prevalence clearly isn’t happening overnight, but the leaps and bounds forward Europe has taken over the past several years show that it’s only a matter of time, especially with such massive organizations stepping forward to lead the charge.