Is Europe prepared to go digital? making the case for developing digital capacity: An exploratory analysis of Eurostat survey data

Robin van Kessel, Brian Li Han Wong, Ivan Rubinic, Ella O’Nuallain, Katarzyna Czabanowska

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Abstract

Digital divides are globally recognised as a wicked problem that threatens to become the new face of inequality. They are formed by discrepancies in Internet access, digital skills, and tangible outcomes (e.g. health, economic) between populations. Previous studies indicate that Europe has an average Internet access rate of 90%, yet rarely specify for different demographics and do not report on the presence of digital skills. This exploratory analysis used the 2019 community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals from Eurostat, which is a sample of 147,531 households and 197,631 individuals aged 16-74. The cross-country comparative analysis includes EEA and Switzerland. Data were collected
between January and August 2019 and analysed between April and May 2021. Large differences in Internet access were observed (75-98%), especially between North-Western (94-98%) and South-Eastern Europe (75-87%). Young populations, high education levels, employment, and living in an urban environment appear to positively influence the development of higher digital skills. The cross-country analysis exhibits a positive correlation between high capital stock and income/earnings, and the digital skills development while
showing that the internet-access price bears marginal influence over digital literacy levels. The findings suggest Europe is currently unable to host a sustainable digital society without exacerbating cross-country inequalities due to substantial differences in internet access and digital literacy. Investment in building digital capacity in the general population should be the primary objective of European countries to ensure they can benefit optimally, equitably, and sustainably from the advancements of the Digital Era.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0000013
Pages (from-to)1-15
JournalPLOS Digital Health
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Dig Lit

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