Saturday, 9 January 2010

One of Two Europeans Uses the Internet Daily in 2009 – Austria Faces a Digital Divide

The number of households with Internet access is steadily growing in the 27 EU member states, which gives hope for increasing online business. In the first quarter 2009 two thirds of Europeans (65%) could access Internet from their home, compared with 60% in the first quarter of 2008, according to Eurostat (news release from 8 Dec 2009). Almost 40% of individuals aged between 16 and 74 years in the EU27 had purchased something over the Internet in the last 12 months. In Austria, one person in three used the Internet daily in 2009, as a survey by IMAS Market Research revealed.

The internet access landscape in European households is - not surprisingly - rather diverse and ranges from 30% in Bulgaria to 90% in the Netherlands. In Austria 70% of all households had internet access in 2009, compared to 69% in 2008 and 60% in 2007.
The online shopping behavior varies also considerably between Europeans aged from 16 to 74. The online buying share in 2009 was highest in the United Kingdom (66%), Denmark (64%) and in the Netherlands and Sweden (each with 63%), whereas Romania (2%), Bulgaria (5%) and Lithuania (8%) were on the lower end of the scale. The Austrians (41%) seem to be a bit diffident as far as online shopping is concerned and can be found in the middle field, together with France (45%) and Germany (56%). These figures are quite important for eTourism strategists, because although some of these Eastern European countries are considered as emerging markets in the online travel landscape (see my post from 3 Jan 2010) the potential of online bookers is still rather low.

Is Austria facing a digital divide?
Every third person (37%) in Austria older than 16 years uses the Internet daily and therefore can be called a “heavy user”, whereas 41% of Internet ascetics totally refuse to use the Internet, according to a survey carried out by IMAS between August and September 2009 and presented yesterday (see IMAS chart below, click to enlarge). The data from Eurostat differs slightly in this respect, which might be led back to a different formulation of the question. According to Eurostat, 70% of Austrians aged from 16 to 24 and 48% of individuals aged from 16 to 74 use the Internet on average daily or almost every day.

The data gives evidence that the Austrian society is split into those 59% of individuals who use the Internet at least once a month and the 41% of non-users. Interestingly, the Internet user/non-user ratio has remained relatively constant over the past five years. It will be interesting to see what impact this trend might have on the communication behavior and information/knowledge transfer.

Looking at the socio-demografic characteristics of either group the following pattern can be observed: the higher educated and/or the younger a person is, the more likely it is that (s)he uses the Internet daily. For example, 62% of Austrians aged between 14 to 29 and 59% with a higher education (e.g. A-Levels, University) use the Internet daily (see chart from IMAS below, click to enlarge).

Will these developments lead to a digitally divided society in Austria, i.e. those who do it and those who don’t, namely using the Internet for information search and communication? Or will the communication behavior of the baby boomers and generation N level the differences over the next years anyway?

The IMAS survey further revealed that every fifth Austrian older than 16 years is a member of a social networking platform such as Facebook or Xing. Interestingly, the main reasons for joining virtual communities are to stay in contact with friends and relatives (60%) and to get in contact with people of similar interests (59%). I believe that especially the latter reason can be used by marketers in the travel industry, for example creating fan pages or special interest communities so that individuals can get in contact with people of similar travel or activity interests. Observing the communication between the “fans” on the fan page can give deeper insights in the consumer needs and wants and is probably more effictive than simply placing an ad on a social networking platform.

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