Information Society Benchmarking Report

European Commission
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In June 2005, the European Commission set out a new strategic framework for the Information Society, i2010 – a European Information Society for growth and employment. This report provides the first overview of the state of the Information Society since i2010 was adopted and a check on progress since the launch of eEurope 2005 in 2003. It also provides the first analysis of the Information Society in the Member States that joined the EU in 2004.

This report is largely based on the 2004 surveys of Households and Enterprises that were developed by Eurostat and the National Statistical Institutes of the EU Member States. These surveys are supplemented by more recent data, for example, the e-Business Watch survey of 2005 and broadband subscriber data from July 2005 and independent studies to make up a comprehensive review of Information Society themes. The report covers the whole EU25 plus the candidate and EEA countries.

Section 1 of the report looks at connectivity and the roll-out of new networks, including broadband infrastructure. However, connectivity represents a mere instrument not the end result; section 2 focuses on the objectives of eEurope and its contribution to the Lisbon strategy by the creation of new private sector services through e-business and modern online public services. In line with the continuity of interest in e-Inclusion in both i2010 and eEurope, section 3 contains an analysis of some eEurope indicators broken down by socioeconomic categories.

The main trends identified in the report are as follows:

  • Broadband roll-out is a clear success story. The limited availability of broadband connections at the end of 2002 has been transformed and access is now available to nearly all citizens. There are, however, important exceptions to this in the new Member States and sparsely populated regions. Driven by increased competition and lower prices, take-up has increased rapidly with high growth rates, even in comparison to our main international competitors. However, most internet connections remained narrowband and, in 2004, few broadband connections in Europe offered more than 3 Mbps.
  • There was little evidence of the roll-out of new networks from the 2004 surveys and the PC remained the dominant access device. However, the beginnings of the use DTV and mobile and multi-platform access could be seen.
  • Disparities between Member States had not reduced between the start of eEurope and 2004. The new Member States joining in 2004 were generally behind but some are catching up and there is evidence that their intensity of use is as high as that of EU15.
  • Connectivity of enterprises is high throughout EU25 and there has been some catch-up by SMEs. However, use of ICT by business has grown only slowly and Europe lags behind in the use of advanced e-business applications. There has been a recovery in e-commerce revenues, especially in SMEs.
  • Availability of online public services has continued to grow and many services are now available with full interactivity in many Member States. Use of online public services has grown as availability has increased and a large majority of users report benefits in terms of time saving and more flexible access to administrations. These positive impacts should encourage Member States to strengthen the development of e-Government policy
  • All Member States are confronted with the challenge of extending the information society to people with little or no formal education, those not in employment and older people. These divides are less acute in countries which are more advanced in the adoption of ICT and in some new Member States. However, there is no sign that they reduce over time and an inclusive information society will not be achieved without policy support.

(Executive Summary)