International Internet survey reveals series of digital divides

January 21, 2004

Brussels, 20 Jan 2004

A new study by the UCLA (University of California in Los Angeles) center for communication policy on Internet use in Europe, Asia and the US has confirmed the existence of a digital gender gap, and found that it is highest in Italy.

UCLA's 'world Internet project' covered 14 countries, and is the first survey of its kind to produce international comparison data on the social, political and economic effects of Internet use and non-use. The data shows that more men than women go online in each of the surveyed countries (Chile, China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Macao, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK and the US).

'Overall, we see an average eight per cent gap between men and women using the Internet,' said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA center. 'That figure is not as large as we might have expected, given the gender disparities that persist around the world. However, in several technologically developed countries, the gap is surprisingly large - in some cases almost twice as many men as women use the Internet.'

The gender difference was found to be as high as 20.2 per cent in Italy, with 41.7 per cent of men and 21.5 per cent of women declaring themselves to be Internet users. The gap was found to be almost as large in Spain, whereas the smallest gender divide was found to be in Sweden, where 67.7 per cent of men are Internet users, compared to 64.4 per cent of women.

The survey also confirmed the existence of a digital divide between richer and poorer communities. Unsurprisingly, the wealthiest quarter of the population is far more likely to use the Internet than the poorest quarter, although the survey suggests that at least 20 per cent of the poorest quarter of individual countries uses the Internet. Sweden was found to have the highest rate of Internet use within the poorest quarter of the population at 49.1 per cent.

Overall, the percentage of Internet users in the countries surveyed varied from 71.1 per cent in the US, to 17.5 per cent in Hungary. The participating northern European countries occupy positions in the top half of the survey, whereas Spain and Italy remain in the lower half, illustrating a further, geographical digital divide.

For more information, please consult the following web address: .asp?Id=45

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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