Tech-challenged Europeans who don’t read blogs

Reuters reports on a survey that says about 37% of people living in the 25 European Union countries have no computer skills, with Scandinavians being the most computer-literate and Greeks the least.

The survey results – “How skilled are Europeans in using computers and the internet?” (PDF) – announced today by the EU statistics agency Eurostat (see the PDF press release) paints a generally bleak picture of Europeans’ online literacy:

[…] More than one in three (34%) of EU residents have never used a computer, ranging from 8% in the Nordic countries Sweden, Denmark and Iceland to 65% in Greece. It is clear that a lack of e-skills will prevent these people from participating fully in the information society.

Some highlights from the survey results:

  • 65% of Greeks, 59% of Italians and 57% of Hungarians had no basic computer skills, compared with 10% in Denmark and 11% in Sweden
  • Britons and Germans also lead the EU in computer literacy, with only 21% and 25% respectively of their citizens lacking computer skills
  • Among the EU’s 16-24 year olds, some 10% have no computer skills, while 65% of people aged 55 to 74 are unable to use a computer, as neither could 11% of those with higher education

The Guardian reports on another survey, carried out last month for the Daily Telegraph, which the Guardian says shows that blogging in the UK has less than half the popularity it enjoys in the US:

  • Just 13% of those surveyed in Britain had read an individual’s blog in the past week, compared with 40% in the US, 25% in France and 12% in Denmark
  • Newspaper blogs were even less popular, the study of more than 9,000 readers of websites and newspapers found
  • The survey found a very low level of trust for blogs compared with news aggregators such as Google and Yahoo!, the Guardian report says, while national TV and newspaper brands came out on top

That last point in particular reflects similar reseach findings published by Reuters and the BBC last month into trust in government and the media.

Incidentally, the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond has commentary on a survey last month, but it doesn’t look to be the same as the one the Guardian reports about. And Jeff Jarvis raises some points about that Guardian-reported survey and how it was conducted.

So what do we glean from such a rash of information into the online abilities (or lack of) and habits of our fellow citizens in the EU?

On the face of it, the various surveys indicate an alarming gap in online skills and curiosities between the US and most of Europe that looks at least as wide as that separating the continents of North America and Europe. On the other hand, it could all be just another day, another survey as Niall Cook suggests.

Yet I don’t think so. The Eurostats survey in particular illustrates a big mountain to climb in terms of education if Europeans generally are to be able to know how to use the new tools that are so important now to life in general.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Philip Young

    Thanks for this, Neville. The Eurostat survey is fascinating – and with over 181,000 respondents hard to dismiss as ‘just another survey.’ On a first reading of a dense report the clear impression is that computer usage is driven by social economics – the richer the country the higher the usage – to which a variety of cultural factors add nuance.

    You describe non-users as tech-challenged which maybe reasonable, but obscures the reality which may be that the non-users are economically- or culturally-challenged.

    I think the PR blogging community is generally reluctant to acknowledge the fact that most of the blogs we all read are written by people with reasonably well developed writing skills and relatively high incomes (arguably they wouldn’t be in PR if they didn’t meet these criteria). Weblogs in there present form are a platform for elite voices and despite commonly-shared assumptions about ease of use, they require to what a large proportion of people would regard as sophisticated IT skills.

  2. Mary-Ann

    I think, although I can’t prove, that most of my readers wouldn’t know that my site is a blog. I wonder how that sort of thing plays into the results of the second survey.

  3. neville

    I agree, Philip, this is certainly not just another survey. Good point re the underlying social issues behind the stats. So my attention-grabbing headline doesn’t do that justice at all.

    Mary-Ann, that’s a good point as well. Unless a visitor frequents blogs a lot (nice use of the K2 theme on your blog, BTW!), I bet most would not think of your site as a blog. So, yes, a good question re the second survey.

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