While connected devices and web access in general are a growing necessity in people’s lives, some are still being left behind. According to Eurostat just released study, a quarter of the EU27 aged 16-74 have never used the Internet. This eye-opening number shows that the Internet access is still unfairly shared.
Organizations such as the European Access Network (EAN) are trying to spread the word and change things. The NGO is promoting access to raise education for “under-represented people,” due to criteria such as geographic location, gender, nationality, age and disability. Acting under British authority, it promotes policies, negotiates resources and undertakes collaborative research and development programs. Its four pillars are “Access, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion.” To illustrate the disparities within the EU, 45% of the population of Bulgaria has access to the Internet compared to 94% in the Netherlands.
Total access in all geographical areas would be a real asset for people’s wellbeing with access to information and communications. In addition, it would be an effective way to improve the economy. Increasing Internet access would bring more customers for growing on-line companies and increase the e-commerce and e-services. Besides, people living in remote geographical areas would be able to buy products and services on-line which would increase companies’ sales. According to Eurostat, 58% of EU27 Internet users bought products and services online.
Virginia Romero, CEO of QueMedico.com emphasizes this point: “Regarding this data, it is clearly essential that the EU places a larger push on Internet access and especially high bandwidth. Even though Spain has had one the largest increases in the EU, from 39% to 64% in only 5 years, this is still not enough, as 36% of the people remain without access; probably due to geographical difficulties.”
She added, “for an on-line company like ours, it is essential to reach as much of the population as possible. Above all, keeping in mind that on our website we offer on-line medical consultations which are particularly targeted to this category of the population with isolated geographical locations making it difficult to access medical services.”
To help solve this issue, European companies are offering Internet access tools such as the satellite communication system Tooway, operated through the Eutelsat Communications KA-SAT satellite from Skylogic (Italy). It is based on a number of teleport hub antennas throughout Europe. It is aimed at domestic and small business customers in remote locations that require Internet access. It costs between $39 and $140 per month.
Erasing the geographic disparities between the 500 million Europeans, through a combination of political decisions and the help of organizations and companies, would certainly be beneficial to society at large and would lead to increase entrepreneurship and innovation.
This article has initially been posted by Lena Baudo on December 15th, 2011 on Opinno‘s blog (Open Innovation).