Socio-Economic Barriers to Web Access Narrows

Factors such as education, income, age, gender, and place of access have typically influenced Internet usage and broadband access worldwide. A report on how broadband access is changing households, released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, finds that some socio-economic barriers to Internet usage are disappearing.

While previous studies found college and graduate school-educated individuals are more likely to adopt broadband than those with less education, this study finds that education is less of a factor affecting Internet adoption, for instance, in Sweden and Denmark.

Internet access, especially high-speed service, is considered a technological advance that has a major economic and social impact on people’s lives.

The report finds that people in older age groups won’t be handicapped by a technological device as they work longer and have the educational background to understand new technologies. Thus, a person’s retirement age appears to be more of a factor than the person’s age, the study finds.

While older people may use the Internet as much as younger people, there’s one difference: older people are less likely to go online to shop and for entertainment. Men are more likely than women to download software, and women are more likely to engage in health-related activities and online shopping.

Plus, men are more likely to access from both home and work in many of the OECD countries. Women are more likely to access the Internet from educational establishments.

Home remains the most common place to access the Internet in the majority of the OECD countries, with a few exceptions. Work and Internet cafes substitute for home access in some countries. In the Slovak Republic, Internet access from home is lower than other locations, and work is used for access almost as much as home in the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Despite high home usage rates in Korea, many access the Internet in commercial access facilities to socialize and participate in online gaming.

The report was prepared for the Working Party on the Information Economy and the OECD Information Technology Outlook 2008.

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