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Norway has widest range of ICT skills

18.01.2007
A study recently completed by SINTEF as part of the EU’s CITIZEN MEDIA project confirms that the “digital divide” still exists both within and between countries. In a comparison with Germany and Austria, Norway emerged with the widest range of differences in information and communication technology (ICT) skills.

The study analysed patterns of media use in Norway, Germany and Austria, on the basis of a sample population of 24,468 persons aged between 12 and 74. The data were taken from the Eurostat study “Community survey of ICT usage in households and by individuals” which was carried out in late 2005. The Norwegian part of the survey was carried out by Statistics Norway.

According to researchers Jan Heim and Petter Bae Brandtzaeg, who carried out the analyses, different groups of the population have their own ways of using, or not using, ICT. They identified four typical patterns of use among major population groups in all the countries surveyed, and found that there was one pattern of use unique to Norway – that of advanced users.

Four patterns of users
The report describes the following four patterns of use:
1. Non-users are characterised by the fact that they do not devote time to ICT. This was the largest group identified within the sample. Its members are characterised by their relatively high age – 45 or older. They have low levels of income and education, and few household members (Austria 47%, Germany 39%, Norway 25%).

2. Average users make up the largest group of ICT users, using their PCs and the Internet only occasionally. The have a relatively low level of ICT skills and no other special features (Austria 28%, Germany 51%, Norway 27%).

3. Instrumental users employ ICT primarily for practical purposes and to acquire information such as public-sector Internet services. They have a relatively high level of ICT skills and a high level of education (Austria 15%, Germany 5%, Norway 23%).

4. Entertainment users devote most of their ICT time to entertainment, such as game-playing and watching videos or TV on the Internet. They have relatively advanced ICT skills. They are relatively young (less obviously so in Germany) and this group includes more men than women. Members have a wide range of educational and income levels, since this group includes many students (Austria 9%, Germany 5%, Norway 14%).

5. Advanced users make up a group that is only evident in Norway. They utilise ICT in many connections and for a range of different purposes. There is a high rate of advanced usage such as programming, web-site design, etc. They use the Internet on a daily basis and are relatively young, with an average age of 32 as against 45 in the remainder of the sample. Most of them are men (80%) and most (87%) have broadband access (sample average 45%). They live in cities and have a wide range of educational levels.

The conclusion is that there are large differences in patterns of ICT use between Austria, Germany and Norway. In absolute terms, the largest group comprises non-users, a group that was most numerous in Austria (47%). The average users make up the largest group of ICT users, if we look at all three countries together. The highest proportion of average uses is in Germany (51%). The smallest group of all was the advanced users, who were only evident in Norway (11%).

Advanced users

Most advanced users were thus to be found in Norway (though we must remember that the other Scandinavian countries were not analysed), and they tended to be younger, with a high rate of access to broadband services. But the greatest differences in ICT usage were also found in Norway, where there exists a wide digital divide between non-users and advanced users.

The report also surveyed existing international studies of the growing use of user-generated content and social network applications or “online communities”. It found that young people who are major Internet users are most likely to be active participants and content producers. According to Petter Bae Brandtzaeg, we can now glimpse the beginning of a new digital divide; i.e. between those who merely consume media and those who also produce content. Brandtzaeg claims that there now exist various levels of digital divides:

Digital consumer divides; i.e. differences in access to, and ability to consume media content.

Digital production divides; i.e. differences in access to, and ability to produce media content.

The project

The report is the first of several to be produced by the CITIZEN MEDIA project (IP – FP6 – 2006-2009), which is part of the EU’s 6th Framework Programme. The aim of the project was to develop new systems that will enable non-professional users to consume, create and publish audiovisual media content on a range of platforms. SINTEF’s role is to generate knowledge about usage and user needs, and to define these needs in the world of new media. SINTEF also aims to develop a theory of how patterns of media use develop over time.

The project comprises a total of 16 partners from several EU member countries, and is coordinated by Alcatel Bell NV. More details of the project are available at www.ist-citizenmedia.org.

Aase Dragland | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ist-citizenmedia.org
http://www.sintef.no

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