E-living: Life in a digital Europe
Conference in Essen discussed results and impacts
The EU IST project e-living has been investigating the relationship between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and changing individual and household behaviour. For that reason it has performed a two-wave longitudinal household panel survey in six European countries. The nine e-living project partners and about 40 experts and managers with ICT background met on 20 and 21 January 2004 in Essen, Germany, to present and discuss the results of the e-living project and its impacts on the information society and industry.
The importance of longitudinal data
Ben Anderson, the e-living co-ordinator from Chimera, University of Essex, introduced the project and reminded the audience of the main themes of the project. He stressed the importance of longitudinal data for forecasts and trend analysis. Such longitudinal data can only be obtained by surveying the same panel in several waves, e.g. once a year.
Internet growth rate is dropping
The first session looked at trends in ICT take-up and usage. The e-living surveys revealed that the growth rate of Internet access has actually dropped last year. During 2002 in Norway more people (8.9%) have stopped using the Internet than new users adopted it (8.1%). Of course we have to take into account that in Norway already the high number of 67% of the population is using the Internet. The example that Israelis are using the Internet per day on average more than 3 times longer (48 minutes per day) than the Norwegians (13 minutes per day) suggests that there are also significant cultural differences in Internet use.
Is there a gender-related digital divide?
Tal Sofer from the Tel-Aviv University presented the e-living analysis on gender differences. Females in general have a more negative attitude towards computers, whilst males tend to view computers and Internet more positively although this may be due to differences in length of Internet experience. Currently about 40% of the Internet users are female. However, women are catching up: since the year 2000 more women than men have adopted the Internet. Particularly education and e-health are female domains; whilst banking, e-shopping and music downloads seem to be male activities. Prof. Robert Kraut from Carnegie Melon University, Pittsburgh, expects the gender gaps to disappear during the next few years.
The significance of the Internet
Guest speaker Prof. William Dutton from the University of Oxford reported from the World Internet Project (WIP), where 23 nations developed a mix of longitudinal and cross-sectional surveys. One of the surprising results is that Internet use at work is in all surveyed nations much lower than Internet use at home (e.g. 24% at work compared to 59% at home in the UK). There is a dramatic effect of life stage on Internet use; nearly all pupils are using Internet, whilst only a small part of retired people uses it. One of the important open questions is the significance of the cross-national consistencies and differences.
The conference brought together main players in the ICT-related socio-economic area. A comprehensive overview on the
e-living results, causing stimulating discussions, was given. E-living will be formally closed end of March 2004, but it will live further: more analysis will be made on the available data, and hopefully more and longer longitudinal studies will be happening. E-living has been surrounded by a series of related projects like the finalised Eurescom project P903 (Cross-cultural Attitudes to ICT in Everyday Life) and the recently started FP6 Specific Support Action SOCQUIT (Social Capital, Quality of Life and Information Society Technologies). Prof. Enid Mante from Utrecht University underlined that all those studies have proven that ICT users and their attitudes are actually changing very little and very slowly.
You can find deliverables, presentation slides and much more information on the e-living project at www.eurescom.de/e-living
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