Maybe it’s the sunny weather, or the café lifestyle, but Italians still do not appear to have grasped the internet. Italy’s official statistics bureau, ISTAT, recently produced a report on the state of the internet in Italy. The numbers do not paint a particularly positive picture.
In world terms, Italy sits at a lowly 22nd place in terms of worldwide internet usage. The European average is 73%, whereas in Italy the figure is 63%.
54,5% Italians have access to the internet today, which is up slightly from the 2010 figure of 52,4%. The number of broadband internet connections in Italy has grown a little too, from 43,4% al 45,8%. Nearly 60% of Italy’s families have access to a computer, but, as can be seen from the internet connection numbers, not every Italian computer is connected to the internet.
Northern Italians tend to go for broadband connections more than the residents of Italy’s southern regions. 49% of Italians in the north of the country have broadband connections compared to 37.5% in Italy’s south.
Since 2011, internet usage in Italy has grown by a measly 2.6%, though no differentiation between fixed and mobile connections was mentioned in the ISTAT press release.
There is also the Italian attitude towards the utility, or should that be futility, of the world wide web.
A Quarter of Italians Think the Web is Useless
Somewhat worryingly, and one hopes this only refers to over 65s and families without children, over a quarter (26.7%) of Italians think the internet is useless and uninteresting.
Italian families with children, 84.4% of them, have computers, though just over 21% are not connected to the world wide web, and of those which are, 32% do not use broadband connections.
One can only imagine how terrible the internet experience is likely to be for those who are unlucky enough not to have fast web connections. Slow connections render the modern multi-media social web all but useless for much more than sending emails, and, possibly, connecting to social media sites like the Italian favourite: Facebook.
Few Silver Surfers
Italy’s over 65s, which means many of the country’s politicians, have not got the internet bug, even if I do know of one silver surfer here in Milan.
26.3% of Italians 14 years old and over who have used the internet in the last 12 months state they have bought either goods of services via the web. The ISTAT survey states Italian online spending revolves around travel and booking accommodation.
The number of Italians who are reading news online has increased by 7.0% since 2010, but it is not clear whether those who are reading more are using fixed or mobile connections.
Web Men and Women
Since 2005, the number of Italian women using the internet has risen from 26.9% to 49.7% in 2011. 37.1% of Italy’s men used the web in 2005. The figure is now 56.6%.
Young Italian women between the age of 11 and 19 actually use the internet more than male Italians in the same age group.
Computer Skills Lacking
Just under 6% of Italians who have internet connected computers do not know how to use search engines, the ISTAT research found.
Nearly 60% of Italy’s computer users do not know how to upload texts, games, movies, music or how to use social networking sites. This is somewhat surprising considering that 20 million Italians, nearly a third of Italy’s population can be found on Facebook. Over 12 million Italians use Facebook daily.
Various factors. There is a distinct lack of appreciation of the benefits of internet connectivity at a political level in Italy, and many of Italy’s politicians are old.
Add the old world mentality of Italy’s politicians to ever changing governments which are rarely in power long enough to do much which is useful and the reasons why Italy lags behind the rest of the world in terms of internet connectivity and usage becomes clear.
Italy’s politicians are also afraid of giving Italians the ability to communicate in an uncontrolled manner, as this would reveal how inefficient many are, although it would allow Italians to shine light on Italy’s beacons of administrative efficiency. There are a few, but not many.
Schools in Italy are not too well connected and many have antiquated computers. There seems to be little investment in this aspect of preparing Italian children for the modern world.
Maybe Italy’s parents do not appreciate just how much of an educational asset the internet can be. As a student at the Business School of Il Sole 24 Ore mentioned, with the internet, there is no reason why Italians should not know other languages, such as English. Amongst other things, I teach English.
Internet connections in Italy are not all that cheap and internet connectivity in Italy’s many rural areas is either clunky or extremely expensive, sometimes both – just ask many of the expats who run tourism businesses in various parts of Italy.
Missed Employment Opportunity
Aside from the communications, business and knowledge sharing/building opportunities the internet offers, that Italians detest moving from their home towns to work in other parts of Italy is a fact which is well known to Italian employers. Improving Italy’s internet infrastructure could solve this problem, at least in part.
By working from home, Italians could have a job and stay in their beloved corners of Italy. Such Italians would be very happy, and, quite probably, productive too.
Italy should really be the work from home capital of the world. This could happen if the country gets its act together and makes broadband internet connections available to one and all – some tax incentives might help achieve this.
In addition to the potential economic benefits, people working from home do not need to use transport as much, and this would help reduce traffic pollution, congestion and reduce the number of accidents.
Will Italy change? Maybe, but Italy is not very good at change, and the country is run by a bunch of oldies.
As a matter of interest, can you name an Italian Mark Zuckerberg? No? What a surprise. Not.
ISTAT, 20th December 2011: Cittadini e nuove tecnologie – Citizens and New Technologies – in Italian
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