ZAGREB, August 28, 2019 – ICT expert Marko Rakar says the data showing that more than one in five Croatians have never used the Internet are not especially worrying as it makes sense that there are people, notably older ones, without access to or the need for the Internet.
A recently published Zagreb Institute of Economics analysis and data of the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index show that 21% of Croatians have never used the Internet, whereas the EU average is 11%.
When it comes to the use of Internet services, Croatia is within the EU average. As many as 91% of Croatian Internet users read news online, as against 72% in the rest of the EU.
Sixty-two percent of people who do not use the Internet are older than 65 and 34% of those in the 55-64 age group have never used it.
Rakar says one of the reasons why the Internet is not used is the number of people who are older, have lower education and are poorer. The fact that Croatia has more smartphones than inhabitants suggests that a large number of people do not even realise they use the Internet, he adds, noting that anyone watching cable TV, for example, uses the Internet.
According to national statistical office (DZS) data from December 2018, 82% of households in Croatia have Internet access. Rakar says this means that practically everyone in Croatia has it, as those without it either have a smartphone, and therefore have unregistered Internet access, or can access it elsewhere.
He says there are rural areas and islands without or with poor Internet connection, but the state is investing in fixing that and subsidising the construction of telecommunication networks there.
A DZS survey shows that 57% of respondents who do not have an Internet connection cited no need to use the Internet, a considerable number cited too high service and equipment prices, insufficient knowledge about Internet use, concern for the protection of privacy, and available access at another location.
Rakar says Croatia should not be compared with Denmark, for example, where only 2% of inhabitants have never used the Internet, because of their different economies, histories and infrastructure.
Asked if there is a link between the digitisation of bureaucratic services which citizens use and the interest of the elderly in the Internet, he says there is.
“The digital services the state promotes are not digital services at all, just a bureaucratic service working on the screen. That’s not the point of digitisation. A real digital society… looks at all the needs of citizens, businesses, the state and everything else and then does all the processes in the most simple and most automated way so they are available to everyone, and we are just not doing that.”
Croatia is behind most EU member states in the digitisation of public services and surveys show that its business community uses the Internet less than the rest of the EU. Rakar says computer literacy in 2019 is essential for any competitiveness, not just the state and businesses, but individuals too.
“A person who hasn’t mastered at least basic computer skills is cut off in the digital world. They can no longer communicate because everyone communicates via the Internet on social media and apps. Another problem is keeping informed, as they can no longer see what happens around them,” Rakar says, adding that elementary computer skills are essential to any job in the 21st century.
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