The Swedes and the internet 2014

An annual study of the Swedish people's internet habits

Sweden in the world 2014

Sweden was not the country where the internet spread the quickest during the 1990s. Countries like the U.S., where the internet was created and developed were initially far ahead. The rapid spread of the internet during the end of the 1990s tapered off in all countries, including Sweden. But while the spreading curve leveled off in many places, it has continued to rise in Sweden and some other countries. In the EU’s statistics (Eurostat June 2014), Sweden is at the top of the list together with Iceland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland with the highest internet usage at just over 90 percent of users in the population . If we go outside Europe, we find, for example, New Zealand with a similar proportion of users, while the number of internet users in the U.S. has leveled out at a lower level.
The average for EU countries is now around 79 percent of internet users in the population (16-74 years), which means that half of the population in some EU countries do not have internet. The variation is thus high in Europe as well as in the world.

 

1. EU statitics are based on the population up to 74 years of age. Older people are not included. This explains the somewhat higher number of internet usage than in ”Swedes and the internet” where there is no upper age limit.

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Diagram 1.1. Percent of individuals who use the internet in OECD (the industrial countries), the developing countrues, for example China and India, and in the least developed countries (35), for example many African countries. Source: ITU (2012, 2013 and 2014). Show as table Download

Large global digital divide

If we look at the global spread, it differs greatly between developed countries (OECD countries), developing countries, and the least developed countries. This is a classification based on the countries’ gross domestic products (GDP) among other things. In the rich OECD countries, around three-quarters (77%) of the population use the internet. In developing countries, one-third (31%), and in the least developed countries only a few percent of the population uses the internet (ITU 2014). The differences during the eighteen years since 1995 have constantly increased.

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World Economic Forum’s Network readiness index

In 2014, Sweden remains in third place in the World Economic Forum’s Network readiness index after Finland and Singapore, but before the Netherlands and Norway. Sweden ranks high in terms of internet use, both among individuals and companies, but lower when it comes to internet costs such as subscriptions, and very low in people’s e-participation as measured in an ”e-participation” index.

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The internet continues to spread in Sweden

Despite more than twenty years with the internet, it continues to spread more and more. This applies to both access and use. The increase is not large because many age groups have already reached the ceiling where almost everyone is already using the internet. But not all are internet users among the older and among the youngest. And it is here, especially among younger pensioners, that the increase during the past year has been the largest. The increase is also significant among pre-school children and this is due to the tablet’s popularity in families with children, who are behind the increasing number of younger children starting to use the internet regularly.

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Diagram 1.2. Access to computer, internet and broadband 1995–2014 in the population over 18 years. Show as table Download

Internet Access

If we first look at the access, today there are just as many who have access to the internet that have access to a computer. In 2014, 91 percent of the population over the age of 18 has access to a computer (92% of those 12 years and older) and 91 percent have access to the internet. 88 percent have access to broadband at home.

Diagram 1.3. Access to computer, internet and broadband 2010–2014 in the population over 18 years. Show as table Download

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Diagram 1.4. Number of the population (12+ years) who have access to a computer, smartphone, tablet or combination of these. Show as table Download

Everyone who has a smartphone has access to a computer

Over the years, there have been many more people having a computer than there have with access to the internet. But now it is tantamount to also have access to the internet if you have a computer. One could even perhaps expect that there would be more people who had access to the internet than to a computer, when we now have smartphones and tablets. There are also people who do not have a computer while still using the internet, but they are not many – only a small percentage is found in all ages. 98 percent of those who use the internet have access to a computer even if they also have access to a smartphone or tablet. One cannot therefore say that the smartphone has replaced the computer, but it is a complement for those who already have a computer. The tablet is a complement for those who already have a computer and a smartphone.

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Diagram 1.5. Number of different age groups who use the internet at home at least sometime or daily. Show as table Download

Use of the internet

In the ages of 6 to 65, at least 90 percent use the internet, at least sometimes. In the ages of 12 to 55 it is close to 100 percent. Among pre-school children and younger pensioners, the number is around 80 percent and among the oldest, who are over 75 years, it is around 30 percent.

When it comes to more frequent and regular usage, we can see that 90 percent in the ages of 12 – 45 are daily users, around 75 percent in the ages of 9 to 11 and in the ages of 46 to 65. Half of the younger pensioners and the youngest pre-school children are also daily users, a third of the younger pre-school children and a quarter of the oldest over 75.

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Diagram 1.6. Number of the population (12+ years) who use the internet at home sometimes, every week, daily or many times a day. Show as table Download

Increased use of the internet several times a day

Today, it’s not just that more people have access to the internet, but also that more people use the internet and more use the internet daily. If we look back over the past seven years, daily use has increased 52 to 76 percent and the largest changes have occurred in this group. Many have started to use the internet several times a day at home. In 2007, few used the internet at home several times a day. Today, almost half (40%) do this. The increase has been especially large in the last year from 33 percent of users several times a day in 2013 to 40 percent in 2014. This is a trend towards more frequent use of the internet, which can be largely attributed to the smartphone and tablet.

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Diagram 1.7. Number of different age groups who sometimes use the internet at home. Show as table Download

Largest increase among children and younger pensioners

If we look at the development during the last few years in different age groups, we can see that the number of people who use the internet sometimes has not changed very much during the last five years in the ages of 6 to 55. Most of these internet users were already at this point five years ago. However, the changes have been large among pre-school children with almost a doubling during the last five years (42%-79%), and the changes have also been big among younger pensioners (53%-79%). There have also been changes in the age group of 56 to 65 and among the oldest over 75, but these levels have remained unchanged over the past three years.

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Diagram 1.8. Number in different age groups who use the internet at home daily. Show as table Download

More daily users

If we look at the intensity in use, it has changed more in the past five years, with the exception of those in ages of 16 to 35, where the daily use was already quite prevalent five years ago. In other age groups, the proportion of daily use has increased each year, which is especially noticeable among small children, where five years ago there were few daily users. Now every third pre-school child (3-5 years) uses the internet daily, almost half of the slightly older (6-8 years), and three out of four among school children (9-11 years). The increasing availability of tablets in families with children has contributed to an increase in daily internet use. More on this in Chapter 7 about children.

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Diagram 1.9. Average time (hour/week) that internet users (12+ years) spend on the internet at home. Show as table Download

Increased time with the internet

The average time that users spend on the internet at home during the past four years has been about 11.5 hours per week, or more than 1.5 hours per day. Over the past year, there has been an increase of one hour a week. This increase is due to the growing use of smartphones and tablets. It is not only the computer, but also mobile devices being used largely in the home connected to one’s own wireless network. More on this in the chapter on mobile applications. The increase in internet time has been most evident among older adolescents (16-25) and in the parental generation (36-45). In the elderly, the differences are small. They spend about as much time on the internet as before.

Diagram 1.10. Average time (hour/week) for internet in the home in different ages in different years. Show as table Download

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Diagram 1.11. Total internet time (12+ years) between different places. Show as table Download

Where is the internet used the most? At home or at work/school?

Home is the place where people spend the most time on the internet. For those who are employed, time is distributed fairly evenly between work and home. The increase for those who study and work has in recent years mainly taken place in the home.

During the last year, the time spent on the internet has increased overall with the exception of pensioners where the use of smartphones and tablets are limited. Both the employed and students have put in more time on the internet at home as well as at work or school.

Diagram 1.12. Average time (hour/week) that employed, studying (12+) and pensioners spend with the internet in different places. Show as table Download

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Diagram 1.13. Number of users (12+ years) who use the internet at home during different lengths during the week. Show as table Download

Average values conceal a wide variation among internet users

Behind the average times, a significant difference is concealed in the length of time one spends on the internet. Some people use the internet a little, maybe a few hours a week, while others devote an entire work week, 40 hours or more online.
At home, the emphasis lies on the third that spend between 7–15 hours on the internet in a week. At the same time, 10 percent use the internet at home less than one hour a week and 9 percent use it more than 30 hours.

Diagram 1.14. Number of users with smartphones (12+ years) who use the internet in their phones during lengths per week. Show as table Download

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Diagram 1.15. Number of the population (12+ years) who have access to a smartphone. Show as table Download

Increasing use of mobile technology: smartphones and tablets

The spreading curve for smart phones has risen sharply until last year, but has now begun to slow down. The sharpest increase occurred in 2012.

In contrast, the tablet continues to spread quickly with the largest increase so far during the past year. Here, there is no slowdown. The spreading curve continues to go up.

Diagram 1.16. Number of the population (12+ years) that have access to a tablet. Show as table Download

The increasing mobile usage is reflected in increased internet time at home and in school as a large portion of mobile phone usage takes place in the home and at school via wireless networks.

Diagram 1.17. Average interet time among users at home, at work, in school, on the move and in the mobile phone. Show as table Download

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Increasing share of internet time devoted to the mobile phone

The increasing use of smartphones also puts its mark on the amount of internet time spent on the mobile phone. In 2011, when the use of smartphones had just taken off, smartphones occupied 8 percent of total internet time. Today that figure is at 29 percent, and is the highest is in the ages of 12 to 35 where one uses their mobile phone for over a third (33%) of their total internet time. See more about mobile phone use in the chapter on ”The mobile boom.”

Share of mobile phones on total internet time:
2011 8%
2013 25%
2014 29%

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How many do not use the internet?

It took a few years after the internet began to spread in 1995 to the general public before it took off, but during the last years of the 1990s, millions of Swedes started to use the internet. In the year 2000, half of the Swedish people had access to the internet. In subsequent years, the spread leveled out but picked up again in the context of broadband deployment. Since then the spread has continued to a larger part of the population even though it seemed that in some years that spread might stall. Still, after twenty years, new internet users are still arriving. Over the past year, there have been around a hundred thousand new users1. But it is believed that around 1 million Swedes still do not use the internet 2.

How many do not use the internet at home?
2010 1,5 million
2011 1,3 million
2012 1,2 million
2013 1,1 million
2014 1,0 million

 

1. The network Digidel, which started in 2010 and was supported by .SE, libraries and public educational associations, aimed to get at least another 500,000 people to use the internet before the end of 2013. The number of non-users would be reduced from 1.5 million to 1 million. We can now see that the goal was reached. How much is due to Digidel is hard to say.

2. See Findahl 2013, A million Swedes do not want to use the internet

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Diagram 1.18. Number of non-users who have a mobile phone and number who have a mobile phone and send SMS. Show as table Download

Non-users are skeptical of new technology

When asked the question, of those who do not use the internet, if they like to try new technological devices and gadgets, 8 percent of non-users answered YES (the average among internet users is 41 percent), while 74 percent said NO, they do not like to try new technology.

Eight out of ten (79%) of those who do not use the internet have access to a mobile phone. A smaller proportion (12%) has a smartphone without using the internet. The mobile phone is most often used to call with. Only 31 percent send a text message sometime.

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Diagram 1.19. The reasons that non-users of the Internet give for not using the internet. Show as table Download

What is the motive of non-users?

Those who do not use the internet mention a wide range of subjects regarding why they are not online: There is no connection where they live, they do not have time or cannot afford it. More commonly, they feel remote from computers and think that the technology is complicated and difficult. The most common reason, mentioned by two out of three, is just that they are simply not interested. It is a response that has always been the most common among non-users.

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Diagram 1.20. Percentage of people who report disabilities that mention various problems that complicate their use of the internet. Show as table Download

Disability causes problems

Disabilities can also be a problem that makes it difficult to use the computer and internet. The older one is, the more common it is with various disabilities. Among the elderly, vision problems make it difficult to read the screen and problems with motor skills complicate the use of the mouse and keyboard. Difficulties in reading and writing, dyslexia, are found in all age groups. Among younger people, this is an aggravating circumstance but that does not stop their internet use. In total, 5 percent of the population say they have disabilities that impede their use of the internet. Half of them, especially among the elderly, indicate that this is the reason they do not use the internet. 10 percent of pensioners (65+) state disabilities that hinder use, and in the oldest over 75 years, we see 16 percent who report such problems.

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