Report cites wide digital divide in Europe

A report released by the European Union report showed big differences in the level of Internet use among EU nations, with Benelux and Nordic countries leading the way and eastern and southeastern Europe generally lagging behind.

The report, quoted by Associated Press, said in the Netherlands, 78% of households are connected to the Internet, compared to just 16% in Lithuania, according to the report from the Eurostat statistics agency, based on data gathered in early 2005.

The report said the Dutch also lead the way in domestic broadband access, with 54% of homes linked up compared to 1% in Greece, 4% in Cyprus and 5% in the Czech Republic.

In Greece, 73% of the population say they have never used the Internet, the survey said, well above the EU average of 43%, the report said.

More than half the citizens of the Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Portugal have never logged on to the Net.

Among students, only 7% across the EU have never used the Internet.

Overall, the survey showed a rise in Internet connections since 2004. Domestic connections in the EU rose from 43% to 48%. The number of homes connected to broadband rose from 15% to 23%.

For EU businesses, Internet access rose from 89% to 91%, while broadband connections increased from 53% to 63%.