High-speed broadband is changing people’s use of the Internet

The Internet, and its most recent expression, broadband, is now part of everyday life for a billion people, but billions are still excluded from this major technological advance. This paper focuses on how ICTs, the Internet and broadband diffusion and use among households and individuals are sources of significant change and how these technologies have, and will continue to have, major economic and social impacts. The indicators and discussion presented in this paper shed light on selected areas of household and individual use. Other areas such as consumer-to-consumer electronic commerce, e-government, the blurring frontier between private and work life due to ICT, and associated impacts on production, organisation and productivity, are not the focus of this analysis.Overall an increasing share of household income is devoted to communication. This is a general trend across OECD countries although there are differences among them (Section 1). Personal computers, the Internet and broadband have reached relatively high diffusion levels across and within OECD countries but again there are significant differences among them. This has driven major changes in people’s lives as these technologies are pervasive and powerful enabling tools. Focusing mainly on the Internet and broadband, diffusion and usage patterns are analysed by selected socio-economic variables, tracking pervasiveness and variety of use and the impact of broadband on patterns and frequency of use (Section 2).With increasing frequency of Internet use there are clear signs of changes in time allocation patterns, with broadband having a significant effect on these patterns (Section 3). Finally, different rates of PC and Internet diffusion across different populations have resulted in digital divides (haves versus have-nots), and, as shown in previous OECD analysis, as the simple digital access divide declines a digital use divide is increasingly significant. How has this evolved? This second level use divide persists beyond connectedness and is increasingly important with increasing broadband access (Section 4). Technology use and learning play a vital role, and background and socio-economic status have a direct bearing on how people use information technology in general, and broadband in particular. Some policy implications and proposals for future work conclude this paper.

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