The growth of the Internet and the emergence of a new computer-savvy generation leaves Europe well-placed to capitalize on the digital economy, the European Commission said on Tuesday.
In its Digital Competitiveness report, the commission said 56 percent of Europeans had become regular Internet users by last year, a jump of one third since 2004. Half of all households and more than 80 percent of businesses had a broadband connection.
“A new generation of Europeans mastering the Web and ready to apply its innovations is coming on stage,” the commission said. “These ‘digital natives’ hold great potential for Europe’s growth.”
The commission said Internet use would soar as members of this new generation begin their professional lives, “increasingly shaping and dominating market trends.”
“Europe’s digital economy has tremendous potential to generate huge revenues across all sectors,” EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said. “We should seize the opportunity of a new generation of Europeans who will soon be calling the shots in the European marketplace.”
The report found that the biggest Internet users were those aged under 24, with 66 percent of them surfing the Web every day compared with only 43 percent of the rest of the EU population.
But the report found that although this age group is very active on the Internet, it does not want to pay for the services it offers.
Of those aged 16-24, 73 percent had used the Internet to create and share content, double the European average.
But these young users stand out from the rest of the population in their attitude toward the payment of online content, the report said.
They perceive many of the services and content to be free of charge or simply provided as part of a flat-rate Internet connection fee, it said.
The study showed that about 33 percent of young people said they were not willing to pay anything at all, which was twice the EU average.
Reding said the growing problem of Internet piracy was “a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions” and highlighted “serious deficiencies” in the present system.
She called for a less polarized debate on the issue and urged all sides to examine other options.
“It is necessary to penalize those who are breaking the law,” she said.
“But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market?” she said.
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