One in 20 Swedes doesn’t use the internet

Although 98 percent of Swedish homes have internet access, one in 20 people never go online, according to a new report surveying Swedes' online habits.

One in 20 Swedes doesn't use the internet
Elderly people risk being cut off from parts of Swedish society if they don't use the internet. File photo: NTB scanpix

That amounts to 500,000 people, the majority of them aged over 76, and the figure rises to 1.1 million when including those who only use the internet rarely.

At the other end of the scale, one in four babies under 12 months old is an internet-user, according to the newly released report Swedes and the Internet 2018.

The survey, published every year by the Internet Foundation in Sweden (IIS), examines Swedes' relationship with the internet and this year the focus was on so-called digital exclusion.

For the first time, the report looked at “rare users” of the internet, a group of around 600,000 people who do go online, but seldom. Like those who never use the internet, this group is mainly made up of over-76-year-olds.

“The reason that we are also looking at rare users is that it's increasingly important to be able to participate digitally in society,” explained Måns Jonasson, digital strategist at the IIS. “Ten years ago, you could manage without the internet and get by as a citizen, but now more and more authorities require Bank-ID for identification and physical forms are disappearing in favour of online forms.”

One problem posed by digital exclusion is that non-users of the internet are typically a hard to reach group.

“Our investigation shows that those who don't use the internet have chosen not to. They don't consider it interesting or important to be online. These people risk getting left behind democratically, and that's a big problem,” Jonasson said.

“It's not enough to 'educate away' the problem or to force people. What we want to do is to highlight the problem and ensure that decision-makers take into account this group, around ten percent of the population, in calculations when new services are developed.”

IIS recommends that libraries be better equipped in order to act as a bridge between the non-users and digital society, and has already set up one such centre in a library in Motala, central Sweden, where older people can receive help with online services and activities. 

Another new aspect of the report was that the IIS for the first time looked into online habits among babies. According to answers from parents, one in four babies aged under a year old uses the internet in Sweden, with the proportion rising to two in five one-year-olds. Once toddlers reach the age of two, more than half are using the internet every day, primarily to watch videos.

The IIS has not taken a stance on whether or not this is a positive development, noting that more research in the area is needed.

“It's really a generational question. The parents of these children have grown up with the internet and they don't see it as a negative thing. We aren't making judgments, but of course there needs to be more research about what's good and what's bad,” said Jonasson.

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