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The Online Revolution Bypasses Nearly One-Fifth of Homes in France

In this leading EU-5 country, almost 5.4 million homes remain without internet access

There’s no doubt that France has made great strides in internet provision during the past decade. Nine years ago, 65.6% of homes had no connection to the web, according to Médiamétrie, and even five years back—in Q2 2009—39.0% were not online. Since then, that proportion has halved. But even today, 19.3% of homes—nearly 5.4 million—remain without internet access in this leading Western European nation, according to Médiamétrie’s July 2014 “Home Devices” report. This incorporates data on the full range of multimedia devices in households in France, obtained through 40,000 telephone and online interviews each year.

Predictably, seniors often featured in these nonconnected premises. In more than half (55.4%) of such homes, the head of household was 65 or older. Where the main occupant was younger than 65, most lived alone and had no children under age 15.

Location was a key factor in some cases: 25.9% of homes without the web were in rural areas. Just 15.7% were in or around Paris, according to Médiamétrie.

Another determinant was low income. In many homes without the net, the occupants were economically inactive (through retirement or joblessness) or relatively low-income consumers whose resources didn’t stretch to extra telecoms services. Arguably, advertisers have little interest in consumers without much disposable income. On the other hand, government agencies, health providers and other local organizations stand to benefit from major cost and efficiency gains the more people are online.

Residents in non-internet homes were also less familiar with new technologies generally. For example, nonwired homes had far fewer screens than others—an average of 2.8 screens, compared with an average 6.3 for all households in the country and 7.1 screens in connected homes.

Researchers did find evidence that a minority of people in nonwired homes hoped to get online in the future. A computer, the primary access route to the internet, was at least present in 17.7% of these households—though that fell far short of the 95.3% penetration rate in connected homes. About one in 10 people living without internet access said they planned to buy or refurbish a computer in the next six months.

The latest results from Médiamétrie confirm a digital divide already well documented by other research firms. For example, data released in December 2013, based on polling of more than 2,200 consumers ages 12 and older by the Centre de Recherche pour l’Étude et l’Observation des Conditions de Vie (CRÉDOC) for the Autorité de Régulation des Communications électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP) and Conseil général de l’économie, de l’industrie, de l’énergie et des technologies (CGEIET), revealed significantly lower internet usage among France’s seniors (ages 70 and older in this case) and among the least affluent residents.

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