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The internet continues to make steady strides in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, more than half of the region's population went online at least once per month, eMarketer estimates, and that share will pass 55% in 2015. Yet a clear divide remains between more advanced digital cultures—notably the Czech Republic and the Baltic states—and those such as Turkey, where digital infrastructure is less robust and progress has been slower. Poland and Russia will register internet penetration above the regional average, but well below the levels seen in neighboring countries to the west. Between now and 2019, Turkey in particular is expected to see rapid growth, as the percentage of residents who go online will jump from 54.2% to 65.2%.
The fifth annual edition of eMarketer's Global Media Intelligence Report, produced in conjunction with Starcom Mediavest Group, analyzes recent developments in Central and Eastern Europe, where hints of economic recovery seen in 2014 are still present despite continuing unrest. It includes demographic and media usage information on audiences in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine.
As in 2014, Central and Eastern Europe will record the third-highest mobile phone penetration globally. An estimated 69.1% of the region's population will use a mobile phone at least monthly this year, compared with 80.2% in North America and 80.1% in Western Europe. eMarketer predicts that the number of mobile phone users in Central and Eastern Europe will approach 298 million in 2015 and pass 303 million in 2016.
Smartphones are a different story. The level of smartphone usage in Central and Eastern Europe is still far lower than in most other parts of the world. eMarketer estimates that for this year, 144.3 million people in the region will own at least one advanced handset and use it at least once per month—only the Middle East and Africa will register a smaller number of smartphone-toting consumers. In all, fewer than half of mobile phone users in Central and Eastern Europe will be smartphone owners this year, compared with more than 65% in Western Europe and nearly 74% in North America. On the plus side, smartphone usage is expanding faster in Central and Eastern Europe than in any other region, and looks set to grow by a further 26.9% in 2015.
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