Digitalisation - Internet Coverage and Usage in Ireland 2023

Posted on Friday, 15 December 2023
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CSO Infographic Internet Coverage and Usage in Ireland 2023
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With each passing year, more and more of our lives are moved online. With many still working from home for all or part of their working week, good quality, affordable, reliable internet connection is a necessity, not a luxury. It is an essential economic, social and educational inclusion tool that enables people to fully participate in society and remain connected and informed. It will be important to ensure ease and equality of access so that already disadvantaged or marginalised groups do not fall further behind. That there are still areas in (particularly rural) Ireland who continue to be disadvantaged by way of limited or poor access, the digital divide will further exacerbate educational disadvantage in areas with poor connectivity. 


Household Internet Connectivity

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) have recently published 'Internet Coverage and Usage in Ireland 2023'. Internet connectivity in 2023 stood at 94 per cent, the same as 2022. Whilst households in Dublin still continue to outpace the rest of the country for access to fixed broadband (with 96 per cent ),however, the Border and Midlands have improved considerably from an average of 78 per cent coverage to 91 per cent. Almost every household with children is connected to the internet compared to 82 per cent of adult only households. Fixed broadband connection is the most commonly used, accounting for 86 per cent of households. Fixed broadband connection was highest in the Dublin region at 91 per cent when compared with 79 per cent of the Border region. 

Among households who did not have internet access, the main reasons for not having it were that it was not needed (56 per cent), followed by a lack of skills (27 per cent), high equipment costs and prohibitive cost of access ( 12 per cent and 7 per cent). Six per cent also reported the lack of availability of broadband internet as a factor. Thirteen per cent reported that they had access to the internet somewhere else (work, local library, etc.) and that this was a reason for not having household internet connectivity.

Frequency of Internet Usage

The report noted that "of all respondents aged 16 years and over, more than nine in ten (92 per cent) individuals have used the internet within the previous three months, unchanged from 2022, while just 1 per cent of individuals had used the internet but more than three months ago. One in fourteen (7 per cent) had never used the internet, predominantly older persons - 42 per cent of persons aged 75 and over have never used the internet. This compared with just 1 per cent of persons aged 30 to 44 years, and 2 per cent of persons aged 45 to 59 years, who have never used the internet. All persons aged 16 to 29 years have used the internet within the previous three months."

Also of note is that almost all (96 per cent) internet users used either their smart phone or mobile phone to access the internet. 

Digital Skills 

At European level, Ireland ranks 5th in the EU Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) (European Commission, 2022). They report that fixed, very high-capacity network (VHCN) coverage has grown steadily from 83 per cent to 89 per cent in 2021. However, despite this, in terms of connectivity, the take up of at least 100Mbps fixed broadband is only 37 per cent compared to the EU average of 41 per cent and that, at least 1 Gbps take-up is very slow in Ireland at only 4.27 per cent compared to the EU average of 7.58 per cent. Ireland’s average yearly relative growth of its DESI score between 2017 and 2022 is approximately 8.5 per cent which is one of the highest in the EU.

Ireland performs above the EU average in advanced digital skills (for example, for the indicators on ICT specialists, female ICT specialists and ICT graduates) and the basic digital skills of the population has increased to 70 per cent against the EU average of 54 per cent.


Digital Strategy 

A new Digital Strategy for Schools to 2027 was published in April 2022.1 It builds upon the 2015-2020 Digital Strategy for Schools with a stronger focus on further embedding the use of digital technologies in all teaching, learning and assessment activities, the further development of digital skills and building awareness and knowledge around ensuring safe and ethical uses of the internet.

Ireland’s use of the internet is broadly in line with the European average. Our use of the internet points to a society that is moving away from personal social interaction, towards virtual engagement with others. According to the DESI, Ireland performs well in digital public services. However, its performance regarding pre-filled forms is below the EU average. The internet is now more important than ever for all aspects of daily life and whilst the basic digital skills of the population are improving, those who fall into this skills gap are at risk of being marginalised. Their needs must be addressed and supported to ensure that the increasing number of services who operate primarily or exclusively online are available to all.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland was replaced by Coimisiún na Meán. This new agency will be responsible for the regulation of broadcasting and video-on-demand services as well as introducing the new regulatory framework for online safety. A new Online Safety Commissioner was appointed in January 2023

National Broadband Plan

Broadband, particularly for rural areas, is essential if Ireland is to keep pace with globalisation while also ensuring balanced rural development. As hybrid or full working from home options remain in place for many, location will no longer be an issue allowing many to relocate from expensive urban centres to more rural locations. Social Justice Ireland urges Government to expedite the roll-out on the National Broadband Plan without further delays.