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Dutch spending more time online, but not always productively

Almost all Dutch people are spending more and more time online, but a digital gap is emerging between people who truly benefit from being online and those who merely use the internet for entertainment purposes, according to a new report from the University of Twente.

The Trend report on internet use 2012 concludes that the younger generation and highly educated people seem to be benefiting the most from the time they spend online.

A whopping 96% of Dutch people now have internet access at home (the highest percentage in Europe), and 87% of them use the internet every day, either at home or elsewhere.

Since 2011, access to mobile internet via smart phones has increased rapidly from 31 to 42%, and from 10 to 27% via tablets. In 2012, Dutch people spent an average of 4 hours and 48 minutes on the internet on a weekday, versus 4 hours and 18 minutes on non-working days.

Just about everyone is benefitting from the Internet in some way. For example, 28% of the Dutch population uses the internet to decide who to vote for, and 38% has signed an online petition. Furthermore, the internet has helped 56% of the population feel more up-to-date on government information.

Social networking
The researchers suggest that the Internet also makes people more sociable, because 58% of Dutch people say that they have more contact with family and friends thanks to the internet, and 33% have made new friends online.

The survey found that 77% of Dutch people use at least one social network, with Facebook being the most popular (68% of adults over 16), followed by Youtube (57%), Hyves (40%) and Google+ (32%). Students use Facebook to communicate very often (86%), and on average, more women use Facebook than men.

Online safety
The Dutch are taking more measures to protect themselves online. More Dutch people report using a virus scanner (increase from 82% to 87%) and more report regularly changing their passwords (38% in 2012 versus 31% in 2011).

The internet and work
About 70% of the working Dutch population use the internet at work in 2012. Highly qualified employees have more access to the internet (81%) than those that are less well-qualified. Furthermore, more highly qualified people work from home via the internet more often, and 21% do so at least once a week, compared to just 6% of less well-qualified people.

According to the researchers, "Internet has a positive effect at work. More than half of the respondents claim to work more effectively, efficiently and to a higher standard thanks to the internet... The amount of time employees spend on the internet sorting out their private affairs while at work is more than compensated by the time they spend on work via the internet while at home."

The digital gap
The researchers note that not everyone is fully capitalising on the opportunities offered by the internet, and it appears that highly qualified people, men more than women, and the younger generation more than older people benefit most from the internet.

One of the sponsors of the report, Tineke Netelenbos, points out that the "Internet provides fantastic economic and social opportunities. But a digital gap between sections of the population is looming... Anyone who lags behind and doesn’t keep their digital skills up-to-date, whether at home or at work, will soon miss the boat."

About the report
The Trend report on internet use 2012 was written by the CTIT research institute at the University of Twente, and was commissioned by Digivaardig & Digiveilig, a partnership of businesses, government, and social organisations working together to enhance the digital skills of the Dutch population and improve online safety.

More information about Digivaardig & Digiveilig can be found here.

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Carly Blair

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