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 usage  in  Italy  in  2008:  a  digital  circle  of  life  

Luigi  Reggi  
Using   the   most   recent   data   from   Eurostat   and   Istat   (2008),   the   study  
examines   the   extent   of   the   digital   divide   in   Internet   usage   in   Italy  
compared  to  the  other  Countries  of  the  EU.  A  multiple  correspondence  
analysis   (MCA)   followed   by   a   cluster   analysis   (CA)   is   carried   out   in  
order  to  classify  the  users  according  to  a  number  of  Internet  activities  
that  they  had  performed  in  the  last  3  months.  
The   results   show   that   Internet   users   that   had   been   connected   to   the  
web   at   least   once   in   the   last   3   months   tend   to   cluster   into   three   main  
groups:  the  first  group  tends  to  carry  out  quite  traditional  web  activities  
(on-­‐line   banking,   information   search   or   eGovernment);   the   second   tries  
out   new   technologies   mainly   devoted   to   communication   (i.e.   blogging,  
peer-­‐to-­‐peer   downloading   or   on-­‐line   gaming),   while   the   third   is  
composed   of   occasional   users   who   did   nothing   more   than   checking  
their  email.  
Considering  the  personal  characteristics  of  the  people  belonging  to  the  
various  groups,  the  data  shows  that  age  still  plays  a  very  important  role,  
following   a   pattern   that   could   be   thought   of   as   a   ‘digital   circle   of   life’.    
Internet   users,   while   starting   this   virtual   cycle   among   the   occasional  
users   (group   No.   3)   when   very   young,   tend   to   move   to   the   innovation  
adopters   group   (No.   2)   at   16   to   25   years   old,   and   then   join   the  
traditional   group   (No.   1)   once   they   reach   middle   age.   The   circle   is  
eventually  closed  by  virtue  of  the  fact  that  senior  people  belong  to  the  
occasional  users  group.  
Territorial  distribution  also  has  a  significant  impact  on  Internet  usage.  
It   is   more   frequent   to   find   people   belonging   to   the   first   2   groups  
(advanced  users)  in  the  Regions  of  the  Centre-­‐North  of  Italy,  while  the  4  
Regions   of   the   South   classified   by   EU   cohesion   policy   as   part   of   the  
Convergence   Objective   show   the   lowest   proportion   of   e-­included  
Territorial   differences   are   even   more   evident   at   the   national   level,  
comparing  Italy  to  other  EU  Countries.  Eurostat  data  shows  that  Italy’s  
performance   is   far   below   the   EU   average   and   the   gap   is   particularly  
wide   among   young   aduts,   highlighting   the   need   for   specific   policies   and  
quick  action.