One in three Europeans is a digital virgin

Thirty per cent of Europeans have never used the Internet, a report released by European Commission IT chiefs has revealed.

"Can you imagine that there are still some 30 per cent of Europeans who have never used the Internet? Digital virgins, so to say," European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, told a press conference to launch the Commission's Digital Agenda.

The report called for Europe to create a “virtuous cycle” of IT development to address a growing digital divide between European states and competitors elsewhere in the world.

According to the study, the EU is spending at just 40 per cent of US level on IT research and development. Only one per cent of Europeans had access to high-speed fibre broadband, compared to 12 per cent of Japanese and 15 per cent in South Korea.

"We want to ensure they all have the opportunity to discover the wonders of the digital world," Kroes said. "The ambitious strategy set out today shows clearly where we need to focus our efforts in the years to come."

The Digital Agenda promises to increase IT literacy, promote interoperability between products and services, and boost internet trust and security. It will also look at ways in which IT can be used to solve social challenges such as climate change.

The centrepiece of the Agenda is the 'digital single market'. The Commission laid out plans to force through a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and create a standardised European e-invoicing framework by the end of 2010.