RealTime IT News

Culture, Climate Blamed for Low Net Usage in Southern Europe

[London, ENGLAND] Despite the fact that Southern Europe has practically the same climate as California, Forrester Research blames the weather as one factor in the slow take-up of the Internet in Italy, Spain and France.

"On a sunny day, Southern Europeans may not be tempted to stay inside and shop online, while Northern Europeans often don't have that choice," said William Reeve, group director, European data products at Forrester Research B.V.

However, the chief causes of Southern Europe's laggardly performance -- again according to Forrester -- are deeply rooted cultural traditions which are resistant to any kind of change in behavior.

"The main North-South cultural divide between the 'Catholic South' and 'Protestant North' applies most strongly to middle-aged consumers. Older consumers in the Southern European markets find it more difficult to become familiar with new technologies," said Reeve.

Forrester's latest "findings" are explained in a recent Brief, published as part of its Technographics Europe research program.

But does it ring true? There appears to be no good reason why a Catholic farmer in a hot part of the world should not benefit from the Internet just as much as anyone else. The cost of Internet access, PCs, and telephone charges, together with other economic factors -- such as poverty -- must surely play their part.

But Forrester insists that demographics alone are not the whole story. Far from it. They play a lesser role, according to the researchers.

"Forrester finds education to be a more important predictor of technology adoption, while income is slightly less useful," said Reeve.

Internet entrepreneurs who wish to penetrate markets in Southern Europe need to consider culture and attitudes, say the researchers, who go on to advise companies to target such institutions as churches and seniors' clubs if they want to reach "the reluctant middle-aged."

From a Californian perspective, where a Mediterranean climate and a farming culture have certainly not stunted the growth of the Internet, it must all seem very strange. According to a UCLA report to be released in October, the Internet is now a more important source of information than television, radio and magazines for the majority of Americans.