Study with 9000 respondents shows digital gaps


In Germany, there are digital divides between women and men, younger and older people, those with higher formal education and those with lower formal education, and those with higher and lower incomes. This is one of the results of the digital barometer of the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation and the SZ Institute. They asked 9,000 people aged 14 and over about user behavior, digital skills, the digital transformation of the world of work, e-government and artificial intelligence (AI).

Men, younger, more educated and higher-income people tend to use the internet and digital devices more often than women, older, less educated and lower-income people. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic seems to amplify these differences in some cases: young people in particular, as well as people with higher formal education or higher household net income, state that they use digital devices more frequently as a result of the pandemic, says the study (PDF).

At least occasionally, the majority of Germans feel overwhelmed when dealing with digital devices or the Internet. 14 percent of those surveyed stated that they were never overwhelmed. In the digital skills self-assessment test DigCompSAT the Germans achieve an average of 55 out of 100 possible points; 12 percent have low skills in handling information.

According to their own assessment, men, younger people, people with a higher level of formal education and higher incomes have higher digital skills than women, older people, people with a lower level of formal education and people with lower incomes. Here, too, the pandemic tends to increase the differences, according to the study. In particular, younger people and those with higher education, as well as men and people with higher incomes, have indicated that they have improved their digital skills in the past twelve months.

35 percent of working Germans believe that too little attention is paid to digitization in their professional environment, which is said above all by employees in small and medium-sized companies. About half see deficits in the range of further education and training opportunities on the subject of digitization; here, too, it is more likely to be employees in smaller companies who say that.

The average self-assessed digital skills of employees in small and medium-sized companies are lower than in large companies, was further determined for the digital barometer. And in the world of work, too, the pandemic has tended to exacerbate these differences. Employees in large companies in particular and less in small and medium-sized companies see a positive boost in digitization as a result of the pandemic.

83 percent of those surveyed have already looked for information online from authorities and offices, and two-thirds have already made an appointment online. Above all, people over the age of 64 and those with a low level of formal education use digital services from public administration less often than younger people and those with a higher level of formal education.

Every tenth user states that they were dissatisfied with the offer used. If e-government offers are not used, it is because there is a lack of demand or because personal contact with employees in offices and authorities is preferred.

50 percent of people in Germany believe that the opportunities and risks of AI will be balanced. 21 percent mainly see opportunities, 22 percent mainly risks. The more people know about AI, the younger and the higher they are formally educated and the more they earn, the more likely they are to believe that the opportunities through the use of AI outweigh them.

Depending on the specific field of application, the assessment of the opportunities and risks of AI differ significantly. In the areas of recognizing and treating illnesses, many people mainly see opportunities through the use of AI, but in the area of ​​judgments and decisions in court proceedings, there are very pronounced risks. For none of the areas, the majority of those surveyed are of the opinion that AI should make the decisions alone, but rather make a suggestion for the final decision by humans. In court cases, 55 percent of those surveyed believe that decisions should only be made by people without the support of AI.

In general, the survey showed that 91 percent of people in Germany aged 14 and over use the Internet privately. The percentage is highest in Hamburg at 95 percent, lowest in Bavaria at 89 percent and Brandenburg at 88 percent. 85 percent have a smartphone, 71 percent a laptop, 66 percent a radio, 53 percent a smart TV, 31 percent wear a smartwatch, 22 percent have smart household appliances and 3 percent have VR glasses.

Of the 791 people who don’t use the Internet, 32 percent said they would use it personally in the future if someone helped them. 26 percent would do it if it was safer and 21 percent if it brought them more benefits. For 20 percent it would be important for websites or apps to be easier to understand, for 15 and 12 percent respectively the price of a device or the Internet connection is decisive.


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