'Technology gap' is widening as older people shun internet
YOUNG Irish adults now spend two-and-a-half hours online every day – the equivalent of 38 days each year.
But there is still a significant generational gap when it comes to internet usage in Ireland.
Young Irish people now boast one of the world's highest rates of internet use, with 80pc of those under 21 either owning or having used a smartphone.
By contrast, one in five Irish people aged over 40 has still not been on the internet.
The statistics, from the Irish branch of the EU Commission, were discussed at a conference on technology driving business.
Government and EU officials admitted that a 'technology gap' has emerged between older people who shun the internet and the younger generation, which has embraced it.
Meanwhile, shoppers here spend an average of €116 per month online. That figure is expected to almost double within six years.
The retail revolution, driven by smartphones and tablets, is expected to boost economic recovery, with predictions that overall online spending will soar from €4.7bn in 2010 to €11.3bn in four years' time.
European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton said Ireland was at the forefront of the digital revolution and stood to massively benefit as a result.
She said: "The digital economy is growing at a rate that is 700pc higher than the normal economy."
The EU is predicting that online shopping will drive up gross domestic product (GDP) here by 5pc by 2016. This is equivalent to €1,500 extra each year for every Irish citizen.
Ms Creighton commented: "We are one of the vanguard countries.
"Digital technology and online business are fundamentally changing our lives – how we live, learn, how we work and how we communicate.
"So it is vital that Ireland stays at the cutting edge of this revolution."
Change will now be further accelerated by the roll-out of the 4G telecommunications network in Ireland.
The 4G network, which allows for much faster downloads on smartphones and tablets, has earned the Government €855m from franchises purchased by operators including O2, Vodafone, Eircom and Three.
A digital-business conference in Dublin heard that technology had evolved to the stage where the communications era had now been replaced by the social era.
Internet-technology consultant David Shing stressed that the impact of smartphones and tablets would be mirrored by the emergence of full device integration, which will link everything from TVs to smartphones, tablets and even 'smart' watches.