PC not home!

OECD Observer

Is the talk of the new electronic age exaggerated? Only 30% of households in 11 major OECD countries had a home computer in 1997. That may sound disappointing to e-world afficionados who had hoped that by the end of the 1990s we would all be prepared for life in on the other side of 2000.

But there is worse: that 30% is just an average figure and the spread of the technology is quite uneven across the countries surveyed. The Scandinavians are generally ahead of the rest, with 50% household penetration in Norway and 45% in Denmark. The Dutch are keen too, since 43% of their households have a computer. At the bottom in ascending order are the French, the Japanese and the Italians, where computers are to be found in just 15%, 21.5% and 22% of households respectively. What conditions these trends is partly cost, partly habits and customs. In some countries, firms provide their staff with portable computers for the home. In others, where teleworking and small businesses flourish, writing off computer costs against tax as a personal business expense is common, even if the PC remains personal property.

Also, the French, for example, are used to the Minitel, which is a computer device distributed practically free of charge to telephone subscribers, enabling them to check timetables, phone numbers and even reserve and pay for airline tickets. But the household penetration of the Minitel is only about 20% – it is costly to run – and many of these will have computers too. Cost is probably the most important driver behind the spread of computers. In the United States, where 37% of homes have a computer, the price of personal computers fell by 90% in six years. European computer costs are coming down too and the sales figures have probably risen since 1997, though many new customers are likely to be waiting until the Y2K bug scare is out of the way before committing themselves to buying a PC for the home in 2000. 

See new guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce

Other DATABANK stories

©OECD Observer No 219 December 1999




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q2 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 13 Nov 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018