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


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’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.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • 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.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • 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.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • 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 .

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 2017