ECONOMY

Cash-strapped Greeks logging out and hanging up

As the crisis in Greece and in Europe grows, the use of information and communication technology is on the wane. Both in this country and elsewhere in the European Union, the indices that gauge the use of computers, landlines and cell phones have dropped, according to the Eurobarometer. Only television appears to be holding its ground, with a penetration rate of 98 percent in the EU?s 27 members.

This new special Eurobarometer survey, published on Thursday by the European Commission, showed a sudden drop in the penetration of personal computers and phone and Internet connections in Greek households. It was based on December 2011 data and compared with figures from the February-March 2011 period.

PC penetration in Greece gave up a remarkable 8 percentage points within a few months, dropping to 47 percent and taking the country to the penultimate spot among the 27 EU states, just ahead of Bulgaria.

As far as Internet connection penetration is concerned, Greece ranks last in the bloc regarding the percentage of households with any kind of connection to the World Wide Web: Just 42 percent of households have access to the Internet, down from 47 percent in the previous survey, with Bulgaria being better off after reporting a 44 percent penetration rate.

Greeks are reducing their phone connections for landline and mobile networks. They are also particularly concerned about the expense of using cell phones, with 84 percent of respondents saying they were cutting down on their mobile telephony use due to the cost. This is the highest rate in the EU, with Bulgaria second (82 percent).

Eurobarometer data showed a remarkable decline of 10 percentage points in the proportion of households using both landlines and cell phones, from 82 percent in early 2011 to 72 percent last December.

Households using landlines declined from 85 percent to 82 percent and those using mobile phones dropped from 93 percent to 89 percent.

Greeks are also swinging in favor of prepaid cell phone cards, which are cheaper. Households relying exclusively on prepaid card phones grew from 36 percent to 43 percent within the nine months, while households whose residents were exclusively contract subscribers to cell networks fell from 24 percent to 18 percent.

The only positive sign to emerge from the survey was that Greek consumers are satisfied with their cell phone connections, with the vast majority of respondents saying that mobile phone reception is good and that conversations are not interrupted on a regular basis.