The digital divide in the city of Barcelona
The digital divide in the city of Barcelona
Mobile World Capital Barcelona presents the report on the digital divide in the city of Barcelona, an analysis of the citizens’ internet access and usage that aims to measure the city’s level of digitalization in the context of Europe and identify opportunities and scope for development.
February 2016
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Mobile World Capital

Mobile World Capital Barcelona drives the mobile and digital transformation of society, helping to improve citizens’ whole lives.

With public and private support from Barcelona, Cataluña and Spain, MWCapital works in three areas: the digital empowerment of new generations, professionals and citizens; the digital transformation of industries and services, and the acceleration of digital innovation through entrepreneurship.

Our programmes mSchools, mHealth, mLiving and mVenturesBcn are transforming the education and health systems, industry and the economy in a positive way.

MWCapital hosts the Mobile World Congress and organizes 4YFN,a business platform for the start-up community.

In February 2016 Mobile World Capital Barcelona presents the report on the digital divide in the city of Barcelona, an analysis of the citizens’ internet access and usage that aims to measure the city’s level of digitalization in the context of Europe and identify opportunities and scope for development.

The report assesses #bcn’s level of digitalization and identifies the main challenges
The digital divide
84% of #bcn citizens have home internet and 76% connect via smartphone

New Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

Access to knowledge and information has changed radically in the last 20 years. The universal nature, speed and hyper-connectivity of the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have transformed our way of thinking, living and communicating with our environment.

For this reason ICTs have opened a wide window of opportunities to build a more democratic, informed and interconnected society. Access and digital skills enable citizens to improve their personal and professional development in many areas (work, educational, social, political, etc); as well as overcoming certain space and time barriers. In short, ICTs enhance people’s quality of life.

Cities drive development in our society. Social cohesion, economic activity, talent, innovation, creativity and multiculturalism are all features common to the most prosperous cities. Barcelona is advancing in this direction.

The digital divide

“The digital divide refers to the inequality between people who have access and knowledge of new technologies and those who do not”.This term also refers to the differences between groups according to their ability to use ICTs skillfully.

There are three kinds of digital divide:

Access. Refers to the possibility, or lack of, access to technology.

Usage . Based on people who know how to use technology and those who do not.

Quality of usage. Based on a person’s skills to use internet tools.

The report

The report The digital divide in the city of Barcelona is a study by Mobile World Capital (MWC Capital) commissioned by the Barcelona City Council.

Barcelona’s relevance on the world technological and digital stage is making it evident that we need to know the existing inequalities among the population of Barcelona’s districts regarding access, use and knowledge of information technology.

This document must serve as an analysis,identifying the groups most susceptible to be left behind in the technological revolution. Factors such as age, sex, education level, occupation, income, district or nationality cannot be an obstacle for the citizens of Barcelona to access and use new technologies skillfully.

Institutions and public administrations will have a starting point for those action plans and public policies aimed at achieving full digital inclusion of all segments of society.

Aims of the report

This report has the following aims:

Reflect on the digital phenomenon in Barcelona and identify the challenges and opportunities it generates in the city.

Present a methodology framework to evaluate the digital divide in the districts of Barcelona.

Present an analysis on the usage, access and digital skills of the citizens of Barcelona.

Compare the situation of Barcelona with that of Catalonia, Spain and countries of the European Union.

Evaluate the factors that determine greater or lesser internet usage by Barcelona citizens.

Determine the barriers that stand in the way of access and usage of new technologies.

The report identifies the least digitally-skilled segments of society and serves as a support to make policies of digital inclusion.

The study is based on the DESI framework which regularly measures the digital performance of European Union Member States.

the report is based on the analysis of connectivity, access and internet use of #bcn citizens

The DESI covers three areas:

Connectivity: broadband infrastructures and their quality.

Human capital: citizens’ skills to benefit from the digital society.

Internet use: the range of activities that people can do on internet, such as contents (music, videos, games, etc.), online shopping and banking.

The integration of digital technology: the degree of digitalisation of businesses and the implementation of online channels (website, e-commerce, m-commerce) for sales.

Digital public services: online public services, especially electronic administration and health services.

Given that the focus of The digital divide in the city of Barcelona report is on the population not on the offer of public or private services, nor the digitalisation of companies, only the first three areas of DESI are used.

The results of the report are based on three main sources of information:

Mobile World Capital Survey (MWCapital)

Research technique. Computer-assisted face-to-face interviews.

Study area. City of Barcelona.

Target group. People between 16 and 74 years old living and registered in the city of Barcelona (1,208,262). When the survey results speak of “population”, they refer to the people in this age range.

The following graph shows the age segments used for the report, the population in each segment for the year 2015 and its percentage of the total population of Barcelona.

Sample size. 5.000 interviews.

Sample type.In order to obtain an approach on a territorial level, the sample has been designed according to the following criteria.

Sample divided into greater districts so that each one of the 39 districts in the city held 128 or 129 interviews.

In each district the people to be interviewed were chosen randomly, following district quotas, sex and age, according to the actual distribution of the target population in each greater district.

To analyse the results, the data has been balanced to give each district its corresponding significance in the city.

Error margin. The margin of error in the whole sample is +- 1.5%, for a reliability of 95% and p=q=0.5.

Field work. The survey was done between 13 and 26 January 2016.

Technical management. The survey was conducted and processed by Gabinet d’Estudis d’Opinió I Gestió Pública, GESOP.

Report on the territorial distribution of household income per capita in Barcelona 2014

Gives the 2014 figures for the Household Income Index, a theoretical indicator of the average income per capita of the residents in the city’s 73 districts.

Mobile and landline coverage.

Apart from the MWCapital Survey, two additional sources of information have been used to better identify the level of landline and mobile broadband coverage in Barcelona:

"The Geographical Analysis of broadband services and NGA distribution in Spain" by the 2014 National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) for Barcelona analyses landline coverage. This report shows the active retail lines but not the city’s service distribution.

"The report on Telecommunication Services Quality" (2016) by the company CASE, which uses the MeduX system to analyse mobile coverage in Barcelona and its service quality.

#MWC has conducted a survey of 5000 bcn citizens to find out how they use internet.
Profile features
One in three #bcn citizens is an advanced internet user
Move the cursor over the diagram to get more information

A third of Barcelona citizens have an advanced internet usage profile.

This means they use 3 devices or more to connect and do six activities or more online. Most of the inhabitants of Barcelona are intermediate users (35%), while a quarter are basic or sporadic users.

One in four citizens is a basic or sporadic internet user

Age, education level, occupation and district

are key points to determine the profile. A senior citizen, a homemaker, a retired citizen, with a low education level and in low income districts is the likely profile of a basic, sporadic or non-user of internet.

Mobile coverage

Most of Barcelona’s citizens are connected to internet, either by home connection (83%) or smartphone (76%).

They connect with an average of 2.11 devices (2.33 if non-users are excluded).

Landline or mobile coverage is not a barrier to internet connection. Those people who say that a lack of coverage is the reason for not using internet at home is only 0.2% of the population surveyed.

Among nonusers, the cost of service is a greater barrier to internet connection. This is the case for 3.7% of the population in regard to home internet connection, and for 1.6% for a data plan on the smartphone.

The smartphone is by far the most commonly used device among people who access internet.

Nine out of ten Barcelona citizens who connect to internet do so via this device. The laptop is far behind, with almost 60%.

As for usage, the most common activities on internet are using email (90%), reading news (85%), and using social networks (75%). With regard to internet security, although most Barcelona citizens use more than one password on internet (51%), over half never change it.

Number of devices to connect to internet per person

Mobile or landline coverage is not an access barrier to internet in #bcn
Demographic variables
Education level
Greater district

Age determines internet usage and security measures.

Internet access is widespread across all age groups. Over three quarters of the population under 64 have home or smartphone internet connection. This percentage reaches almost 100% for those under 24, whereas over 65 the figure drops sharply.

Most of the population of #bcn up to 64 years old is connected

Age determines internet usage. Young people under 24 use internet more than the rest of the population for social networks, information search and job hunting; people between 25 and 44 engage in transactional (buying and selling), administrative and collaborative economy (sharing goods and services) activities more frequently; people over 45 use internet more than other age groups for administrative tasks and making doctors’ appointments.

With regard to internet security, senior citizens are less aware of this aspect. They will also use fewer different passwords and change them less often.

Internet access by age groups.

There is no gender divide in internet access and usage frequency in Barcelona although traditionally gender had produced a wide division. The results of the study show that in Barcelona there is currently no difference between men and woman regarding internet connection. Both have internet access and connect with same frequency.

There is no gender divide in internet access in #bcn

With regard to internet usage, there are only considerable differences in certain cases. Woman deal more with health-related issues (searching for information and making doctors’ appointments), while men engage in more commercial activities and have more webs and blogs.

Finally, men and woman show different behavior with regard to online security. Women apply more restrictions when uploading contents onto social networks whereas men are more careful about password security.

Main reasons for not connecting to internet in the home or on the smartphone.

Connection to internet and possession of smartphone.

Being a student or a working citizen means being connected.

Internet access is different according to a citizen’s work situation. 90% of students and working citizens have home or smartphone internet connection, compared to 60% of retired people.

Being a student or a working citizen means being connected

The differences between groups can also be seen in internet usage. While students lead the use of social networks, working citizens and the unemployed are ahead in administrative use, and the retired in health-related use.

Regarding online security, the groups who use internet less frequently (retired citizens and homemakers) are also those who take fewer precautions.

Economic reasons for not having home internet access

Education level is a determining factor for internet access, usage, interaction with the administration and economic activities.

Citizens with a low level of education have less home and smartphone internet access compared to those with a middle or high level.

Having a low education level is synonymous with being less connected to internet

Education level has a significant influence on citizens’ administrative and transactional internet usage.

Citizens with a low level interact less with the public administration on internet, use online banking less, shop less online and do online training courses less frequently. Citizens with a lower level of education also connect in a less secure way and run more risks when using internet.

People with home internet and people with smartphone internet according to education level

Foreign residents in Barcelona have less home internet and use alternative ways to connect.

Foreigners living in Barcelona have less home and smartphone internet access than Spanish citizens.

Foreigners connect less from the home but look for alternative means of access

Economic reasons are the main barrier to home internet access for foreigners, while for Spanish citizens it is the perceived lack of a need.

Foreigners use video calls more frequently and participate more in social networks than Spanish citizens, while the latter engage in more transactional, administrative, health-related and collaborative economy activities.

Home and smartphone internet connection

Even though internet penetration in Barcelona is very high, certain districts still show notable differences in access and usage.

Between the district with the highest percentage of home internet connection (Les Corts) and the district with the lowest (Torre Baró) there is a difference of 34 percentage points. The district with the largest number of citizens with smartphone internet connection (Dreta de l’Eixample) is 39 percentage points ahead of the district with the lowest number (Torre Baró).

There are significant differences between districts with regard to internet penetration

There are districts that show considerable differences in internet usage. The Gothic Quarter stands out for social internet use, the Vila Olímpica for transactional and administrative use, the Raval for job search and the Vila de Gràcia for administrative and collaborative economy use.

Citizens with smartphone internet connection according to district

General results


Internet usage

Home internet connection

83.7% of citizens have home internet connection and 77.6% connect from the smartphone

Type of connection

Reasons for not having internet


3.7% cannot afford home internet and 1.6% cannot pay a data plan

Users with a smartphone data plan

Reasons for not having a smartphone data plan


85% of the population has used internet in the last 24 hours

Has connected recently

Today or yesterday

Devices used

Among internet users in Barcelona 90% connect from the smartphone

Types of devices

Internet usage

The main types of internet usage are email, reading news and participating in social networks

In the last three months, for personal reasons, has used internet to:


More than half of Barcelona citizens never change their internet passwords

Number of internet passwords

Password renewal frequency

Presence on social networks

The data


Internet usage

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Distribution of user profiles

Citizens’ digital skills increase at the same rate as the income level of the district they live in.

District income level is a determining factor for defining digital profiles in the city of Barcelona. The higher the level, the better digital skills its citizens have.

Almost one in two residents of high income districts has an advanced profile. In the other districts the main profile is intermediate: about one in three residents in these districts show this profile.

The lowest income districts are those with the least digitally skilled profiles: basic, sporadic and those who never use internet.

The income level of a district explains the differences in internet connection, use and security.

The higher the district income, the higher the level of internet connection, especially in the home. Smartphone connection does not depend on this factor.

High income districts lead in transactional and administrative internet use; middle and middle-high income districts in training and collaborative economy activities; and middle-low and low income districts are where internet is most frequently used job hunting and making doctors’ appointments.

The higher the district income, the better its citizens manage internet security and privacy.

The digital divide is most evident in low income districts if the citizen is between 65 and 74 years old, with a low education level and is a homemaker or unemployed.

The different levels of income in Barcelona districts magnify or reduce the digital divide related to age, gender, education and occupation.

The gender digital divide emerges in low income districts, where women use internet less than men.

The age digital divide is greater in internet access and use of citizens between 65 and 74 years old living in low income districts.

Education level has a considerable influence on internet access and use in low, middle-low, middle and middle-high income districts, but loses relevance in high income neighbourhoods.

Finally, occupation also conditions internet access in low income districts. There are significant differences in internet use of both homemakers and the unemployed in high and low income districts.

District comparison
Download data

The data generated by this report is available for everyone to download.

We have made this data accessible so that all citizens may forward their proposals

Below you may download the whole report, with the conclusions and many other chapters not included on this website

Below you may download the survey conducted for the preparation of the report. We have made it available in three different formats. An RDF file to comply with the open data quality standards and another with identical information in CSV format to make reading easier for a wider user profile. The complete survey together with other files that describe its preparation may also be downloaded in ZIP format, to facilitate to make a more advanced analysis.

An initiative of
Preparation of the report:
Data visualization and cartographic analysis:
Survey and data processing:
Mobile coverage data input: