Digimeter: Only 6,6% of Flemish people have no smart devices at home, new imec digimeter finds

On the downside: study reveals that more than one in three Flemish citizens is heavily dependent on their smartphone and/or social media; 13% suffer from ‘digibesity’

Ghent & Leuven – 25 January, 2017 – For the last few months, the digimeter team has once again been investigating media usage in Flanders. By now, almost everyone in Flanders has one or more devices enabling them to be constantly online wherever they go: only 6,6% indicate that they have no smart devices in their homes. Yet, digimeter also found that not everyone is surfing the digital wave at the same speed. On the one hand, one in three is heavily dependent on their smartphone or social media (and 13% are actually suffering from digibesity). On the other, 11% are unable to use digital applications properly.   

Adoption of smart devices is reaching saturation point; use of social media is on the rise

“The new digimeter shows that almost everyone in Flanders now has the capability to be online whenever, wherever. Only 6% say they have no smart, connected devices in their homes,” says Professor Lieven De Marez (imec - Ghent University). “Thus, the adoption of smart devices is reaching saturation point. We are only seeing an increase in the number of smartphones (from 68.5% in 2015 to 74% in 2016) and wearables (from 7.6% to 13.2%).”

Social media, on the other hand, are still on the up. Eight out of ten Flemish people use at least one social media channel every month (as opposed to 72% in 2015), 26% use as many as four each month. Facebook is still at number one (69% use Facebook monthly) – but YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are gaining traction. Yet, particularly among young people, the Facebook hype has passed: only 4 in 10 consider it the most important social media platform.

Digital is the ‘new normal’ for more than 60% of Flemish people – but what about the others?

Do we actually use all these smart services and devices in a smart way? To answer this question, digimeter distinguishes between four types of Flemings based on their media usage and attitude:   

  • The first group (24%) are the disruptors – they go online to watch television, listen to music and check the news.  
  • A second segment (39%) are the cumulators – they represent today’s young, ‘media-rich’ families that have the financial resources and the necessary devices to use traditional and online media alongside each other.
  • Then, there are the 26% that we consider resistors – although they have access to smart devices and services, they generally reject them in favor of older habits.
  • “And finally, we have the strugglers – they account for 11% of Flemish people,” says Professor De Marez. “They have access to digital technology and want to use it. But in fact they can’t get on board the digital train. These are mainly people from a less privileged socio-economic background, and – oddly enough – a group of young people brought up in a less ‘media-rich’ environment. Initiatives like Mediawijs (the Flemish knowledge center for media literacy – ed.) will need to concentrate mainly on this group in the years to come.”

The ‘digibesity’ trend is worsening, but Flemish people are more and more self-regulating     

In line with the increasing number of smartphones and the growing use of social media, the ‘digibesity’ trend is also continuing apace. In the 15 to 39-year-old category, for example, one in three people indicate that they are dependent on their smartphone and four in ten feel dependent on social media (with a peak of 55% in the group of 20 to 29-year-olds). One quarter are dependent on both, and suffer from ’digibesity’ (across all age categories, digibesity impacts 13% of Flemish people).

“This doesn’t really come as a surprise, as smart devices and services take advantage of certain mechanisms – such as push messages – to exacerbate that addiction,” Professor De Marez explains. “But here, too, we have noticed a form of self-regulation emerging. Teenagers, in particular, are already displaying far more awareness of these issues – for example by cutting themselves off from the digital tsunami during exam periods (in the library).”

“In other words: people in their twenties and thirties are often those who are most likely to have a problematic relationship with digital media. They need to regain control of that technology. However, they too are starting to actively adapt their behavior, for example by putting away their smartphones during meetings and conversations or turning off push messages,” he concludes.

Note: on the imec website, you will find two interactive graphs that allow you to correlate various digimeter data with one another. Be sure to take a look at www.imec.be/digimeter.

About imec and the digimeter report

Imec is the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, and energy.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together close to 3,500 brilliant minds from over 70 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and also has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, and offices in India and Japan. In 2015, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 415 million euro and of iMinds which is integrated in imec as of September 21, 2016 52 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec.be  

The digimeter report is an initiative of imec.livinglabs and its researchers in the department of Media & ICT (MICT) of imec - Ghent University. The digimeter is produced based on self-reported data from an annual survey that is presented to a - statistically representative - group of more than 2,100 respondents in Flanders (aged 15 years and older). The data are used in the context of independent scientific research, and are therefore not shared for commercial purposes. More info: www.imec.be/digimeter

Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited), imec Florida (IMEC USA nanoelectronics design center).


Hanne Degans, Press Officer, +32 16 28 17 69 // +32 486 06 51 75 // Hanne.Degans@imec.be

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