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Published on 27 January 2022, updated on 03 July 2023

Digital equality: a major global, social challenge

Dedicated to digital uses, the 2021 Observatory of Digital Uses conducted for Orange by OpinionWay offers many insights.

Understanding increasingly intensive digital uses to better meet the challenges of our time

Observing how people use digital technologies offers great insights. Not only does listening shed light on the impact of digital in many areas, but it can also inspire and guide us. More than ever, we see that data protection is a major concern for digital users, both in Europe and in North Africa. The 2021 study also reveals that advanced users are more aware of the social benefits and feel the impact on the environment is mainly positive too.

Environmental and societal impact of digital: what users think

In all countries surveyed, respondents are more likely to express a positive opinion concerning the impact of digital technology on the environment, both in Europe and in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are some reservations that need to be taken into account, particularly in Europe, where 28% of respondents believe that digital technology has a negative impact on the environment, rising to 36% of respondents aged between 15 and 24.

As for the societal impact, digital technology is considered more positively by advanced users, in terms of maintaining social life, social life, promoting solidarity and expressing opinions, and also in developing the local economy.

In response to the question about whether digital services help develop solidarity (good relationships) between citizens: 64% of respondents in Europe and 79% in North Africa agreed. When the same question was asked to more advanced users in Europe and North Africa, 93% of respondents agreed.

While many people have enjoyed more opportunities and possibilities, others have become even more marginalized through the lack of digital access or know-how.

The study reveals that digital uses increased sharply in 2021, notably due to the Covid-19 pandemic which boosted the growth of teleworking, distance learning and everyday digital interactions (contactless payments, e-commerce, streamed entertainment, remote medical consultations, etc.) Such rapid evolutions have had a range of impacts, not always positive.

Digital equality: a topical battle

One observation among respondents is that some people lack the ability or knowledge to develop their digital uses.

The proportion of people not online (15 years and over), while decreasing, is still relatively high in these three countries in Europe:




What characteristics do these marginalized non-digital populations share?

They are often older than average (68 years and over in France), and from lower-income groups.

There are many barriers to use among these populations

Having the right device and internet tariff.


Represents a significant investment that many respondents simply cannot afford

Acquiring digital skills.

Access to help is not always obvious, leading to hesitancy or apprehension about using technology.

(Poor) network quality.


Access to reliable connectivity also comes into play.

2021 Observatory of Digital Usages – what does it cover?

This is the third international study of its kind. It covers 13 countries and shares its findings from an online and phone survey conducted among 16,986 people. The 2021 study, conducted by Opinion Way on behalf of Orange, measures how digital behavior is evolving, how the health crisis impacted practices, and how digital uses are maturing over time.

Discover the previous editions : 2019 edition, 2018 edition