In Sweden in 2020, digitalisation has had to show what it's good for, and the internet has been an invaluable help during the pandemic. Thanks to the internet, we have been able to keep in touch during social distancing, buy food and experience cultural events without risk of infection. We have worked and studied at a distance, but digital life has not been the same for everyone.
During the year 2020, the coronavirus has affected all aspects of our lives. To slow down the spread of infection, social events have been canceled, shops have limited the number of visitors, summer festivals have taken a break and wedding parties have been postponed to some point in the future. Workplaces have sent their employees home and many schools have, in a short time, switched to distance learning, while nursing homes have introduced visiting bans. We have been urged to limit our social contacts, and not to meet older family members and others at risk at all.
For many Swedes, the internet has then been a way to keep in touch with loved ones, as well as an opportunity to buy food without having to go to the grocery store. Job meetings and lessons have taken place via video calls online, opera performances and concerts in the web browser and conversations between colleagues via chat. The digitalisation of society is nothing new, but during the pandemic, the digital tools and the possibilities of the internet have really been put to the test.
A unique survey in a unique time
This year's edition of The Swedes and the Internet is therefore special. In normal years, we follow the Swedes' internet use and the digitalisation of society over a year, where interviews are conducted in the first quarter of the year. This year, for the first time ever, we have supplemented the survey with another data collection, in the third quarter of the year. This allows us to compare the situation just before and at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the situation after the summer. This has given us a unique opportunity to measure the effect that the pandemic has had on Swedes' digital lives.
Many of the questions in the survey have been answered at three measuring points: First in 2019, which is then compared with 2020 Q1 (quarter 1) and 2020 Q3 (quarter 3). We also asked some new questions in the third quarter, which became relevant with the pandemic. Among other things, we investigate how Swedish internet users have experienced working from home and having distance learning online. We also asked questions about different social activities and what digital behaviors people might want to continue after the pandemic is over.
For the first time this year, we have limited our survey to Sweden's internet users. In the first quarter of the year, we also asked questions to the part of the population that does not use the internet, and we focused on these in a special interim report that was released earlier this year. The results from the first quarter showed that 96 percent of Sweden's population uses the internet, and in this report we can note that even more have become internet users during the pandemic.
Retirees are taking their place in the digital world
During the year, the media talked about an upsurge in the digitalisation of society as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we look at the results from our survey, we can see that in many ways there has been a rapid and comprehensive digitalisation, where many internet users have started using digital services more frequently than before, or tested them for the first time.
Older people in particular have taken the step to use the internet, and started using social media more than before, as well as e-shopping and having video conversations with relatives and friends. Retirees have also used digital healthcare services more during the pandemic, and this is especially true of the very elderly. Of the internet users who are 76 years or older, close to 7 out of 10 have used a digital healthcare service.
We can also see that the elderly feel more social from the increased screen time, and that they are generally positive about the possibilities of digitalisation.
Most people think working at home is going well
Working from home has increased more than ten times during the pandemic, and a large majority of Swedes working from home think it has gone well. Most people who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue to do so in the future, at least for part of their working hours.
We can see that it is mainly white-collar workers who have had the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic, while blue-collar workers have to a greater extent continued to go to work, and thus also retained more of their old shopping habits.
Video chat has been a crucial tool for people working from home, and many of them have also participated in a digital after work meet-up with friends or colleagues.
Students less satisfied with distance learning
The students in our survey are mostly young people between 16 and 25 years old. When we take a look at their answers, we can see that distance education has not worked as well as distance work. One in three students thinks that distance learning means a higher workload, and a majority of those who study at university prefer teaching in a physical classroom. Many high school students think that their own learning suffers from distance learning, and that it has become easier to cheat on tests.
Students have also become more negative about the increased use of digital screens during the pandemic. They feel socially excluded when screen time increases, and to a greater extent think that both they and their loved ones spend too much time in front of the screen in their free time.
The internet has held up
All in all, we see here the image of a Sweden where digitalisation has been put to the test, and to a large extent has held up. During the pandemic, the internet has provided opportunities, even though digital life has not been the same for everyone. We can see that the younger ones especially have a social need that meetings via Zoom and chat apps have not been able to satisfy. The older ones - at least those who use the internet - have been more positive and in many areas have caught up with the younger age groups. Among the working people, the internet has made working from home possible, although not for everyone.
More highlights from the report
In Swedes and the Internet 2020, we also take a look at what the use of various digital services looks like, and how Swedes' behavior online has changed. Broadly speaking, the development follows an earlier trend, but in many cases it has been accelerated during the pandemic.
Digital media services continue to grow, and traditional media such as television, radio and paper newspapers are declining. The TV channels' various play services have now transcended traditional TV viewing, and more and more seniors are using streaming video services. For listening, streaming music services like Spotify are most popular, but podcast listening also continues to increase.
The use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok has increased, and now close to 9 out of 10 internet users use social media. Daily use has also increased steadily during the pandemic.
At the same time, we can see that more and more internet users feel monitored on the internet, and there is also a growing concern that digital integrity will be violated by large companies or authorities. During the pandemic, it has also become more difficult to determine whether information online is true or false.
Online social activities have become more relevant. Many have had a digital family meetup, while significantly fewer have digitally attended a wedding, baptism or other celebration. However, many have used the internet to experience cultural events that are broadcast live.
During the pandemic, online shopping has also increased - partly because many have started shopping more frequently, but also because many have tried to buy food and other goods online for the first time. When we ask what behaviors internet users want to take with them after the pandemic, shopping online is one of those. Many - especially the elderly - also want to continue to take part in live cultural events on the internet.
Facts about the survey and The Swedish Internet Foundation
The Swedish Internet Foundation is an independent, business-driven and non-profit organization. We work for an internet that contributes positively to people and society. We are responsible for the internet's Swedish top-level domain .se and handle the operation and administration of the top-level domain .nu. The revenues from the business operations finance a number of initiatives aimed at enabling people to make the best use of the internet, and stimulate knowledge sharing and innovation with an internet focus.
With this survey, The Swedes and the Internet, we want to contribute facts and insights on how the use of the internet in Sweden is developing. We want to provide the conditions for the digitalization of Swedish society and the business community to take place on an informed basis.
Read more about the survey at Fakta om Svenskarna och internet (only in Swedish).