The Covid-19 epidemic has permanently transformed digital practices, according to INSEE

Some of those over 45 have, for example, practiced sending emails and making video calls.


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When Covid launched the fashion for video aperitifs (illustrative photo).  (RICHARD MOUILLAUD / MAXPPP)

The Covid-19 epidemic has permanently transformed digital practices in France, INSEE demonstrates in a study published Thursday January 11. INSEE explains that between “2019 and 2021, certain digital practices have experienced rapid growth following the restrictive measures adopted during the health crisis”.

The institute mentions, for example, the leap in online communication “particularly the use of emails by elderly people”. In 2021, nearly 8 in 10 French people (79%) sent emails in the three months preceding the survey, “compared to 73% in 2019”. This increase is more visible in “over 45s”. For example, since 2021 “more than a third of people aged 75 or over send and receive emails, compared to a quarter in 2019”. The study also notes that “the proportion of people making audio or video calls over the Internet” and that of people “using instant messaging has increased significantly” during this period, both increasing from 44% to 59%.

Growth of E-learning

Online training practices have also seen a notable increase since the start of the health crisis, particularly among younger people. This is partly explained by the online broadcasting of courses during confinements. According to INSEE, the proportion of 15-24 year olds who have taken online courses in the last three months increased from 18% in 2019 to 54% in 2021, before falling to 36% in 2022 and 31% in 2023 But the youngest are not the only ones to have benefited from online courses: in 2023, “13% of those aged 25-59 and 3% of those aged 60 or over take online courses”.

Another lesson learned from this study is the intensification of e-commerce. The share of French people having made online purchases during the three months preceding the survey increased from 40% in 2013 to 60% in 2023, with a particular acceleration during confinements. This “the practice was already well established among the youngest and wealthy social categories”. Between 2019 and 2023, the share of 15-44 year olds who made an online purchase in the three months preceding the survey increased from just under 70% to just under 80%, compared to 10%. and 15% of those aged 75 or over in 2019 and 2023.

Clothing, shoes and accessories leading online sales

But the main new buyers during the health crisis were mainly French people aged 45 to 59 and people with median incomes. So, “in 2021, 69% of 45-59 year olds purchased online in the three months preceding the survey, compared to 57% in 2019”. Once travel restrictions were lifted and businesses reopened, these new buyers then turned away from e-commerce (65% of 45-59 year olds in 2023). Among the most popular purchases online, we find clothes, shoes and accessories ordered by 39% of French people during the three months preceding the survey in 2023. Next come purchases of music, films or series (24%).

This household survey on information and communication technologies is collected every year during the same period, namely in spring, between early April and mid-June. Each year, between 14 000 and 17 000 people aged 15 years or older respond to this study. INSEE specifies that it did not carry out a survey in 2020 “due to the pandemic”.

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