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Germany

Germany Still a Laggard in Computer Technology

A new report from the trade association BITKOM finds that it could take Germany 30 years to catch up with the U.S.as far as Internet technology goes. Schools and healthcare industry have an urgent need for computers.

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In German schools, an average of 14 students share each computer

First the good news: After the U.S. and Japan, Germany is the world's third-largest Internet market. And this year every second German citizen will use the Internet, according to a new study by the trade association BITKOM.

But while ever more Germans are surfing the Net, BITKOM reports that the country lags far behind other European nations in terms of Internet usage and access to technology.

In Scandinavian countries -- and in the United States -- 8 out of every 10 residents use the Internet. In the online business, these are fully different worlds, said Bernhard Rohleder, chairman of BITKOM.

30 years to catch up

"That's a condition that can't be corrected in five or 10 years," Rohleder said. "If we keep going like we've been going -- that means installing an additional 1.5 million computers a year -- we'll need 30 years to catch up with the United States."

The Germans' limited knowledge of English is one of the problems cited by BITKOM, as well as the relatively high prices of computers.

The problem is acute within the education and healthcare sectors, BITKOM reported.

Every 28 students have Internet access

In 2002, an average of 14 German students had to share each computer in the public schools. For every 28 students there was Internet access. That puts Germany in the third-to-last spot in Europe: only students in Portugal and Greece fare worse. In Denmark, meanwhile, there is one computer per student.

Rohleder urged Germany to follow the example of Sweden and offer tax incentives that would encourage parents to buy computers for their children and businesses to donate computers to schools.

In German hospitals, doctor offices and pharmacies, computers play a small role, BITKOM reported. Just 6 percent of general practitioners use a computer for the exchange of patient data. That puts Germany in last place within Europe.

In this case, Rohleder pointed to the United States as an example, where patients often get a card with data such as x-rays and prescriptions readily available.

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