August 21, 2015 Digital adoption on the rise in Eastern Europe?

Francis Fung
UX Department Manager, User Experience Department

In May 2015, I was invited to speak at the UX Konference 2015 in the beautiful city of Prague, in the Czech Republic.

I was speaking about the relationship between market research and user research, in particular focusing on Asian and Japanese examples, in order to share some new experiences with the Czech and European audience. The presentation aimed to cover a range of research methods and anecdotes about new and emerging technologies in Japan.

I had a feeling that digital adoption would be on the rise in Prague, and having been to various countries around Europe these past few years, I thought I had a good idea of where each country's digital level was at.

I had presented in Prague before, in 2013, on a different topic. At the time, anecdotes in the presentation regarding technology drew some gasps and excitement from the audience, as the technology and devices mentioned were relatively novel and still to be introduced in Eastern Europe or the Czech Republic. However, this time something was slightly different about the conference atmosphere.

The presentation went very well, but I realised there were fewer surprised faces during the presentation. It was then, that I suddenly realised something which had been subconsciously playing on my mind since I arrived.

In Prague in 2013, it was less noticeable and I didn't give it a second thought; but this time, in less than 2 years since I was last here, the speed and level of digital adoption among the general public was just overwhelming.

Simply getting in the taxi, I was confronted with a taxi driver who was speaking on his hands free Bluetooth headset smartphone, whilst checking his larger phablet for the car navigation and simultaneously playing a social smartphone based game on his second phablet above the dashboard. This wasn't just the one taxi driver too, as I was met with the same scene for all my taxi trips in Prague. I think the taxi drivers were actually playing the same social game against one another.

Back in the hotel, aside from the standard free wi-fi available through all rooms and breakfast hall, I also had a TV. However, this TV didn't show your regular channels or even cable channels. It was a Smart TV with Internet only channels.

So, I checked up a few facts back in my Smart TV wi-fi connected room, and immediately on came across some not so surprising figures.

Key figures on Central and Eastern Europe digital adoption:

  • Internet users: 233 million in 2013, up from 142.5 million in 2008.
  • Smartphone users: 125.7 million in 2013, compared to 16.4 million in 2009.
  • Social network users: 173.6 million in 2013, up from 71.6 million in 2008.

Source: Russia Leads Ad Growth in Central and Eastern Europe - eMarketer

Reflecting back on the day, those figures certainly made sense. The audience turnout for the UX Konference was amazing, and the vast amount of topics covered, ranging from Smart connected homes to the Czech Republic's first Taxi app and the future of Digital Banking, really brought home the depth of knowledge and appetite the audience and public had for anything digital.

So, on my outbound taxi journey to the airport, watching the taxi driver making moves on his phablet game (whilst stopped at red traffic lights) really cemented the fact that digital adoption in Eastern Europe, or at least the Czech Republic, was not only on the rise, but it was an integral part of life now.

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