The Covid-19 pandemic shifted many daily activities to a virtual space. Internet access and digital skills have become more than ever crucial for the full participation in social and economic life. In 2020, when the pandemic struck Poland, the Internet (mostly broadband) was on average as widespread in Polish households as it was in other EU countries (10% of the households in Poland had no access to the Internet, over half as much as in 2015). In 2020, nearly all households raising children were connected to the world wide web, while the fewest Internet connections were among single-person households – a fourth of this group had none (in 2015 – over a half). Between 2015 and 2020, the level of Internet accessibility improved in the entire country and regional gaps in this respect narrowed. The Internet was most widespread among households situated in highly-urbanised areas of western Poland (in 2020, 93% of the households had Internet at home), while the least widespread – in areas of eastern Poland with a low degree of urbanisation.
In terms of Internet use, the residents of Poland gradually advanced towards citizens of those EU countries where this activity was more common. In 2020, 83% of Polish adults declared using the Internet1 (68% in 2015), while in the EU this figure was 88%. Since 2015, the percentage of Poles who had never been online decreased by a half (reaching 13% in 2020). The variation in the use of the Internet between people of different ages, levels of education and occupational statuses decreased. Despite a clear improvement, the Internet remained least explored by older people, among whom in 2020 merely 43% declared being online (in 2015 this percentage was half as high).
The residents of Poland used the Internet mainly for sending and receiving electronic mail, to read online news, newspapers and magazines online, and to find information about goods and services. These purposes did not change significantly in the period between 2015 and 2020, but the frequency of using the Internet for these reasons increased; a growth in the popularity of video calls and Internet banking was also observed.
As the range of services offered by the e-government expanded, this form of dealing with official matters was becoming increasingly more popular among Polish residents. In 2020, 42% of them used e-government, primarily to submit completed forms and to obtain information from public authorities websites. The inhabitants of Mazowieckie and Dolnośląskie voivodships were the leaders in e-government use (52% and 47% of the adult inhabitants of these regions, respectively), while the residents of Opolskie and Świętokrzyskie voivodships used e-government to the least extent (29% and 34%, respectively).
During the period of 2015–2020, Polish residents’ digital skills2 developed, although among nearly half of the Internet users the level of these skills was not even basic3. The level of computer competences remained dependent on the age of the users. The youngest people were still the most proficient – 90% of them boasted at least basic digital abilities (out of which 64% displayed above basic skills). With age, these competences decreased – only 10% of the oldest Internet users4 demonstrated at least basic skills (out of which 2% had above basic skills). As five years before, a regional diversity could be observed in terms of the digital skills of Internet users: the residents of Mazowieckie voivodship demonstrated the highest competences, while those living in Świętokrzyskie voivodship – the lowest.