Computer sales in Italy are now outstripping television sales for the first time. Last year 3,658,000 new computers were bought, compared with 3,529,000 new television sets. Most of these computers were bought by professional users or to replace old machines. However, the trend is tipped to continue this year; forecasts expect sales of 3,957,000 new pcs and 3,557,000 televisions in 2004. The average life of a computer is now estimated to be two years.

Last year the government approved subsidies of 150 for the purchase of a computer by anyone aged 16 in 2003; the same offer stands for those who are 16 years old this year. A bonus of 200 will also be given to families with an annual income of less that 15,000 who purchase a computer. 5 million are being invested to install internet services in public libraries throughout the country, and another 22 million for internet facilities in the south of Italy.

Since 2002 there has been a 14 per cent increase in the use of home computers in Italy and a 20 per cent increase in the use of internet. Last year 1.7 million homes signed up for a broadband service, a 300 per cent growth over the previous year. According to ministry of technology figures, it is estimated that 45 per cent of Italys adult population now uses internet at least once a month. This is lower than the percentage in Great Britain (60 per cent) or Germany (59 per cent), but more than the percentage in France (41 per cent) and way ahead of Spain (29 per cent).