Are QR Codes More Popular in Europe than in the U.S.? (Part 2)

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Nov 19, 2009

During a recent InfoTrends Webinar discussing the future of the print production software market, Alex Sumarta and I were asked if quick response (QR) codes are currently more popular in Europe than they are in the United States. This post is the second part of a series of two that attempts to answer that question.

I recently came across some research from Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which has studied the state of broadband Internet adoption around the world. What I liked about this report is that it does not rely on the more traditional benchmark measurements like fixed line broadband adoption per 100 inhabitants. Instead, it takes a multidimensional approach along three main indicators: penetration, capacity, and price. This enables the research to become much more granular and provides surprising new insights.

According to this research from Harvard University, 7 of the top 10 countries with the highest 3G adoption are located in Europe. Mobile broadband adoption is particularly high in Italy, Sweden, Spain, Finland, and the United Kingdom. For comparison, the United States occupies the 19th spot. If we make the assumption that the adoption of QR codes correlates with the adoption of mobile broadband, this would point to higher QR code adoption levels in Europe in relation to the United States. In absolute terms, access to mobile broadband should also be higher in Europe than it is in the United States since the population from the top ten European countries is roughly the same as in the United States (300 million).

3G adoption

In addition to considering Internet penetration, the Berkman study also focuses on price (broadband costs for consumers) and capacity (speed of the network). It turns out that Europe accounts for 8 of the 10 leading countries in these areas as well.

Internet Adoption

To my mind, this new research basically confirms some of the anecdotal evidence that is already surrounding QR codes. There is already a great deal of activity occurring in Asia (particularly Japan) as well as some of the European countries. It should be noted that major telephone manufacturers like Nokia, SonyErricsson, and Samsung are respectively located in Finland, Japan/Sweden, and South Korea. Due to the relatively smaller size of their home markets, these vendors should be able to have a relatively higher degree of influence on policymakers. Another interesting finding from the Berkman research is that policies on ICT have more of an impact on Internet penetration than beneficial population or geographic conditions.

When considering new applications that focus on the convergence of print, Web, mobile, and social media, it is important to keep an eye on developments in Europe. Europe’s markets are smaller than those in the U.S., but many have state-of-the-art broadband connections and policies to stimulate R&D. Europe represents an ideal testing ground for QR innovations.

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