Digital divide grows with web use
Sep 3, 2007 by Brad Horowitz
The term "digital divide" was coined in the 1990s to describe the perceived growing gap between those who have access to and the skills to use ICT and those who for socio-economic and/or geographical reasons have limited or no access.
A new study by The Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) found that even with two thirds of Britons already online that the poor, the elderly and the less educated are still losing out.
The study also says that the way young people use the internet is changing rapidly with mobile access and social networking both growing in popularity. They noted however that few people create their own content or use the net for social activism.
The survey is one of the most complete studies of internet usage ever made in the U.K. and tracked statistics from 2003 until the present.
A Look At The Findings
- The survey found that 67% of the population were current internet users in 2007 which is up from 59% in 2003.
- Internet use falls off sharply after the age of 55 and amongst those who have retired. Only 31% of retired people use the internet compared with 81% of those in work and 97% of students .
- 5% fewer women go online.
- Low income and less education are still big barriers to internet use and whereas just over one half of those who lack further education are online a whopping 90% of those with a university education use the web on a regular basis.
- Among those with household incomes below £12,500 only 39% use the internet.
- 85% of the population now use high speed connections, compared with just 19% four years ago and the report predicts that dial-up connections will disappear in the next few years.
- Mobile internet use has also seen a sharp increase with 29% using wi-fi access which compares with just 1% four years ago and 21% of users now access the internet using a mobile phone or PDA which is up from 5% four years ago.
- Households that access the internet are also far more likely to use other types of digital equipment such as digital cameras, MP3 players, and mobile phones.
- OxIS also found that 42% of students have created a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace compared with just 15% of the employed and 2% of retired people.
- One in four internet users has made a friend online and one half of those have met them in person. It is the elderly and the retired however that are most likely to meet online friends in person.
- Men do more social networking than women.
- Only 16% of U.K. internet users have tried to set up a website for personal use and the proportion remains unchanged since the last survey in 2005.
- Only one in ten internet users have taken part in any political activities online such as signing an online petition and the older age groups are the most likely to engage in any kind of activism.
- The web is now a more trusted source of information than television and the amount of television they watch has declined.
- Online banking, paying bills and checking investments online have all increased in popularity as has confidence in buying products online.
Researchers interviewed 2,305 people aged 14 years and older in 175 districts in England, Wales and Scotland. Previous surveys which asked similar questions were carried out in 2003 and 2005.