The Office of National Statistics has published its 2008 Internet Access, Households and Individuals report, which reveals that some 65 per cent of UK households have Internet access, and 86% use a broadband connection. This figure is showing a steady rise year on year since records started in 2002, but research into the 35% without Internet access reveals that many may not want or need Internet access at home. The full report can be downloaded as a PDF document from www.statistcs.gov.uk.
It could be said that Internet access is an essential of modern life and for some people it is. There is a danger that some may feel the need to convert people to the Internet which goes against the grain of what many see as the freedom of the Internet. Certainly as local councils and health authorities embrace online services to reduce costs and just maybe improve services, they need to ensure that those unable to go online are not disadvantaged. The reasons given by those without Internet access at home are listed below:
The report looks into what we as a nation use our Internet connections for, and it is no surprise to see 87% of us send and receive emails, and 49% use it for Internet banking. Where we do all of this is mainly in the home (90%) but hotspots (Wi-Fi) has shown a three point jump from 2% to 5% for the places where people access the Internet. Looking at what people actually do with their connections is interesting and the tables for advanced services are reproduced below.
|Use of Instant Messaging||31%||26%||29%|
|Reading weblogs (or blogs)||26%||16%||21%|
|Posting messages to chat sites, newsgroups etc||23%||17%||20%|
|Video calls (via webcam)||14%||10%||12%|
|Creating or maintaining own weblog (or blog)||6%||8%||7%|
|None of the above||49%||58%||53%|
|Downloading or listening to music (other than web radio)||43%||33%||38%|
|Listening to web radios or watching web television||41%||27%||34%|
|Uploading self-created content (text, images, photo, video)||25%||24%||24%|
|Downloading or watching movies, short films or videos||29%||17%||23%|
|Downloading computer or video games or their updates||29%||17%||23%|
|Using peer to peer file sharing for exchange of movies, music, video files||16%||9%||12%|
|Using browser based news feeds (e.g. RSS)||17%||7%||12%|
|Playing networked games with others||13%||7%||10%|
|Using podcast services to automatically receive audio or video files||13%||5%||9%|
|None of the above||35%||47%||40%|
The tables above show the diverse nature of what we all do with our broadband connections, and how hard it is to define average Internet usage. For example someone who just reads email and a bit of online news may struggle to use up 1GB (gigabyte) of data allowance in a month, but someone listening to web radio all day every day may use up 7GB. Someone watching movies could be managing anything from 20GB to 100's of GB in the month.
For many people the Internet has replaced the high street travel agent, and some 48% of us who have made a purchase over the Internet have purchased accommodation, a holiday or travel. The figures for how much we spend online has been relatively static over the last three years, with 22% spending more than £500 which suggests the real money may not be in selling us the basic connections, but all the goods and services we subsequently purchase.