Dr Grant Blank
Grant Blank's work focuses on the social and cultural implications of the Internet and new media, quantitative and qualitative methods, and cultural sociology. He teaches on the OII social statistics courses.
Research from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), part of the University of Oxford, has revealed a rapid increase in use of the internet for commercial, banking and entertainment purposes. The number of people paying bills online, watching films and TV series’ and streaming music via the internet has increased significantly since 2013.
However, there is a growing divide in experience and perception between those who use the internet and those who do not, which could lead to non-users potentially missing out on access to key services, widening the “digital divide”.
The findings of the 2019 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) show that while harmful experiences on the internet like viruses or theft of credit card details have not increased, 72% of non-internet users believe the internet threatens privacy, compared to 52% of those who actually use the internet.
Internet users are also far more likely to believe “technology makes things better” – 79% of users agree with that sentiment, compared to just 29% of non-users.
Dr Grant Blank, Survey Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, and author of the survey, said:
“The majority of people are having positive experiences of internet use, regularly going online to watch their favourite shows or pay their utility bills.
“However there is a widening perception gap between internet users and non-users, with non-users resolutely avoiding the internet. Often these non-users are from low income groups, where being online could potentially improve their quality of life.
“There’s an interesting paradox here with internet users being less likely to take action to protect their privacy while non-users tend to be put off by privacy concerns. These concerns could perpetuate the digital divide, with many people missing out on the benefits of the internet, such as access to health information, employment opportunities and reduced prices online.
“There is a real opportunity to engage with non-users to address their concerns and help them understand the opportunities the internet can bring. We hope this survey contributes to the public debate about what further steps can be taken to narrow the digital divide.”
The Oxford Internet Survey 2019 is sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), BT and Google.
Minister for Digital Matt Warman MP said:
“It is great to see an increasing number of people are reaping the huge benefits of being online. From paying bills, streaming their favourite songs to connecting with friends and family across the globe.
“To help more people get online we launched our £400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund to help older and disabled people get online and acquire new digital skills. Through our Digital Skills Partnership we are continuing to work with our partners across the public, private and charity sectors to boost people’s capability and confidence in a collaborative way so everyone can benefit from our world-leading digital economy.”
Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT said:
“Helping motivate people who lack confidence to get online is essential to bridge the digital divide. BT is passionate about building people’s digital skills and helping them to navigate new technologies to improve their lives and drive better productivity for the UK economy.”
The OxIS 2019 survey is the seventh in a series, with previous surveys carried out in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. Each survey has used a multi-stage national probability sample of about 2000 people in Britain. Launched by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in 2003, OxIS is the only ongoing survey of internet use in Britain. OxIS provides the UK contribution to the World Internet Project (WIP), an international collaborative project that joins over two dozen nations in studies of the social, economic and political implications of the Internet.