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OxIS 2013 top-line findings: Internet use continues to grow; big increases in low-income households

Published on
1 Oct 2013
Written by
Grant Blank

Released on 1 October by the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) 2013 Report: “Cultures of the Internet: The Internet in Britain 2013” presents data on British access, use and attitudes to the Internet since 2003. Topline findings are listed below:

Internet use continues to grow; big increases in low-income households

  • Internet use continues to grow across all levels of income. The Internet is now used by 78% of the British population, up from 73% in 2011.
  • The biggest increases in Internet use are seen in low-income households (58% of households earning less than £12,000 / year use the Internet, up from 43% in 2011).
  • The challenge of getting the last fifth of the population is growing every year: only 29% of ex-users and 9% of non-users are planning on getting Internet access in the next year; this proportion has been declining steadily since 2005. This persistent core of non-users will present a problem for initiatives such as Government ‘digital by default’ services

People are becoming more skillful; mobile and device use is exploding, but social media have plateaued

  • Devices. Use of Internet-enabled devices has increased sharply: 37% of households now have access to a tablet (26% in 2011) and 27% to an ereader (7% in 2011).
  • Mobility. Accessing the Internet on the move has also increased sharply: 57% of Internet users access the Internet while on the move in 2013 (40% in 2011; 20% in 2009).
  • Mobiles. Mobile phones are increasingly used for a range of Internet-related activities: email (54% of mobile users in 2013), Internet browsing (52%), using social network sites (43%), playing games (43%) and listening to music (43%).
  • Social media. However, social media use has plateaued at 61% of Internet users (60% in 2011).
  • Government services. 65% of users have used online government services in 2013, up from 57% in 2011.
  • Skills. People’s self-reported ability continues to rise: 74% of Internet users in 2013 rate themselves as having “good or excellent” skills (up from 60% in 2003). This is dependent on lifestage; 92% of students rate themselves this way, compared with 77% of employed, and only 49% of retired people.

Students are concerned about privacy; non-users want more government regulation of the Internet, Internet users generally don’t

The Internet is essential to media habits, and ‘more trustworthy’ than newspapers; people are meeting each other online, but many lack the necessary social skills

  • Information. 35% of Internet users say the Internet is “essential” for information, compared to 15% who say the same for television, 6% for newspapers and 6% for radio.
  • Entertainment. 20% of Internet users say the Internet is “essential” for entertainment, compared with 21% who say the same for television, and only 6% for radio.
  • Trust. Internet users trust the Internet more than newspapers or the government, but about the same as television news.
  • Social skills. 80% of students are “fairly to very confident” about their online social skills, compared with 58% of employed and only 29% of retired people.
  • Meeting people. 40% of Internet users have met at least one person online in the last year they did not know before.

Divides are narrowing, but digital inequality persists by age, education, income

  • There has been progress on narrowing digital divides, with a rise in Internet access and use for lower income groups, people with no formal educational qualifications, retired people, and people with disabilities. However, education, age, income still exert a powerful influence on Internet access and use.
  • Education. The digital divide has almost disappeared for those with any formal educational qualifications, however, those with no qualifications are still left out, with only 40% of that group using the Internet (compared with 84% with basic qualifications, 92% with further education, and 95% with higher).
  • Children. 5% of households with children between the ages of 10 and 17 do not have Internet access. Such inequality of home access is a recognised source of educational disadvantage, for which Internet use at school cannot fully compensate.
  • Income. People with higher household incomes are more likely to use the Internet. 99% of people with household incomes exceeding £40,000 are Internet users, compared with 58% of those with household incomes of less than £12,500. However, Internet use in that lowest income group has jumped to 58% in 2013 from 43% in 2011.
  • Age. Young people are much more likely to use the Internet than older people. 100% of people aged 14-17 are Internet users, compared with 85% of people aged between 45-54, and only 39% of people aged over 65.
  • Disability. People with disabilities are about half as likely to use the Internet as people without disabilities (51% vs 84% are Internet users).
  • Gender. There is no longer a gender gap in access to the Internet in Britain.

Internet users are very positive about the impact of technology; non users are generally doubtful and fearful

  • 79% of Internet users (and 44% of non-users) agree that “technology makes things better”. Students are very positive; 94% agree that technology “makes things better” and disagree that technologies “fail when you need them most” (10%) or fear that they “might break technologies” (5%).
  • Retired people are less positive: only 60% agree that technology “makes things better”, while 42% disagree that technologies “fail when you need them most” and 43% fear they “might break technologies”.
  • Fear. Non-users are more likely to express fears about the Internet or technology; making the digital divide very difficult to bridge: 59% of non-users (only 14% of users) fear they “might break” new technologies.
  • Lack of interest. 82% of non-users say they most important reason they don’t use the Internet is that they are not interested.

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