The World Internet Project (WIP), a comprehensive first-time global survey on the impact of the Internet, with 13 partner countries and regions in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania, has found remarkable similarities and significant differences in the way users utilize and rely on the Internet. In the UK the project is lead by the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.

OII Director Professor William Dutton, said: “The Internet is becoming the first place people go for information — this is not only true in Britain, but is also the case worldwide. The social implications of this are enormous.” The World Internet Project marks the first time that a worldwide partnership of research institutions has compiled survey data on the behaviour and views of Internet users and non-users. The Oxford Internet Institute has been the UK partner in the WIP since 2003, with data contributed from its Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) of Internet use and attitudes in Britain.

The WIP includes similar studies by institutions in Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Macao, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and the United States. As of 2009, also included in the project are: Chile, Cyprus, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

Findings from the World Internet Project Report

1. Age

A very high percentage of people under age 24 use the Internet: Even in Singapore—the country with the lowest percentage of Internet users aged 18-24—three-quarters of respondents in that age range are users. However, Internet use among those over 65 is extremely low in several countries and regions. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Macao report 10% or less of respondents over 65 as Internet users. By comparison, in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, at least 32% of respondents over 65 said they go online.

2. Information seeking

Very large percentages of Internet users who are students go online to find information for their school-related work: More than 70% of Internet-using students go online for school-related work at least weekly in 10 WIP countries. More than 30% of students go online daily or several times a day for schoolwork in nine WIP countries. 20% or more of users in six WIP countries go online for health information at least weekly, and at least 30% of users in 10 WIP countries seek health information on the Internet at least monthly. In Britain, 12% of Internet users go online to look for health information on a weekly basis and 31% at least monthly.

Overall, relatively low percentages of users go online to download or watch videos: Only in urban China did more than 30% of users go online at least weekly to download or watch videos. By comparison, only 17% of users in the United States report going online only at least weekly to download or watch videos.

3. People going online

The expense of going online is no longer a significant factor in most WIP countries. Only 10% or less of non-users in all WIP countries (except the Czech Republic) said that going online was too expensive.

In Britain, the most common reasons for not using the Internet were a lack of interest in the Internet and a lack of knowledge about how to use it.

4. eCommerce and buying products online

WIP found wide-ranging views and behaviour when looking at how online users go online for product information, or for buying online: High percentages of users in most of the WIP countries go online for product information: in eight of the countries more than 35% of users said they go online at least weekly to look for information about a product.

Of users who buy products online, four WIP countries reported double-digit percentages of users who buy online at least weekly: Britain (18%), the United States (14%), and Australia and the Czech Republic (12%).

Paying bills online is done by moderate percentages of users in most WIP countries. 30% or more of users in seven WIP countries go online to pay bills at least monthly.

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The UK input into the World Internet Project (WIP) is represented by the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS), run by the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. OxIS research is designed to offer detailed insights into the influence of the Internet on everyday life in Britain. Surveys have already been undertaken in 2003, 2005 and 2007 of nationally representative random samples of 2000 people in the UK. By containing a core of questions that are common to the questionnaires administered in other WIP countries, we can place British findings on trends of Internet adoption and use in a comparative perspective both cross-nationally and over time.

The Oxford Internet Institute is a department within the Social Sciences Division of the University of Oxford. It is a leading world centre for the multidisciplinary study of the Internet and society, focusing on Internet-related research and teaching, and on informing policy-making and practice.