ONS data shows UK Internet use up across the board

The Office for National Statistics has released its Internet Access – Households and
Individuals, 2011 report today, which is based on a monthly survey of 1,800 randomly selected adults from across the UK. You can get the overview here.

The key points include:

• 45% of Internet users used a mobile phone to connect to the Internet (up from 31% in 2010)
• 6 million people accessed the Internet over their mobile phone for the first time in the previous 12 months
• The use of wireless hotspots almost doubled in the last 12 months to 4.9 million users
• 21% of Internet users did not believe their skills were sufficient to protect their personal data
• 77% of households had Internet access

Some of the coverage around the report has concentrated on the security angle, as evidenced by The Guardian’s piece, titled `One in five Britons do not feel safe online‘ focusing on results that show respondents do not feel adequately protected online, fearing computer viruses and other attempts to steal their personal information.

Others such as the BBC chose to focus on mobile internet use, which is now nearing 50%. The most rapid growth was among younger people, where 71% of 16 to 24-year-olds used mobiles, as shown below.

Furthermore, one in two 45- to 64-year-olds accessed the internet via mobile this year, compared to just over a third in 2010. However, only 8% of internet users aged 65+ has embraced mobile internet use, this lower usage rate is probably a reflection of their choice of device rather than a lack of knowledge.

One could argue that the increased use of the mobile internet and the ongoing fear around security are closely linked, as is the surge in using often unsecured wifi hotspots, which has increased seven-fold.

Security is not a new concern, but the now often archaic approach to security software or unreliable connection points leave many rightly concerned about the security of their data and devices. However, many still choose to `risk it’ opting for convenience over secure options of connecting and managing data. Alternatively, this could be an education issue, as 21% of Internet users did not believe their skills were sufficient to protect their personal data.

Although connection via mobile and Wifi has risen, domestic internet use is also continuing to build, if at a slower rate. According to the ONS, 77% of households now have access to a net connection, which is up 4% from the previous year, representing the slowest rate of growth since the ONS survey began in 2006.

Interestingly, Among the 23% of the population who remain offline (5.7m households did not have internet access), half said they “didn’t need the internet.” As more and more services go online, rural broadband improves and the move to digital evolves, I would assume this figure will continue to decrease.


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