One fifth of Britons still don’t use the internet

One fifth of Britons still don’t use the internet with the elderly and poor most likely to miss out, study finds

  • Most of these ‘non-users’ said that they did not access the internet by choice
  • The reasons were varied but included privacy concerns and less need for access
  • Dr Grant Blank, who oversaw the project, said many of them could actually benefit from venturing online

Almost one fifth of Britons still don’t use the internet with the elderly and the poor most likely to miss out, a study has found.

The survey of nearly 2,000 people in the UK population found that 18 per cent of them described themselves as ‘non-users’.

Most of these said that they were not accessing the internet by choice because of privacy concerns and no longer having a need to go online as their friendship circles and interests shrunk.

Almost one fifth of Britons still don’t use the internet with the elderly and poor most likely to miss out, a study finds (file image)

People who did stay away from the internet were generally found to be older, less educated or have lower incomes, according to the study by the Oxford Internet Institute.

Dr Grant Blank, who oversaw the project, said that a ‘non-user’ was someone who did not go online by any means – neither on a mobile phone nor on a computer. 

Speaking to the BBC, he said: ‘Virtually everyone is online before age 50.’ 

But after that milestone there is a ‘sharp decline’ in use that equals around two per cent a year.

He added: ‘There are a lot of things about the internet that get less useful as you get older.’

Dr Grant Blank, who oversaw the project, said that a ‘non-user’ was someone who did not go online by any means – neither on a mobile phone nor on a computer

The survey also shed light on other aspects of internet usage in the UK.

  • There has not been any recent increase in harmful experiences on the internet, like viruses or theft of credit card details.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of those surveyed said they were ‘uncomfortable’ with targeted advertising and data tracking.
  • Mobile phones are the most common device for accessing the internet in homes and are now used in 92% of UK households. 
  • In just a few years, the use of voice assistants has reached 19% of British homes, while satellite televisions and gaming consoles have have declined.
  • It concluded that the benefits of the Internet, like saving time and money, access to health information, and easier access to job listings, are accruing to one social group.

The report also indicated that those with incomes lower than the median average of £28,400 per year (in 2018) were more likely to be non-users than those earning above this pay grade. 

Dr Blank added that many of those who had been avoiding going online could actually benefit from venturing on to the Internet, including finding information on health care and finance.

Additionally, more of the benefit system is likely to be moved online by the UK government within the next year. 

But many of those who receive government support are those who have been identified as non-users. 

This will leave the government needing to get in contact with many of them in the old-fashioned way which is more expensive and increasingly time-consuming. 

The findings were gathered by surveyors who went door to door and took time to find out the full details of the population’s online lives.

The statistics of non-users were higher than previous official measures that had been carried out and Dr Blank said this was because of the way they had sampled the population.

For example, figures gathered previously by the Office for National Statistics indicated that only 7.4 per cent of the population were non-users.

This data however, collected for the office’s Labour Force Survey, only looked at people who were in work or who might be in work.

It therefore excluded those out of unemployment and those who suffering with long-term disabilities.

The Oxford Internet Institute survey was sponsored by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as well as Google and BT. 

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