I went to Stratford last Saturday without a ticket for the Olympic Park. My son had got caught up in the Olympic optimism and wanted to see the Park even if we couldn’t go in. We had a lovely day, and when we arrived we were confronted by volunteers with megaphones shouting at us that the only way to buy tickets was online. I know it’s my day job, but I did wonder how that would have felt if you had never used the internet.Which, according to the latest Internet Access results from the ONS, released today, is 7.82 million people in the UK. This is down 10% on this time last year, which is a huge achievement. And there’s more good news. Following our recent research symposiums, the ONS have, for the first time in a long while, started breaking results down according to those who haven’t used the internet in the last three months since questioning, revealing the numbers of people who – despite having been online – aren’t getting any benefit from computers and the internet at all. There are an estimated 14.5 million people in the UK who have been online before, but don’t have adequate skills to use it, and we’re keen to know more about them, so it’s great that the ONS are recognising this third group, the ‘ex-users’. Of all the adults asked about internet usage by the ONS, 97% had used it in the three months prior to being questioned. This might seem like a bit of a clean sweep, but when you break this figure down you see the real picture. Of those aged 75 or over, 83% hadn’t used the internet in the last three months. Add this to the huge numbers in this age bracket who have never used the internet, and it shows that only 24% of those over 75s are getting any real benefit from being online.
The BBC has also recently released some research that shows that, of the total population, 11% are past or proxy users. This research makes a really interesting read, and warrants a blog post in its own right, so keep an eye out for that one! What these figures do show is that while inspiring people to go online for the first time is one of the challenges we face, it’s certainly not the only one. We need to understand better what keeps people coming back to computers and the internet, what encourages them to keep developing their skills, and how we can support ex-users so they too can take advantage of all the benefits being online can offer. I hope we can discuss this further at our next research symposium, and I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts either here or over on the Ning.