Internet usage in the UK has grown 5% in the past two years, however the majority of people lack enthusiasm for the service, research by the University of Oxford shows.
A survey of 2,000 people by Oxford’s Internet Institute (OII) found at least 50% of users have negative attitudes towards the Internet, despite overall usage growing from 73% in 2011 to 78% in 2013. The lack of interest in the web could have knock on effects on the UK’s global economic competitiveness, warns William Dutton, professor of Internet Studies at OII, and leader of the survey.
“Our survey supports previous evidence that the Internet is a very important tool for economic development." Dutton says, adding. "We also looked at the cultures of the Internet and identified five clusters of users with similar attitudes and beliefs. Worryingly, more than half take Internet use for granted, or see it as a waste of time, and we are not seeing people in Britain using it as creatively as users in other countries, such as Brazil and China.”
Breaking the five clusters down, 37% of the population is indifferent towards the web, 19% happy and frustrated in equal measure, and 14% believe the web is taking over their lives and invading privacy. However, 17% believe the Internet makes them more efficient, and 12% report general satisfaction with using it.
The research also shows growth in social network usage has stalled in the past two years, growing one percentage point.
Despite the air of gloom, the OII claims the digital divide in the UK is narrowing. The number of people who have never gone online fell from 23% in 2011 to 18% in 2013, due mostly to more homes being connected for the first time – now 81% of households compared to 74% in 2011.
“Internet diffusion in the UK is now more in line with a number of other countries where you would expect to see similar levels of use. Mobile and tablet devices seem to have boosted accessibility and we have noticed a real increase in lower income groups and those aged 45 [years] and over who are now going online,” Dutton says.